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Mayorga, Vargas clash at news conference

July 12, 2007|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

Ricardo Mayorga had blood-stained bruises on both cheeks, swelling around one eye, scratches on his neck and dried splotches of blood on his shirt collar. Fernando Vargas, his shirt and jacket removed, was standing in angry defiance, flexing his muscles and shaking his fists.

And this was only the news conference.

Menacing glares, trash talking and occasional pushing and shoving is standard procedure for pre-fight news conferences, a good chance to hype the event and push sales.

But the violent clash between Vargas, who is from Oxnard, and Mayorga, from Nicaragua, Wednesday afternoon in the Chick Hearn Press Room at Staples Center, at a news conference to announce their Sept. 8 bout in that arena, did not appear to be a Don King concoction to invigorate the promotion, though King was smiling all the way through it.

The animosity and fury seemed genuine, as evidenced by the blood and bruises.

There have been other such incidents at previous boxing news conferences, including one between Vargas and Oscar De La Hoya before their 2002 fight, a skirmish that ended with publicist Ricardo Jimenez suffering a broken leg when he tried to intercede.

Wednesday's news conference had been droning without incident for a while before the violence began, with King, the promoter, waving small American, Mexican and Nicaraguan flags as he hyped the fight from the dais with Vargas and Mayorga and their respective handlers seated on either side of King.

When Mayorga got up to speak, Vargas didn't budge, even when Mayorga referred to him as "Fatty." But when Mayorga started to say something about Vargas' wife and mother and then reached over and slapped Vargas, the Oxnard fighter sprang to his feet and landed two blows before members of both camps jumped in and chaos ensued.

The two fighters continued to lunge at each other, but were blocked by a mass of big bodies.

"They should have sold tickets to this," Vargas said after calm had been restored. "When he tried to slap me, he should have known I'm a counterpuncher."

Countered Mayorga through an interpreter: "I am very upset. This is a man who idolizes the gang life. He had his whole entourage with him. But on Sept. 8, he won't have them."

steve.springer@latimes.com

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