Vargas vs. Vanderpool
Olympic Coliseum - Los
July 26, 2003
No one ever forgets an ass
whupping. I don't remember most of the hundreds
of guys I beat during the time I was fighting, but I remember every one
beat me. I remember one guy in particular. He was a DoEI, (descent of
European Immigrants) from Kingsville, Texas. I was living in Corpus Christi
and fighting in the ABC Boxing Club, run and operated by Whitey Moore and his
wife Minnie. Raymond Silva, the chief of officials for the entire United
States Amateur Boxing Association was one of my stable mates. I remember
Raymond had one hell of a left hook.
There was a boxing match scheduled for the Knights of Columbus Hall, or it
might have been the Moose Lodge. I don't really remember. I do remember
never wore head gear and no one had a record book. There was no way of
keeping track of how many bouts your opponent actually had. As you
know, not everyone is honest. There was also a lot of racial tension
that time. The United States was racially segregated, Rosa Parks had
taken her ride on the bus and Martin Luther King was stringing up trouble in
Mississippi. Corky Gonzales and other civil rights leaders had
recently made themselves known. Corpus Christi, like every other
city, was stuffed full of racism, injustice and open discrimination. White
supremacists, Texas Rangers and the KKK were terrorizing everyone who dared
challenge the status quo. Tuloso Midway High School was segregated and there
were no black kids. Whole scale street brawls took place when groups of white
kids ran into groups of Chicanos. Viet Nam was raging and times were rough.
Hundreds of young guys were coming home in body bags to be met by flag-waving
I remember being nervous. I also remember being ready to face whoever they
placed in front of of me. When Frankie King stepped into the ring, all
years of rage at the injustice poured out of me like blood gushing out of a
wound. I not only wanted to fight this kid, I wanted to kill him dead.
weighted 135 pounds. He must have weighed a few pounds more because the
son-of-a-gun looked big as a tank. He was built solid, like one of those stone
walls you see holding up the Alamo in San Antonio. The bell rang and I
out smoking, jabbing and trying to get on the inside and rip out his guts.
The next thing I remember I'm getting up off the canvas and the referee is
giving me an eight count. Now, I'm really pissed off. I get up shake
off and load my guns for another attack. I'm jabbing, moving, ducking,
bobbing and weaving and Ka-Pow!, I'm down on the canvas again. That kid hit
me the hardest I have ever been hit in my life. I know I was not totally
there when I got up, took another eight count and went after him again.
learned that I had the heart but not the technical skills or experience to
beat him at the time. The son-of-a-gun came after me like a wolf
wounded lamb, and down I went again. The referee waved him off. I lost my
first fight. It never occurred to me that he might have had more experience
or that he weighed more. Back then there were not always officials to
guarantee fair match ups. Nor was there a tracking system. Anyone could put
on a boxing show. All they needed was someone to fight. I had never lost
before. I was devastated. I loved boxing like a bird loves to fly. I had
never wanted anything as much. Plus, I was fighting in front of my peers,
and you know how wonderful they can be after such an embarrassing event. I
remember moping around for weeks afterwards. I also remember I trained
harder, practiced more and lived, ate and breathed boxing like never
I only joined the Army because they guaranteed me a shot at the Army
Boxing Team. I learned a lot from that loss. Looking back I
might have stopped boxing, if he had not knocked me on my ass. I carried
the humiliation of that defeat for nine years, until I ran into him again
while stationed in Germany during an Inter-Army boxing match. I won't go into
details; but suffice it to say, I extracted revenge and redeemed
myself in my own eyes.
Fernando Vargas, The Aztec Warrior, who had been knocked down
seven times in his last two fights, also seems to have learned a lot from his
defeat at the hands of Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad. He lost all
of his thuggish,
trash talking, street-punk attitude. It was a lesson in humiliation and a
reminder that everyone has a button and everyone can be knocked off his
feet. He reminded me of Tyson after his most recent defeat--all of his
demons exorcized, now a friendly, more gentle individual. Too bad
last. The sold-out crowd helped make the setting more explosive. I've never
liked LA, not just the heat and the abundance of humanity, but the
predominantly hostile attitude. It's too much like Stockton--or Gun
smoke, as I call it. Violence seems to lie just beneath the surface,
about to erupt at any moment. No, thanks. I've seen enough
senseless violence to last me a lifetime. I only come here for the
Vargas had been absent ten months after being suspended for using steroids,
in which he claims innocence. His opponent, Fritz
"The Whip" Vanderpool, weighed 160 pounds for the fight;
while he put on 14 pounds and weighed 170 pounds for the bell. He looked
solid, tuned up and ready. The pre-fight dog- and-pony show included
fireworks, which only reminded me of the big nightclub fire. I don't
care for all the pre-fight brouhaha. Marty Denkin
was the referee. As Governor Davis fights for his political career,
two warriors are putting it on the line for their own.
