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Vargas Puts His Olympic Gold in Jeopardy : Boxing: Contract with agent also involved with three USC football players could end fighter’s chance of competing in Atlanta.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

One of the United States’ most promising hopes for a boxing gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics, light-welterweight Fernando Vargas of Oxnard, might have jeopardized his amateur status by agreeing to a contract with the sports agent accused of giving money to three USC football players.

According to a copy of the contract obtained by The Times, Vargas’ mother, Alicia Romo, signed an agreement as the 17-year-old boxer’s legal guardian with managers Robert Troy Caron and Don Lukens, both of Oxnard. The agreement also was signed by Vargas’ trainer, Eduardo Garcia.

In creating “TEAM VARGAS,” the contract stipulated that Vargas and Garcia would receive $20,000 upon signing, $4,000 a month now through the July 19-Aug. 4 Atlanta Olympics, travel and training expenses and performance bonuses. In exchange, Vargas and Garcia will enter into an exclusive management deal with Caron and Lukens after the Games.

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Officials for USA Boxing, the national governing body for the sport in the Olympics, said Friday they had not seen the contract, but they were concerned that it was a violation of their eligibility rules.

“If what I’ve heard so far is true, it’s over for him,” said Paul Konnor, USA Boxing’s legal counsel. “That would be a shame for a young boy that age. He could be one of our prime gold-medal candidates.”

Said Kurt Stenerson, spokesman for USA Boxing: “If Fernando has done something to threaten his amateur career, it’s terrible. We do everything we can to avoid that kind of situation. That’s why we have Paul Konnor on call, to advise our kids on any questions they might have.”

A friend of Vargas’, who did not want to be identified, said the boxer was aware of the agreement. But Vargas, the 1994 national champion at 132 pounds and the bronze medalist in this year’s Pan American Games at 139 pounds, denied it.

“I’m not going to sweat something I don’t know anything about,” he said Friday. “I’m a minor still. How can there be a contract?”

Told that it was signed by his mother, Vargas said: “I don’t have any knowledge of her signing anything. I’m going to have to talk to her, but maybe her name was forged.”

Vargas’ mother was unavailable for comment.

Vargas said he has seen Caron at Oxnard’s La Colonia Boxing Club but does not know him and said he has never heard of Lukens.

Caron, whose company, Pro Manage, is alleged to have jeopardized the eligibility of three USC football players by giving them money and pagers, would not comment. Lukens was unavailable for comment.

Although contracts such as the one between Vargas and the managers appear to be illegal under USA Boxing rules, the organization allows its boxers to earn money from various sources as long as they funnel it through a trust fund supervised by USA Boxing.

In response to questions from The Times, USA Boxing’s business manager, Gemiel Matthews, reported to an organization official Friday that Vargas has submitted only the $5,000 that he received for winning the Mary Lou Retton Award for the outstanding achievement by an Olympic hopeful at the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival.

Vargas won the Festival championship at 132 pounds in 1994, then returned this year to win at 139.

“The amateur boxing people--trainers and athletes--have been hot on his trail since this year’s Festival,” said one source who closely follows developments in the sport. “They’ve been hearing that he’s involved with managers, and they were afraid it could cause him a problem somewhere down the line.”

Times staff writer Maryann Hudson contributed to this story.


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