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Vargas Wants to Climb Ring Instead of Walls

Boxing: Former Olympian from Oxnard is eager for surgically repaired left thumb to heal so he can launch pro career in hometown in March.

December 26, 1996|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OXNARD — Never, it seems, has boxer Fernando Vargas gone so long without landing a punch.

"I'm climbing the walls right now because I'm not doing anything," Vargas said. "I want to fight."

Vargas, a 19-year-old former Olympian from Oxnard, finally will get his chance March 7, when he makes his long-awaited professional debut at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center.

Last August, Vargas, who fell short in his bid for a gold medal in the Atlanta Games, signed a four-year promotional contract worth an estimated $4 million with Main Events Productions, based in Totowa, N.J.

Bowing to the wishes of the unwavering welterweight, Main Events scheduled Vargas' pro debut before his hometown fans in late November. But Vargas' first payday was postponed because of torn ligaments in his left thumb that required surgery in October.

The injury not only bumped Vargas' debut but also his scheduled appearance on the undercard of the heavyweight rematch between Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota on Dec. 14 in Atlantic City.

The cast on his hand recently removed, Vargas has been doing a lot of boxing--with his shadow.

"I've been keeping in shape, running and doing [abdominal] exercises," Vargas said. "I'm walking around only five pounds over my weight class. It's really been hard. This is the first time I've ever been injured."

Vargas plans to spend 1997 making up for lost time. Before the year is out, Vargas, the youngest U.S. national amateur champion ever, figures to fight nearly a dozen times, all on the undercard of high-profile bouts. His debut is scheduled to be televised on ESPN.

"With Fernando, because of his late start, we want to keep him as busy as possible ," said Mike Boorman, a Main Events spokesman. "As a superstar fighter, we want to have him in as many big shows as possible."

That's fine with Vargas, who says he's prepared to give it a go at least once a month. Obviously, he's not expecting many fights to last long.

"Maybe even twice a month, if the fights are quick," Vargas said. "Hopefully, I'll talk to [Main Events] and we can schedule the fight sooner.

"When the time comes to fight, I'm going to explode."

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