Vanderpool came out jabbing, moving to his left, looking awkward and
amateurish, making it difficult to believe he is a contender. Vargas
remained calm. Vanderpool stumbled around the ring as Vargas pressured
him with ineffective jabs and right hands. Vanderpool seemed to lack any
strategy. He'd punch, step over with his crazy over-hand right, and tie
Vargas up. He seemed scared and unsure of himself. Vargas parried
jabs, but failed to counterpunch. He came in with right hands that missed.
His timing was off, seemingly needing more training and a hell of a lot more
sparring. Vanderpool's jabs looked harmless as he moved backwards and
away from Vargas. The crowd was disappointed with his lack of aggression.
Vanderpool stepped in, Vargas slipped underneath and literally picked
Vanderpool up like a rag doll. Vanderpool looked like he should not even be
in the ring. He seemed to just want to survive.
Buddy McGirt, the trainer who worked the magic with Gatti, worked Vargas'
corner. I have no idea who was in the corner for Vanderpool. Whoever it was,
he must have been sleeping during training, because Vanderpool looked awful.
The bell sounded for the second round and Vanderpool came out again jabbing
as he moved away. His style--or lack of it--may have been the only thing that
saved him. Or it might have been that Vargas was so rusty. Vanderpool led
with left hooks and looked awful doing it. Vargas worked Vanderpool into the
corner and bombed him with powerful right hands to the head and left hooks
to the body. Vanderpool's legs seemed to be gone, then unexpectedly he
came off the ropes and caught Vargas with an over-hand right that forced him
back. Vargas' jab looked like a gunshot as it snapped Vanderpool's head
back. The bell rang. I was amazed at the lack of competition Vanderpool was
presenting. This match might have looked good on paper, but it was
disappointing in real life.
The bell brought them out again
and Vargas moved towards him more
confidently, while Vanderpool seemed to find his legs and some of his
balance. His awkwardness may have been what saved him, but I doubted that it
would save him much longer. I could see Vargas wanted to counter-punch, but it
was impossible to do so against such an awkward opponent. Vanderpool's only
working punch was his crazy overhand right and every now and then an upper
cut. Vargas forced him into the corner and again unloaded power punches to the
head and body. Vargas seemed to find his range and nailed Vanderpool
with several left jabs, right crosses that hurt him. Once more, against the
ropes, Vargas teed off like shooting clay pigeons at a gun range. It was
another unimpressive round. Neither fighter demonstrated much of what
allegedly made them champions.
The fourth round began with Vargas stalking Vanderpool. A replay of the last
rounds continued with Vanderpool playing it safe and Vargas trying to
regain his timing and resisting the urge to brawl. Playing it safe seemed to
go against Vargas' nature. He seemed tense and hesitant. Vanderpool looked
awkward, off balance, yet somehow managed to avoid Vargas, who continued to
appear uncertain. He waited, hesitated and failed to take advantage of
Vanderpool's awkwardness. Another unimpressive round for both fighters.
The fifth round saw Vanderpool came out with an over-hand right and missing.
Vargas appeared a little more relaxed, parried several jabs, but again
failed to counter punch, then caught Vanderpool with a right hand, left
hook. Vargas threw several well-timed, well-placed body shots and again
forced Vanderpool into the corner. Vanderpool came out with his
right to the head, that could have been seen from Kentucky. I have no idea
how, or why Vargas permitted Vanderpool who was obviously not in his league,
to connect with his amateurish punches. Had Vanderpool known
how to punch correctly, he might have hurt Vargas with those clumsy punches.
The next round saw Vanderpool falling or slipping several times. I've
fighters slip on the signs in the center of the ring before. The sweat and
water makes these signs slippery. Vargas failed to counter punch, and again
failed to take advantage of Vanderpool who was obviously feeling the effects
of his punishment. Vargas came in aggressively and started to connect more
effectively. It looked like it might turn into some kind of fight when
Marty Denkin stepped in between them and stopped it.
I was not impressed with either boxer. Vargas seems to have lost all the magic
that once made him a champion. Vanderpool's style was so awkward it made it
difficult to enjoy. His lack of conditioning, willingness to step up and
give Vargas a real fight made the entire event lackluster and disappointing.
Vargas earned a win by TKO in the sixth round. Let's pray Buddy McGirt
what needs to be corrected and makes the necessary changes. Vargas, the same
man who challenged Oscar De La Hoya, is but a shadow of the guy he used to be.
Let's hope Vargas, who never fails to remind us that he is Mexican and proud
of his heritage and culture, will use this as motivation to continue to work,
stay out of trouble and regain the magic that made him famous. Good
See you Ringside,
Jorge A. Martinez