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Vargas/Quartey Fight Reports
CBZ Staff

April 15, 2000

Vargas passes the Quartey test
By Chris Bushnell

On April 19, 2000 in Las Vegas, the story was set for a magnificent junior middleweight battle. In one corner stood rising superstar Fernando Vargas, a confident young man who has impressed many with his ability to back up his boasts in the ring. Across the ring was Ike Quartey, the former welterweight bomber that Boxing Chronicle felt had been jobbed in his bout with Oscar DelaHoya fourteen months prior. Stylistically, the piston jabbing Quartey matched well with the counter-punching Vargas...and neither man had a reputation for running from a fight. It seemed appropriate that a war was promised on this, the 15th anniversary of Hagler-Hearns.

In the years since Hagler's thrilling kayo of the Hitman, the sport has changed. Back then, championship fights were scheduled for 15 rounds. There were a number of reasons for the switch to 12. The WBC, and later the WBA and IBF, cited the increased likelihood of fatality in those final three rounds. Other speculated, perhaps correctly, that the change was geared more towards television networks and the ability to fit a 12 rounder into a concise one-hour broadcast. Whatever the reason, those final three rounds...the real "championship rounds"...are still sorely missed by some.

When the dust cleared, a war had indeed been waged. There were no knockdowns, but the action between bells was thrilling. Vargas and Quartey threw punches with bad intentions all night, with both giving and taking and tiring. After 12 rounds, the fight went to the scorecards and a unanimous decision was fairly awarded to the man who deserved it. But oh to see what might have happened in three more rounds. One of these two outstanding warriors would have likely tired and lost with three more rounds, but the way the fight unfolded I can't tell you which one it would have been. But that's jumping ahead...

Before Ike Quartey entered the ring, fireworks popped high above the ring. The crowd was not expecting the pyrotechnics, which emitted loud bangs. The so unds startled the crowd, and for a moment everyone froze, thinking it was gunshots or a bomb. After the sparks fell from the ceiling, an animated Ike Quartey jumped into the ring and danced around to a reggae beat. A stern Vargas followed with some Aztec showgirls and the fight was under way.

The action began immediately as Vargas circled Quartey's crunching jab. Vargas jabbed back with a thick stick of his own. Vargas landed the first power punch when he tossed a left hook that Quartey took on the jaw. Quartey wasted little time before answering with his own quick hook in this very even round. Matching nearly punch for punch, Vargas eked out the round on the Boxing Chronicle card by landing slightly more.

In the second, both men were starting off with stiff jabs, but Vargas was already warming up his right hand. Quartey also began throwing his usual chopping right hand, but with Vargas circling he could not plant his feet enough to get full leverage. Midway through the round, Vargas backed Quartey into a his corner. With his man trapped in front of him, Vargas let his hands go. Quartey covered up, but Vargas battered him anyway. Vargas hit him on the gloves, the arms, and the shoulders before a left hook snuck through the guard. Quartey ate that left hook, a few crunching right hands, a flush left uppercut and another big left hook in the full minute that Vargas unloaded on him. He managed to fire back occasionally, but not enough to force Vargas a step back and allow for an escape. After the barrage, Quartey brought the fight back to center ring, but the bell sounded before a rally could be had.

Unable to finish his man, Vargas now needed a break. He started much slower in the third, and Quartey's jab became an effective weapon. Vargas may have only 18 fights, but he fights like a veteran. As Quartey took his turn at aggression, Vargas willingly turned counter puncher. Quartey's jab and occasional right were touching Vargas, whose nose had begun to trickle blood in the previous round. But Vargas could be seen clearly trying to time Quartey, and landed a few beautiful counters while under heavy fire.

In the fourth, Vargas was warned several times for low blows. The warnings came on borderline shots, but since Vargas was otherwise neglecting the body, they only stood out more. Finally one punch strayed legitimately low and Vargas lost a point from Joe "Firm but Fair" Cortez. Fernando smacked Quartey around the center of the ring in the middle of this round with a series of 5 consecutive one-two's. But those heavy blows were bookended by steady and effective jab work by Ike in a round that saw Vargas circling to the point of retreat. Quartey picked up this close round, and with the deduction evened the score.

