Fernando Vargas, who has been serving a nine-month suspension for testing positive for steroids, will return to the ring July 26 against Fitz Vanderpool at the Olympic Auditorium.
Although Vanderpool (24-4-4, 13 knockouts) is the No. 1-ranked contender in the World Boxing Council's 154-pound division and is ranked 13th by the World Boxing Assn., the fight is considered a tuneup for Vargas, who has been inactive since losing on a technical knockout to Oscar De La Hoya in September.
Vargas' handlers would like to see him fight twice more after July, leading up to a possible rematch against De La Hoya in May 2004.
A urine test taken after the first De La Hoya fight revealed the presence of the steroid stanozolol in Vargas' blood and he was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in November retroactive to the date of the fight. He was also fined $100,000.
Since January, Vargas, who was raised in Oxnard, has been working out at a Venice health club.
He plans on returning to his Big Bear training headquarters in May to prepare for the July bout.
When Vargas claimed he had ingested the steroid without being aware of what it was, fingers were pointed at nutritionist Mazzan Ali and strength and conditioning coach John Philbin, both of whom denied any wrongdoing.
With both now gone, Vargas is expected to hire a new conditioning coach, but not a nutritionist.
"He knows enough what to eat and what not to eat," said Kathy Duva, Vargas' promoter with Main Events.
-- Steve Springer