Standing face to face, Jessie Vargas cracked a smile as Timothy Bradley looked up at him in mock derision.
These are two of prizefighting’s nicest guys. It was a theme repeated numerous times at the press conference held by Top Rank at the Conga Room on Monday.
“They’re two of the absolute best guys to be in boxing,” said Roy Jones Jr., who trains Vargas and admires Bradley. “Two wonderful personalities.”
Bradley (31-1-1, 12 Kos), the former WBO welterweight titlist and Vargas (26-0, 9 Kos), the current WBA junior welterweight titlist, will meet on Saturday, June 27, at the StubHub Center in nearby Carson, Calif. Both will be fighting for the WBO welterweight title vacated by Floyd Mayweather. HBO will be televising the Top Rank event.
It’s amazing to me personally when you see prizefighters that evolve to the top of their class in the fight game. I remember watching Bradley’s very first fight in the boxing ring 11 years ago in Corona, Ca. I also remember watching Vargas' second pro bout at Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, Ca.
Both Bradley and Vargas stood out. One could easily see they were a cut above the others as soon as the bell rang early in their careers. Bradley’s speed was blinding for his first pro opponent Francisco Martinez, who was also making his pro debut back in 2004. After two one-sided rounds, the fight ended in a knockout win for the “Desert Storm.” Five fights later Bradley was still too good for those placed in front of him, until he fought veteran Justo Almazan in a fight that went the full six rounds.
Vargas' second pro fight took place in late 2008 against Trenton Titsworth, who was so frustrated that he could not defend against the Las Vegas youngster that he kissed Vargas a couple of times on the face. It angered Vargas, who did not know how to react so he attacked even more viciously that night. Titsworth was deducted a point for lack of professionalism. I guess his kiss was not done properly. After the fight, Vargas was still perplexed by the actions of his opponent that day. But he emerged the winner and it was obvious he had outstanding talent.
Now, here they are ready to do battle against each other. Two pretty good guys and when it comes to prizefighting, they’re the cream of the crop. Out of thousands and thousands of registered prizefighters, these two are among the very top.
It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Thousands of boxers enter the pro ranks with hopes of becoming a world champion. They envision winning title belts and signing million dollar contracts. Some even think of merely being able to box as a job. At least for a while.
Bradley and Vargas have both won world titles and will earn enough to tuck some money away for a rainy day. But money aside, pride can be just as big a motivator as money. Vargas and Bradley may like each other but years from now one will say they beat the other.
Several years back, former fighter and referee Lou Filippo – who passed away in 2009 – was at a Hall of Fame dinner when another former fighter from the 1940s spoke about beating him in a Mexico City fight. Now both of these guys were clearly in their late 70s or early 80s but Filippo was so infuriated he had to confront the other gray-haired gentleman to get the story straight. Fifty years had passed but Filippo was not going to hear that the other guy claimed he was robbed of a win. “I kicked the guy’s ass,” said an angry Filippo, who clearly remembered their encounter in the ring as if it were yesterday.
Bradley and Vargas will remember it just as clearly 50 years from now too.
“Tim and I give our all in the ring. It’s why we respect each other,” said Vargas.
Bradley remembers when he was a young undefeated fighter with a world title belt wrapped around his waist.
“This fight is not easy,” Bradley said. “I’m nervous. “This is a kid undefeated and a world champion.”
Bradley said he remembers being that hungry.
“This kid’s dangerous,” Bradley said. “I got to be ready for that.”
— Photo Credit : Al Applerose