Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas fought in not just one but two Fight of the Year fights and two other grueling slugfests that could make a grown man quiver.
Will he ever have an easy fight?
Vargas (24-1-2, 17 KOs) looks to find out when he meets Rod Salka (24-4, 4 KOs) in the main event on Thursday, April 12, at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. The super featherweight 10-round fight will be televised by ESPN2, ESPN Boxeo and streamed on RingTVLive.com.
Last summer Vargas changed locales and trainers and began working with Indio’s brothers Joel and Antonio Diaz. The focus was to keep the former world champion from Mexico City from engaging in more blood fests.
It didn’t work but it did work. Vargas emerged unscathed when he clashed with England’s Stephen Smith last December in Las Vegas but the Brit was not as lucky. He was forced to quit with his bloody ear dangling after an accidental clash of heads. For Vargas, at least it was a step in the right direction.
Before that, Vargas lost the WBC title to Miguel Berchelt after suffering cuts on both eyes and on the bridge of the nose. He could barely see the blows coming and the fight was mercifully stopped in the 11th round.
In 2015 and 2016 the Mexico City warrior was involved in consecutive Fight of the Years against Takashi Miura and Orlando Salido respectively. Though he emerged without a loss the two encounters were brutal.
Tim Bradley, who was involved in a Fight of the Year in 2013, said it’s an honor but also a curse to be recognized for notable slugfests.
“You don’t want to be involved in a Fight of the Year because that means you took a lot of punches,” said Bradley, whose grueling encounter with Ruslan Provodnikov at the StubHub Center won that distinction. “I thought I was going to die.”
Now Vargas faces Salka who after losing by a second round knockout to former world champion Danny Garcia, then reeled off five consecutive wins. The Pennsylvania fighter is known for his speed, not his power.
Despite the changes in his head placement and fighting stance inside, 33-year-old Vargas seems to be like a magnet for bloody encounters. Still, he only has one loss in his career.
A super featherweight semi-main event features Aidar Sharibayev (7-0, 6 KOs) against gatekeeper Andrew Cancio (17-4-2, 13 KOs) in a 10 round title battle.
Sharibayev comes from Kazakhstan and in Cancio faces a desert fighter from Blythe, Calif. who has derailed several fighters not up to championship standards. It should be interesting.
San Diego’s undefeated Genaro “El Conde” Gamez (7-0) meets Shoko Sakai (23-7-2, 13 KOs) from Japan, now living in Mexico City. Both fighters are known for always being involved in slugfests.
Gamez, 22, will have trainer Robert Garcia in his corner. He last fought in February at the same venue. He has had problems making weight and faces a very tough opponent in Sakai.
Sakai, 27, defeated Ashley Theophane a fighter originally from the United Kingdom now fighting out of Las Vegas. The Japanese fighter also fought to a draw against extremely tough Cameron Krael last October in Las Vegas.
Gamez and Sakai could steal the night in their super lightweight fight set for eight rounds. This by far is the most experienced and toughest foe Gamez has ever faced. He could be tripped up if not careful.
Ireland’s Aaron McKenna (2-0) returns again and meets Keasen Freeman (4-1) in a welterweight clash set for four rounds. The tall welterweight from Monaghan has fast hands and an eager-to-please style. Freeman, 20, has only one loss and that came last month at Barclays Center. It’s not an easy match for either fighter but McKenna, 18, has a lot of confidence in his abilities.
Eric Rodriguez of L.A. meets Genaro Caballero who is making his pro debut. Caballero is the younger brother of former world champion Randy Caballero.
Ricardo Arias (1-2-1) meets Javier Padilla (5-0-1) of Indio in a super bantamweight rematch of their fight that took place last summer at the StubHub Center that ended in a draw.
Jonathan Navarro of East L.A. fought just last month but his opponent did not make the weigh-in at press time.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel