Jose Zepeda reflects on his dominant victory over Josue Vargas
LAS VEGAS – Jose Zepeda knew the whispers. He knew the talk was out there that the 32-year-old southpaw junior welterweight from La Puente, California, may have lost something after his blood war with Ivan Baranchyk last October.
Zepeda admits that he didn’t help himself much by his following fight, a lackluster 10-round unanimous decision over 37-year-old Hank Lundy in May.
Maybe, Zepeda feels, all of the talk can be squashed after he squashed Josue Vargas in 105 seconds last Saturday in the first round of their scheduled 10-round headliner at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater.
“It was my mistake, the Lundy fight, I wasn’t professional enough to get ready and if anything, the Baranchyk fight made me a lot stronger,” said Zepeda, whose Baranchyk victory garnered he and Baranchyk universal acceptance as the 2020 Fight of the Year. “The Baranchyk fight made me stronger both mentally and physically. I took this fight 100-percent seriously and everyone saw that.
“Josue never got under my skin. In the weigh-in, I know Josue was nervous and he had to release all of the nerves that he had. After the weigh-in, I told my team that I wasn’t going to let this guy punk me again. I wanted to stand up a little bit. On fight night, I know I’m a better fighter when I’m 100-percent focused.”
Zepeda (35-2, 27 knockouts) said his next fight has to be against the WBC junior welterweight world champion, which presently happens to be Josh Taylor. Zepeda said he will talk to his team to see what lies ahead—and his thinking and what he’s heard is that Taylor will be moving up in weight.
“If Taylor has the WBC belt, then I fight Taylor, so if it’s someone else, I fight them,” Zepeda said. “I’ll fight whoever has the WBC belt, and if it’s for the vacant title, then I fight for the vacant title.
“It’s why I don’t like putting names out there, because you just don’t know. I’m not going back. My next fight has to be for the WBC world title. I’ve been hearing a lot that Josh will be moving up after his next fight. I won’t put a name out there.
“It’s what I’ve been promised. I was there when my promoter called (WBC President) Mauricio (Sulaiman) about fighting for the title after the Baranchyk fight. Mauricio said I was next for the WBC world championship. These last two fights were to stay active and were my choice.
“Doing a third fight this year, I don’t want to put my position at risk. We’ll talk to the team and see what happens.”
Zepeda spoke to The Ring on Tuesday and felt very fresh.
In the blink, Zepeda set up Vargas (19-2, 9 KOs) with a straight left and he couldn’t recover.
“I have to say this was one of my better victories, because of the hype and I had a lot of people cheering for me,” Zepeda said. “No one got hurt. Everyone walked away healthy.”
Zepeda then took a second to check something out—his smiling face with his hands held up in victory on the RingTV.com website.
“Yep, that’s a familiar face,” Zepeda said, laughing again. “I needed the Baranchyk fight. That fight made me a better fighter. I’m not going anywhere. I proved what I can do. If anything, these last six, seven fights have made me so much stronger in my mental game.
“I was always ready physically. My mental game was not good. I have to say it. I had to recover from the (Jose Ramirez loss). These last two years have helped me, especially the Baranchyk fight. I’m a stronger fighter mentally because of it.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.