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Amir Khan faces Samuel Vargas on September 8

Amir Khan

By Scott Gilfoid: Amir Khan will be making his second fight of his comeback on September 8 against Samuel Vargas at Arena Birmingham in Birmingham, England. The former light welterweight champion Khan (32-4, 20 KOs) is being given a slight step up in 29-year-old Vargas from his last opponent Phil Lo Greco, who he blitzed in scoring a 1st round knockout last April.

This is a show case fight for Khan. It’s one that that gives him a great chance to shine. Khan’s promoter Eddie Hearn announced the Khan-Vargas fight during Thursday’s news conference. The response from the boxing public has been less than overwhelming unfortunately. The fans are not excited about this match-up, and you can argue there’s even less interest in the Khan vs. Vargas fight than there was for the Khan-Lo Greco fight last April. This tells you the fans are already getting sick of the stale match-making being done for Khan by Hearn. For the longtime followers of Khan, they already put up with a lot of mismatches during his career. When a fighter is in his early 30s, as Khan is, the fans expect them to be facing the best available opposition. Vargas is not the best. He’s not the worst but he’s clearly not what the fans were expecting.

With all the buildup to the announcement, it’s disappointing to see that the 32-year-old Khan is facing fringe contender Samuel Vargas on September 8 rather than a quality fighter from the 147 lb. weight class. This is not the opponent that boxing fans were hoping to see Khan fight. At the very least, the fans were expecting Khan to face someone like Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner, Jessie Vargas, Kerman Lejarraga or Egidijus Kavaliauskas. Those guys would have given Khan a run for his money. At this stage in Khan’s comeback from a 2-year layoff, no one was asking him to face Danny Garcia, Errol Spence Jr., Shawn Porter, Jeff Horn or Terence Crawford. But to be taken seriously by the boxing public, Khan needed to face someone like Jessie Vargas, Broner, Lejarraga or Kavaliauskas. The fact that Khan’s promoter Eddie Hearn put him in with Samuel Vargas suggests that he doesn’t want to take chances of him getting beaten and then it ruining the cash out fight between him and Brook. Boxing is a business, after all, and that’s why you see match-making like Khan-Vargas to make guys like Khan look good so that it will help build a fight against Brook.

Vargas is capable enough to prevent suffering a similar fate, but he likely won’t last more than six or seven rounds at best. Vargas was knocked out in the past by Errol Spence Jr. and Danny Garcia. Vargas doesn’t hit hard, so he’s not going to be a threat to beating Khan. That’s obviously why Vargas was picked out by Khan’s promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing. Hearn wants to make sure that Khan isn’t beaten before he faces fellow Matchroom fighter Kel Brook either this year or next year. The British boxing pubic is still interested in seeing Khan and Brook fight each other, even though both of them are considered over-the-hill at this points in their careers and not capable of beating the best in their respective divisions.

“One of my aims this year was to be as active as possible so I’m very happy to get back in the ring again so soon against Samuel Vargas,” Khan said to ESPN.com. “Vargas is a tough and well-schooled fighter who has shared the ring with some top welterweights, including Danny Garcia and Errol Spence Jr. I have to get past Vargas before looking at the biggest challenges.”

Khan is talking about facing Brook (37-2, 2 KOs) in the summer of 2019. Brook has to get past his next opponent Brandon Cook (20-1, 13 KOs) on July 28 at the O2 Arena in London, England. Cook is a similar opponent as Samuel Vargas. Khan and Brook are being matched softly to keep them winning long

enough for them to meet each other. Brook’s fight against Cook is a WBO 154lb title eliminator. The winner of Brook-Cook fight will be the mandatory challenger for World Boxing Organization junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs).

“I have been granted more than enough time to properly prepare for Amir and you will see the best Samuel Vargas to date,” Vargas said. “Mark my words: We might both be from the same city and county but I am nothing like Phil Lo Greco — that’s a guarantee. I’m going to give Amir hell,” Vargas said.

Vargas has a 41% knockout percentage, and he’s not shown the ability to even consistently knockout C-level opposition. In the last three years, Vargas has stopped only one opponent since 2015. Vargas’ recent wins have come against these fighters:

– Jussi Koivulo

– Ali Funeka

– Marco Antonio Avendano

– Armando Robles

In Vargas’ last fight, he fought to a 10 round draw against Mauro Maimilano Godoy earlier this month.

Khan expects his fight against Vargas to be an explosive one similar to his 1st round KO over Lo Greco last April. I think it’s safe to say that Khan plans on bum rushing Vargas like he did against Lo Greco in hopes of knocking him out straightaway. It’s risky for Khan to jump on his opponents right off the bat because that’s how he was knocked out in the 1st round by Briedis Prescott in 2008. Vargas doesn’t have Prescott’s punching power, but he doesn’t need to for him to KO a guy like Khan. We still don’t know the extent of the damage that Saul Canelo Alvarez inflicted on Khan in knocking him cold in the 6th round in their fight in 2016. Lo Greco never landed anything against Khan before he was stopped in the 1st round last April. If Vargas can last long enough to touch Khan’s chin once or twice, he might discover there’s some broken glass in there that he can take advantage of on September 8.

For the sake of the fans, Khan and Brook need to face each other as soon as possible so that they can start facing better opposition. As long both guys are trying to dodge the talented fighters in their divisions, it means the fans will have to put up with mismatches against the likes of Brandon Cook, Sergey Rabchenko, Samuel Vargas and Phil Lo Greco.


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