The champion retreated for much of the fifth as well, but it was part of the plan. Quartey was now chasing Vargas, and Fernando was picking him off every time he came at him. Quartey's jab would fall short to Vargas' movement or Ike would miss with a right, and then Vargas would burst off several counters and then retreat again. This pace was working wonderfully for Vargas, who in the sixth began catching Quartey with even heavier and better timed bombs. Early in the sixth, Vargas loaded up on a long uppercut that snapped Quartey's head as he came in, and Quartey's knees buckled. He stepped back to the ropes and Vargas again was teeing off. Quartey survived one flurry but was soon under the hailstorm of another. Vargas could not put him down, however, and the effort he made was exhausting him.

Vargas began the seventh round still breathing hard from the sustained flurries in the previous round. Still, he managed to keep up his output, throwing at least two punches at Quartey every time Ike was aggressive. Vargas alternated between leading and countering, keeping Quartey off his best game. Vargas was being driven by an immense desire. He looked far more winded than Quartey, but forced himself to throw punches anyway. It worked. An overconfident Quartey again was caught on the ropes, and again Vargas let his hands go. The two men stood toe to toe, and Joe Cortez jumped into the middle of a flurry to end the round, as he had in the previous several rounds as well.

As the eighth began, Vargas was now in dire need of a break. Using his feet to buy more time between assaults, Vargas succeeded in slowing the tempo. Quartey never let up the pressure, maintaining his position directly in front of Vargas at all times. Quartey's baseball pitcher right hand was landing, but infrequently. Vargas now countered with the left hook, catching Quartey bent over from a missed punch and standing him up straight with the force of his blows. Sweeping the fifth through the eighth rounds with a busy pace, Vargas had carved out a small but solid lead. But his power punching required that he slow down some time, and it happened in the ninth.

The ninth round continued as the others had: both fighters at close range, throwing heavy punches with nearly every attempt. Quartey, however, changed u p his right by throwing it overhand, and the punch swiveled Vargas' head. Blood now ran from both of Vargas' nostrils and Quartey opened up with two more sweeping right hands that landed on the side of Vargas' skull. Vargas now retreated with purpose, but Quartey pursued. Opening up with vicious rights and lefts, Quartey dealt out a championship beating. When retreating didn't buy him time, Vargas stood and tried to counter. He landed a few shots in return towards the end of the round, but Bazooka earned his nickname by pushing his jab straight into Vargas' face. The blood poured from Vargas' nose and he scratched back, trying to halt the incoming. The bell finally sounded, and both men returned to their corners in a fight that was becoming closer by the second.

Quartey unleashed more raw aggression in the tenth, and Vargas tasted the heaviest right crosses of his career. As he regained a second wind, Vargas returned fire with some lethal rights of his own. Simply put, these two great warriors were beating the hell out of each other. Fernando suffered a cut over his left eye, while Quartey's right eye began swelling under the hooks from the champion. Vargas looked stronger, but still was taking as much as he was dishing out. A Vargas flurry that went unanswered right before the bell may have stole him the round on a few cards, but Boxing Chronicle gave the round to Quartey.

In the era of the 12 rounder, the eleventh becomes the de facto start of the "championship rounds". And as it should be, the winner won the fight by winning these rounds. Vargas laid it on the line in the eleventh. Quartey was surging, and the only way to halt him was to beat him down. Vargas knew what was required of him, and he did it. He stood in with Quartey, took his best shots and fired his own back. Both men saved a little for the final round, but when Vargas' higher volume and more telling blows banked him the round, Quartey needed a knockout, or at least a knockdown, to keep it close.

The twelfth round was spirited, but neither man had the energy to lay it all on the line. Quartey needed a kayo, and Vargas did not run...but it was not to be. At one point Quartey cracked Vargas with a blistering right hand and Vargas smiled and motioned for more. After the grinning, Ferocious pounded Quartey's ever-closing right eye with some riveting left hooks. Vargas won the round and sealed the fight definitively in his favor.

The official cards read 114-113 and 116-111 twice for Fernando Vargas. Boxing Chronicle split the difference and scored 115-112 for the champion. Vargas (19-0/17) earned a hard fought victory over a world class opponent, did so decisively, and deserves all the praise that will soon be heaped on him. He answered the gut check in the middle rounds, overcame fatigue to finish strong, took some incredibly heavy shots without going down, and exerted amazing ring generalship for a guy in only his 19th pro fight. When Vargas wanted to lead, he lead. When he wanted to counter, he did. When he retreated, except for the ninth, it was to draw Quartey in. The leverage Vargas gets on his punches is fantastic, and let's face it: here is a guy who openly brags about being a warrior and then goes out and fights like one. That alone is all-too rare in the game today.

