Title shot-bound Francisco Vargas isn’t overlooking Will Tomlinson
Francisco Vargas goes by the nickname “Bandido” (which is Spanish for bandit), but he could easily go by “Silent Assassin.”
You will not hear much coming from the mouth of the unbeaten junior lightweight contender before a fight, but in the ring, Vargas turns into a relentless and assertive fighter.
His recent victories have led to top-five rankings among the sanctioning bodies (THE RING ranks him at No. 7) and he is close to landing a significant fight this year.
However, Vargas must first get by an opponent who almost is a mirror image.
The Mexican Olympian will fight Will Tomlinson tonight at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio. The bout will headline a Golden Boy Promotions card and will be televised live on HBO Latino, beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET/ 6:45 p.m. PT.
2014 was a breakthrough year for the 30 year old. He defeated Abner Cotto on Mar. 8 in Las Vegas, but it was his performance (a technical knockout after the third round) four months later against Juan Manuel Lopez that impressed boxing aficionados.
In his last bout on Dec. 13, Vargas knocked out Genaro Camargo in the eighth and final round of a stay-busy fight.
He faces a stiff challenge in Tomlinson (23-1-1, 13 KOs). The Australian fighter is a boxer-puncher and has won his last two fights in a row. While he is the favorite in the fight, Vargas is not overlooking his opponent.
“He’s a strong opponent who has speed and god technique,” Vargas told RingTV.com in a phone interview on Sunday. “We prepared well though. Our camp for this fight was in Mexico City (where Vargas resides) and we sparred to his style. I feel very well-prepared for this fight.”
There are those in boxing who wonder whether Vargas has hit his ceiling or can elevate his game to face the elite fighters in the division. Vargas’ win over Lopez is a decent measuring stick, despite some pointing out that the Puerto Rican veteran was on the downside of his career.
But the win over Lopez did open the eyes of boxing fans, showcasing Vargas’ power and his improved overall game in the ring.
“People really began to notice me as a fighter in the Lopez fight,” said Vargas, who is promoted by Golden Boy and managed by Joel De La Hoya. “The boxing world noticed I’ve worked hard to improve in the ring. I like going for the knockout early, but my team has a strategy that we execute round by round. If the knockout comes, great. But I know the boxing fans like knockouts as well.”
While he is not overlooking Tomlinson, Vargas has big aspirations for 2015. He is the mandatory challenger to face WBC champion Takashi Miura and WBO champion Orlando Salido. While both fighters already have commitments defending their titles over the next couple of months, Vargas will bide his time.
He has expressed his readiness to face the elite fighters in the divisions, including those who hold world title belts.
While he may be reserved and quiet outside of the ring, his fists speak volumes inside of it. He continues to improve with each fight, making believers out of doubters along the way.
“I have faced strong opponents thus far. I’m looking to fight for a world title in 2015. I’m going to keep working towards that. Like any fighter, I just work hard, earn good money for my family, and to be recognized for the work I do in the ring (including winning a world title).”
“I also want to give a good show to the fans. Those things are what motivates me.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Salazar also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing