By Jeff Zimmerman
On Saturday night and a stone’s throw away from the Dallas Cowboys headquarters, 2x world champion Jessie Vargas (29-2-2 11 KOs) and 4x champ Mikey Garcia (39-1 30 KOs) will square off for the WBC Diamond welterweight title at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas on DAZN. The event is promoted by Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom Boxing.
Garcia and Vargas are two of boxing’s good guys and have shared many moments together outside the ring as commentators for different shows and various charitable events through the years.
But after Saturday night, it is likely only one will have a much clearer path of their boxing future. This is what you call a crossroads fight for both guys. Garcia is hoping to prove his worth in the stacked 147lb division after a one-sided loss to pound for pound champ Errol Spence Jr. last March at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, and show he has what it takes at that weight.
While Vargas looks to show the boxing public, he has the skills and the will to beat one of boxing most fundamentally sound fighters of the last decade in Garcia and launch him into another major fight.
Garcia felt Vargas was the best name available and the perfect measuring stick at this time.
“We had other options, could have picked other names, but they were not exciting enough, and I needed someone that I could compete against and push myself,” Garcia explained. “Jessie has that, a big, strong welterweight and former welterweight champion and for me to answer all those questions on whether I could stay at welterweight, I feel like this is the perfect fight to show all that.
“Originally, I did think about fighting at 140, I did ask for a few names at 140, but they were not available, so the 2nd best options were to look for someone at 147. I also said no to some of the other names, because they just weren’t’ credible enough for me and Jessie fits the bill, so we landed on this fight.”
A win for Vargas against the likes of Garcia will hopefully land him the credit he is missing in a solid career. He has only two losses, one to the legendary Manny Pacquiao and the controversial fight with Timothy Bradley where he badly hurt Bradley late in the last round.
“I get the respect, but maybe I don’t get the credit, the credit I deserve after all these years,” Vargas said. “But after Saturday night, I hope to get the credit that I deserve and everyone will be able to notice and be a part of a great night of boxing and notice how talented I am, how technical I can be, how aggressive I can be, how I can diversify in styles, it’s going to be a great night.”
Garcia is aware of the exploits of Vargas and knows he has his work cut out for him.
“He’s a very tough guy,” Garcia stated frankly. “He has beaten everybody else except Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley who he had pretty much out in the last 10-15 seconds of that fight so it could have been a stoppage in his favor. He has got the size, he’s a former welterweight champion, so it’s perfect for me to prove myself against him and answer all the doubts that are out there on whether I can be at 147.”
Garcia doesn’t believe he has to knockout Vargas to prove he belongs there, although it wouldn’t hurt, however, a decisive win is what’s most important.
“A lot of people will ask about a stoppage or knockout if that’s what I am after. I think a good performance and good boxing skills is what is needed, but if I happen to hurt him, I am definitely going to jump on the opportunity to stop him and that will add that extra cherry on top on the victory, but that’s not what I’m here to do, that’s not what I am looking for.”
Vargas is convinced that Garcia and others underestimate his power, regardless of what they might say.
“It’s not just him though, it’s several fighters, they underestimate the power, but the minute they get hit, things change,” Vargas stated. “They notice how strong I am physically and how much heart I have; they notice it in the ring and that’s something he is going to be surprised by as well.”
For Garcia, it’s more about continuing to build his legacy and fight the best in the world and prove to himself and others he is willing to take on any challenge.
“It’s always been striving to be the best and showing everybody, you know legacy is built upon that, so I want to keep fighting the best, the best fights out there, the best fighters and take challenges that people don’t think I should take, those are the fights that excite me the most and motivate me,” Garcia explained.
For Vargas, he knows he must be at his best to beat the super sound Garcia.
“It’s going to take pure intelligence, strength, speed, accumulation of things and a great tactic.”
For both Garcia and Vargas, this fight will go a long way in determining their next move. And once the fight is over, you can certainly expect these two great ambassadors for the sport to be back together calling a fight or volunteering their time to help those in need.
But for now, their focus is Saturday night and showing the boxing world and themselves they are each ready for the challenge.
“I need to win this fight and I got to win clearly to show everybody that I can be a key player at 147,” Garcia stated.
“I am focused, I am determined, I’m coming to win,” Vargas said. “I expect to come out with a victory in sensational fashion and become the new WBC Diamond Belt champion.”