Boxing After Dark Report: Soto and Vargas

By Tom Donelson
Updated: August 22, 2005

HBONEW YORK — Boxing writer Adam Pollack once told me that the biggest problem that he had with Rocky Juarez was that he started slow and didn’t throw enough punches. Last Saturday night, Juarez was as economical with his punches as he has been in his past but he faced a determined foe that took his best shots. Humberto Soto trained with Erik Morales, so it is not like the undefeated American star would not intimidate him.

In the first six rounds, Soto boxed like an American. He threw jabs and beautiful rights as well as upper cuts. He moved and dominated the pace. Juarez could not get inside of Soto and suffered a cut underneath his left eye as a result of a jab.

Starting in the seventh round, Juarez power began to be felt as he forced Soto to trade. Throwing his patented left hook, he appeared to have Soto in trouble over the last 30 seconds of the round. Soto managed to grab Juarez and time ran out for the Houston native. This was Juarez high moment as Soto righted the ship and picked up where he left off in the next round.

The fight was close but that was as much due to two one-point deduction as Juarez stirring comeback. Juarez maintained his accuracy but he was consistently being outworked. Soto came to fight and won on effort. Without the point deductions, Soto would have won by wider margin.

Juarez fought his fight as he connected on nearly 40% of his punches and nearly half of his power shots but it wasn’t enough. Soto threw double the punches and controlled the pace of the fight.

What to conclude? Juarez is a good fighter and one of the best in the featherweights. He fought a bigger fighter who knew how to use his height. Preparing for a slugger in Korean In Ju Chi, Juarez faced a totally different fighter in Soto. Soto showed that his year training with Morales paid off as he took Juarez best shots.

Soto showed that he belongs with the other featherweight elites and that he has matured as a fighter. As for Juarez, this setback should not derail his career. One major weakness in Juarez was that he could not adept in this fight. In a fight that called for more activity, he maintained his normal pace. He did not have a Plan B against an effective boxer-puncher.

Poor Javier Castilllejo. A month ago, he was the WBC champion but the WBC stripped the Spaniard of his title, showing that intelligence and integrity are two qualities not always present in boxing.

Castillejo decided he rather fight Vargas for more money than Mayorga. WBC decided that the former champion Vargas was not deserving of a title shot but Mayorga was. On top of that Castillejo had to fight a determined Vargas.

The Spaniard had only lost one fight in the last decade and that was to De La Hoya. Castillejo faced a fighter in Vargas, who had changed his style. Vargas was no longer just Vargas the ferocious but Vargas the boxer. He stills had the power but now Vargas concentrated on avoiding punches.

What should have been for the WBC championship instead was a ten round fight. Vargas punches were sharp and more powerful. Castillejo fought as a typical European fighter with a classic stand up style but at 37 years, Castillejo no longer had the hand speed to compete with the younger Vargas.

Depending upon boxing skills, Castillejo could not compete with Vargas power and Vargas consistently nailed the Spaniards with right hands. At the end of the third round, Castillejo hit the canvas as a result of a Vargas short right. Vargas proved more economical in his punching and more elusive with foot movement. Vargas’ body shots set up accurate counters. He looked like a boxer as oppose to a slugger. Unfortunately, the fans wanted to see the old Vargas, who would stand toe-to-toe with an opponent.

As the fight progressed, Castillejo became stronger as he started to penetrated Vargas defenses but the punches had little effect upon Vargas. Castillejo continued to press the action against Vargas and Vargas defenses wilted slightly as Castillejo connected more. Vargas occasionally flurried and nailed Castillejo with vicious body shots.

The decision was never in doubt. Vargas connected on 40 percent of his punches and the Spaniard could only connect on 20% of his punches. Vargas left the ring with an easy victory and swollen jaw (maybe even broken.). In Vargas, the junior Middleweights have a charismatic fighter that can bring in dollars. Vargas doesn’t need a belt to make money but then title belts lately bear no relevance to what is actually happening in the ring.

The junior Middleweights have two charismatic fighters in Mayorga and Vargas as well as slew of excellent fighters. The champion is Roman Karmazin but there are some excellent match ups yet to come. Mayorga championship belt came as a result of political intrigue not what happened in the ring.

The reality is that Vargas is the unofficial WBC champion and Karmazin is the undisputed champion that everyone else is chasing. Everything else can be ignored.