Former Champions Garcia and Vargas Set for Welterweight Collision
Former multi-weight world champions Mikey Garcia and Jessie Vargas will meet in a welterweight fight this weekend in Frisco, Tex.
Updated: Feb. 27, 2020 • 12:36 PM ET
Mikey Garcia is looking to win another title.
A pair of former champions will headline Saturday’s boxing card in Frisco, Tex., as former four-weight champion Mikey Garcia will battle former two-weight world champion Jessie Vargas in a welterweight bout.
Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) attempted to win a belt in a fifth division last March, but was dominated by welterweight king Errol Spence Jr., giving him the first loss of his career. Many expected Garcia to move back down in weight, but he has elected to stay at welterweight for at least one more fight.
“I think that there’s a lot more that I can do at 147 pounds,” Garcia said via fightsports.tv. “The Spence fight was not a representation of that. It wasn’t my night and not the fight that I wanted to fight.
“I just couldn’t perform, and once in a while you have an off night and it happened to be that night for me. I need to show my fans and the boxing world that I can do a lot more, even at 147 pounds.”
He continued, “A world title in a fifth division is very exciting. I would love to fight for a title again at 147 pounds. Claiming a world title in a fifth division would be amazing, and that’s why I am staying at 147. But there are other motivations for me in the sport. I’m not done. There’s a lot more to accomplish. After this fight, I’ll look at options at 147 pounds and 140 pounds. I’m not stuck at either weight. I’m keeping my options open.”
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The 32-year-old Garcia held the lineal junior welterweight title since 2018, the WBO and Ring Magazine featherweight titles in 2013, the WBO junior lightweight title from 2013 to 2014, the WBC and IBF lightweight titles between 2017 and 2019, and the IBF junior welterweight title in 2018. He has key victories in his career over Robert Easter Jr., Sergey Lipinets, Adrien Broner, Dejan Zlaticanin, Juan Carlos Burgos, Roman Martinez, Orlando Salido and Jonathon Victor Barros.
Vargas is coming off a sixth-round TKO victory over Humberto Soto last April following two straight draws to Thomas Dulorme and Broner. He won the vacant WBO welterweight title in March 2016 with a ninth-round TKO over Sadam Ali, but lost the belt to legend Manny Pacquiao just six months later. His only other loss was to former champion Timothy Bradley Jr. in 2015.
The 30-year-old Los Angeles native believes he has gained the experience necessary to defeat an elite level fighter such as Garcia.
“I feel like it’s just beginning, I feel like a new man,” Vargas said via Bad Left Hook.
Vargas isn’t highly ranked, but doesn’t need an added motivation.
“I’m not sure about the discussions,” Vargas said. “I stay away from social media, just focus on what I’m capable of. I’ve been the underdog and become world champion. I’m just busting my ass in the gym every day.”
Vargas has come up short in fights with bigger names, so a victory over Garcia would big the biggest of his career and perhaps catapult him on a title run at welterweight.
“It’s my time to start shining,” Vargas said. “And I’m working hard to make sure I perform at the highest level.”
Also on the card is a title fight between Khalid Yafai and Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez for Yafai's WBA junior bantamweight title.
Yafai (26-0, 15 KOs) will defend the belt for the sixth time since winning it over Luis Concepcion in 2016, winning four of the five title defenses by decision. He’ll need to be the aggressor, however, against former four-division champion Gonzalez.
“A win in this fight is bigger than winning the world title,” Yafai said via The Ring. “I’m beating a legend of the sport and proving a lot of doubters wrong. I’ll be well on the way to achieving everything that I’ve wanted to accomplish in my career.”
Yafai has stated that he wants a unification fight with WBC champion Juan Francisco Estrada, and perhaps that will be the next move if he can get by Gonzalez.
Gonzalez (48-2, 40 KOs) has won two straight fights since losing back-to-back bouts and his WBC junior bantamweight title to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017. “Chocolatito” is the first Nicaraguan boxer to win titles in four weight classes, and he’s also the first boxer to win titles in all four of the lowest weight classes.
Along with the WBC junior bantamweight title, Gonzalez held the WBA minimumweight title from 2008 to 2010, the WBA light flyweight title from 2011 to 2013, and the WBC, Ring magazine and lineal flyweight titles from 2014 to 2016. He’s expected to use his high pressure style against Yafai, who has defended his belt against beatable opponents. Gonzalez is flattered that Yafai looks up to him, but plans on bringing a fight to the champion.
“Everyone I have ever shared the ring with, I consider my friend,” Gonzalez said via Boxing Scene. “I’ve fought everybody in the division except for Yafai. I think it will be a hell of a fight, an amazing fight, and after that, it will be even greater to go for the unification.”
Gonzalez knows he has to be prepared despite his resume.
“I feel it will be a very exciting fight because we are preparing very well,” Gonzalez said via RingNews24. “He is a great boxer and puncher, so we have to be very careful and clever. He does a lot very well.
“He is strong, pushes forward and can use the ring when necessary. I feel each match is different and I will find what to exploit February 29.”
The WBC flyweight title will also be on the line in Frisco, as champion Julio Cesar Martinez will defend against undefeated challenger Jay Harris.
Martinez (15-1, 12 KOs) will defend the title for the first time after winning the vacant belt in December with a ninth-round TKO over Cristofer Rosales. The 25-year-old won the belt in August with a third-round knockout of Charlie Edwards, but the fight was later ruled a no contest because Martinez hit Edwards while he was on one knee. After the no contest, Edwards vacated the title and it is Martinez’s to lose, for now.
Harris (17-0, 9 KOs) is coming off a fourth-round knockout of Paddy Barnes in October. The 29-year-old Welsh fighter has held the European flyweight title since last June, but he’ll fight for his first major title this weekend. Harris will also make his first trip to the United States to fight, as all of his previous bouts have taken place in Great Britain.
• Start time/how to watch: The main card can be seen on DAZN at 8 p.m. EST this Saturday.