For his part, Ike Quartey (34-2-1/29) was completely dejected. Although he fought a strong fight and showed flashes of dominance, he also had to know deep down that this was not the heist that the DelaHoya fight had been. He claimed that he was the victor, but perhaps his depression stemmed from knowing that he had suffered his first real defeat. Quartey's stock hardly drops from this outing. He did, after all, look strong at 154 and fought a better fight than his inactivity might have hinted at. But despite his showing, he will be temporarily removed from the round robin of big money fights that the 154 lb. division now has.

In a year with Barrera-Morales and Vargas-Quartey standing out as wonderful ring wars that went to the cards, don't you sometimes wish that the year was still 1985? Had the Vargas-Quartey battle been scheduled for 15 rounds, it might have contained the exclamation point finish that this otherwise action-packed fight lacked. 15 rounders are almost certainly gone for good, but a fan can wish...can't he?

Vargas Too Much For Quartey
By Francis Walker

On the night of Saturday, April 15, 2000 the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, IBF world 154-pound champion, Fernando Vargas (19-0, 17KOs) successfully defended his title with a 12-round, unanimous decision against former welterweight champ, Ike Quartey (34-2-1, 29KOs). It was Vargas' fourth defense of the junior welterweight crown.

The bout, promoted by Main Events Monitor and Top Rank, Inc. was televised exclusively on HBO's "World Championship Boxing.

As the youngest member of the youngest member of the 1996 US Olympic team, Vargas won the championship from Yori Boy Campus (TKO 7) in December 1998. Having defeated Raul Marquez (TKO 11), Winky Wright (W 12) in his first three defenses Vargas looked exceptionally well in meeting the biggest challenge of his career in Quartey. 34-1-1, 29KOs

At age 30, Quartey was a former member of the Ghana Olympic team in 1988. Fought at Seoul at 140 pounds.

Quartey won WBA welterweight title from Chrisanto Espana on June 4, 1994 in France. Successfully defended title seven times for vacating the crown in 1998.

Having waited patiently to cease the bout either with Pernell Whitaker, Felix Trinidad, and Oscar De La Hoya, Quartey was forced to vacate the WBA title in 1998.

In his only loss, Quartey finally an opportunity to fight De La Hoya, but dropped a razor-thin, unanimous decision to "The Golden Boy." In the sixth, Quartey managed to floor De La Hoya on a single left hook to his chin.

Quartey may have been more experienced than Vargas, but at age 30 and having fought just once in the last 2 years Quartey was not nearly in as superb condition nor as sharp as the 21-year-old Vargas.

In the opening round, both fighters appeared exceptionally strong. However, Vargas proved to be the smarter of the two fighters, as he used his left-jab to set up his right hooks and uppercuts. Quartey, who at 147 posed one of the strongest jabs in the division, tried to exchange "blow-for-blow" with Vargas. But Vargas was the quicker and stronger of the two.

According to punch-stat numbers, Vargas landed 389 of 909 shots (43%). Quartey, despite throwing 645 punches landed 242 of them (42%).

Much like De La Hoya-Quartey, Vargas-Quartey was extremely close. The difference was that Quartey, who was a mere one-punch, single-jab fighter against De La Hoya, was more illusive and more accurate with his shots against Vargas. Quartey throughout he contest landed some hard right hands that placed cuts across Vargas' pretty kisser. The chief difference in the contest was Vargas' relentless flurries; countering with three-four and often five punch combinations that buckled Quartey's legs. In addition, Vargas forced Quartey in a defensive position while fighting against the ropes. Vargas' ferocious body attack to slow Quartey down was the main difference in the contest.

Similar to his bout against De La Hoya, Quartey faded in the ladder rounds. Vargas' youth, energy, and willpower overwhelmed Quartey's aggressiveness. Vargas continuously pounded Quartey into a pulp easily in the ladder rounds.

At the end of the contest, all three judges scored the contest 116-111, 114-113, and 116-111 for the champion.

Vargas improved to 5-0, 3KOs in world title fights; Quartey fell to 7-2-1, 6KOs.


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