An opportunity is emerging to make a fight that would be certain entertainment.
Now, all we need is for boxing’s power players not to blow it.
A super-featherweight title defense by new champion Francisco Vargas of Mexico versus his countryman Orlando Salido is a can’t-fail slugfest.
Vargas in November won the World Boxing Council belt by getting off the canvas and enduring a nasty cut near his eye to score a thrilling ninth-round technical knockout of Takashi Miura at Mandalay Bay – a strong fight-of-the-year candidate.
“My cornerman told me if I didn’t come out with everything, the fight could be stopped,” Vargas told The Times afterward. “The only thing that was going through my mind was, ‘I’ve got to win. I want to be champion.’ ”
Vargas (23-0-1, 17 knockouts) also said he wants to be a boxing star.
So the chance to meet the warrior Salido is a golden opportunity to advance that pursuit.
The 35-year-old Salido (43-13-3) fought Roman Martinez to two fight-of-the-year battles last year, losing the first match after getting knocked down twice, before battling the Puerto Rican to a draw in September. Many others at ringside believed Salido won by battering Martinez during the second half of the bout.
Salido, who was overweight when he handed current featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko his only loss, in 2014, is the hunter in this case.
Negotiations for his trilogy with Martinez crashed because Martinez and his manager Al Haymon wanted the third fight in Puerto Rico, as did Showtime. Salido’s team was slow to accept, and the impasse left other Showtime dates filled.
HBO would handle Vargas-Salido, and it’s believed that if the network buys the fight, it’ll be placed on either the undercard of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s likely one-sided middleweight title fight in May, or the week after, perhaps in the Southland, as long as neither fighter asks for the moon.
Salido’s manager, Sean Gibbons, told The Times he’ll be highly reasonable in talks to land a Vargas fight. Gibbons said he and Mexican promoter Fernando Beltran’s philosophy is “less is more” now, with an eye on a trilogy.
“Orlando has lots of life. The firepower is still there. [His] heart, desire and reflex are as good as ever,” Gibbons said. “We are pushing fan-friendly fights. I can’t think of two finer warriors who deserve to have an opportunity. This fight screams old-time L.A.”
Vargas’ manager, Ralph Heredia, told The Times he’s open to the idea of a Salido bout. Representatives of Vargas’ promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, did not immediately return messages left about the fight, but Oscar De La Hoya has said repeatedly he’s all about making the best fights possible.
So make this fight.