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De La Hoya-Vargas on Hold

Boxing: WBC champion injures left wrist, postponing May fight. Promoters hope to reschedule for Sept. 14.

April 05, 2002|PAUL GUTIERREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The same left that has thumped many of Oscar De La Hoya's opponents into submission over his boxing career has knocked out the super-welterweight champion's eagerly anticipated May 4 fight against Fernando Vargas.

De La Hoya's chronically tender left wrist flared up while training in Big Bear last week, sending him to three doctors. He said he was acting on the recommendation of an orthopedic surgeon when he postponed the unification championship fight to rest and rehabilitate the injury, which was diagnosed as a severe sprain of the third metacarpal joint.

It is the second consecutive fight that De La Hoya, 29, has had to postpone or cancel because of the wrist. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in November for torn cartilage in the wrist, shelving his planned Dec. 8 fight against Roman Karmazin.

"He hit a sparring partner on the top of the head last Thursday [March 28]," Dr. Tony Daly, who prescribed the rest, said of De La Hoya's latest injury. "He thought he could go on but he couldn't."

A May 4 bout was impossible, his doctor said.

"He could not train for three or four weeks," Daly said. "So he would have gone into the [Vargas] fight as a one-handed fighter, basically. Plus, it's not just rest. There's physical therapy involved."

Promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank said that with De La Hoya's rest and rehab, he was hopeful the fight could be rescheduled for Sept. 14 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

"Besides not training for the next few weeks, Tony doesn't want him fighting until August at the earliest," Arum said. "If we're going to wait that long, why not wait until September, which is a better pay-per-view environment."

If the fight does happen then, it will have been almost 15 months since De La Hoya's last fight. De La Hoya (34-2, 27 knockouts) took the World Boxing Council's 154-pound title from Javier Castillejo on June 23, 2001.

Vargas (22-1, 20 KOs), the World Boxing Assn. junior-middleweight champion, last fought on Sept. 22, when he beat Jose "Shibata" Flores for the vacant title.

Vargas' camp made light of the postponement.

"Fernando's handling it well because it's not unusual for Oscar De La Hoya to be indecisive," said Rolando Arellano, the 24-year-old Vargas' manager. "I'm fighting, I'm not fighting. I'm coming back, I'm retiring. I have a hand injury, you're asking for too much money.

"We knew this was a probability when we started this. We were laughing about it. Three days ago we said he'd probably come up with an injury ... rather than face a very turbulent situation. We've already gone through this with him once before."

Rather than wait until September to face De La Hoya, Vargas' handlers may pursue another fight in the interim.

"In the event it is a true injury," Arelano said, "we wish him well and a rapid recovery because we want him in the ring."

Arum said he understood the frustration felt by Vargas' promoters.

"The Main Events guys got really [upset]," Arum said. "But that's a normal reaction. I know I was [upset] when [Marco Antonio] Barrera pulled out [against Erik Morales]. But what can you do? The guy got hurt."

Arum, though, said De La Hoya's most recent injury could have been avoided.

"He did not do the proper rehab after the surgery," said Arum, who only recently rejoined De La Hoya after a less-than-amicable split. "He should have been wearing a steel brace on the wrist in training and he wasn't."

Still, Arum said De La Hoya was in good spirits.

"No. 1, he's disappointed," Arum said. "But ... he was afraid that this was a career-ending injury and that is not the case."

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