Amir Khan vs. Samuel Vargas – Preview & prediction
By Scott Gilfoid: Amir Khan will be looking to keep his career on the right track tonight against fringe level welterweight contender Samuel Vargas in his second fight of his comeback at Arena Birmingham, in Birmingham, England.
Due to the low level of his opponent, Khan (32-4, 20 KOs) has spent much of the time in the last weeks giving interviews in which he’s been talking about wanting to fight Manny Pacquiao, Kell Brook and the other top fighters in the welterweight division. There has been absolutely no interest from the boxing public in Khan’s opponent 29-year-old Vargas. He might well have been a cardboard prop for the past two months, because fans have not cared a fig about him. The only thing the fans have talked about is Khan’s next fight, which he hopes will be a super fight against the likes of Manny Pacquiao.
”I belong in the biggest events in the UK. I am a prize fighter but it goes beyond that. I like to put on a show for people and want them to come to my event and enjoy my event. I’m going to hurt Vargas and I’m going to outclass him,” Khan said to skysports.com.
Well, Khan certainly isn’t lacking in self-confidence, is he? Since his fight with Vargas tonight is perceived as a huge mismatch like his last fight against journeyman Phil Lo Greco, it’s imperative that Khan knocks him into next week and leaves no doubt who the better fighter is. Vargas is technically a fringe contender, but he’s more of a journeyman level fighter at best. As such, Khan needs to prove that he can knock him out quickly to show that he belongs with the top dogs in the welterweight division like Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia.
Right now, you can’t say that Khan belongs with that group of fighters, because he hasn’t beaten anyone good enough to say he belongs with that group. Khan’s wins since he moved up to welterweight have been against these fighters: Chris Algieri, Julio Diaz, Devon Alexander and Luis Collazo. Those fighters are no longer relevant in the welterweight division. Alexander recently made a comeback after two years out of the ring, but he’s looked shot in his fights with Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz. Collazo and Algieri are no longer major players at 147 and were never top dogs to begin with. Julio Diaz has been retired since his 3rd round knockout at the hands of Keith Thurman in 2014. Khan’s win over Diaz was a controversial 12 round unanimous decision in April 2013. Diaz dropped Khan in the 4th round and hurt him multiple times in the last half of the contest.
Khan’s promoter Eddie Hearn picked out Vargas, 29, as a slight step up from Phil Lo Greco, who Khan smashed in one round last April in his first fight of his comeback in Liverpool, England. Vargas has about the same punching power as the 34-year-old Lo Greco, but he’s a little faster, more talented and a tougher all around fighter. Khan likely won’t be able to obliterate Vargas in the 1st round like he did against the hapless Lo Greco last April. Vargas has been tested by Errol Spence Jr. and Danny Garcia, and it took those guys until the 4th and 7th rounds respectively until they were able to knock him out.
Since Khan doesn’t possess the same kind of punching power as Spence and Garcia, it’s expected that it’ll take him longer before he can knock them out. Of course, it also depends on how badly Khan wants to try and knock Vargas out. If Khan bum rushes Vargas immediately in the 1st round tonight like he did against Lo Greco, then there’s a chance that he might be able to blast him out straightaway if that’s his goal. Spence and Garcia weren’t thinking of trying to destroy Vargas in the 1st round, because neither of them had anything to prove by trying to get him out immediately. They didn’t have chip on their shoulders the way that Khan clearly does.
I think it’s more important for Khan to try and knock Vargas out so that it can validate his talent to himself and to his followers, many of which are on the fence in deciding whether he’s worth continuing to follow. After Khan’s losses to Saul Canelo Alvarez, Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson and Briedis Prescott, a lot of boxing fans see him as a flawed fighter, who can beat the B and C-level guys in the sport, but falls apart when he’s matched against A-level talents or even some B-level guys. Prescott and Peterson were clearly not A-level fighters, and yet they were both able to beat the brakes off Khan anyway.
”I’d love to fight Pacquiao,” Khan said to the telegraph.co.uk. ”I’d love to take that fight. That fight is not only a big fight in the UK, but globally. There would be more views in that fight than the Kell Brook fight.”
Khan would look bad taking a fight against the over-the-hill 39-year-old Pacquiao, but I don’t think he cares. Khan wants to have Pacquiao’s scalp on his resume no matter what, and I don’t think it matters too much how much shame he’s bringing to himself in taking the shot Filipino star. Having Pacquiao’s scalp on his resume is all that matters. We’ve seen fighters do this type of thing for years. Even Saul Canelo Alvarez has some great names on his resume in instances where he fought completely shot fighters in Shawn Mosley, Kermit Cintron, and Miguel Cotto at the ends of their careers. I don’t know how Khan’s brand will be improved by a win over Pacquiao. It would depend on how the casual boxing fans view Pacquiao. If they’re in the dark about the sport and don’t realize how past his prime Pacquiao is, then they’ll likely be impressed with Khan beating him. But if the fans are knowledgeable and realize that Pacquiao is shot beyond belief, then they’ll ignore Khan’s win over him and see it as another case of him cherry-picking like he’s done in choosing Phil Lo Greco and Samuel Vargas as opponents for him to pad his record with.
Getting the super fight against the likes of Pacquiao and/or Brook has seemingly all that has been on Khan’s mind in the last six weeks in the buildup to his fight with Vargas. That’s bad news because when you’ve got a chin problem like Khan clearly does; it’s not a good idea for you to overlook your opponent like he’s going with Vargas. The advantage that Vargas has in this fight is he and his team has scouted Khan well, and they have a good game plan in how to defeat him. I mean, the blueprint is there in how to defeat Khan. All Vargas needs to do for him to beat Khan is to target his weak chin and look to hurt him when he gets in range. Khan’s natural aggressiveness will help make Vargas’ job much easier because he’s likely going to go after him in a careless manner that will put his chin on the line for the fight.
”There’s no doubt in my mind that I will be victorious,” Vargas said to skysports.com. ”I don’t care how I do it. I don’t care if it’s by knockout or if it goes the distance or if I break his ribs…I’ll win.”
The thing that Vargas has going against him in his dream of beating Khan tonight is the lack of wins over quality opposition during his eight-year pro career. Vargas has never beaten a notable opponent during his career. Vargas’ best wins have come against these little known fighters: Alvaro Robles, Marco Antonio Avendano, Ulises Jimenez, Juan Armando Garcia, Jussi Koivula and Mauro Maximilano Godoy. The most notable opponent on Vargas’ resume is former IBO welterweight champion Ali Funeka, who he beat by a 10 round majority decision last year in August 2017. However, Funeka was 39-years-old at the time, and well past his prime. A prime Funeka would have likely beaten Vargas without too many problems.
Vargas’ best chance of beating the 32-year-old Khan is to target his head when he starts unloading with his flurries. Khan tends to fight out of control when he’s on the attack despite having been warned not to do this by his former trainer Virgil Hunter. The Hayward, California native tried warning Khan to fight in a more in control manner so that he doesn’t get clipped with big shots from his opponents, but he’s failed to learn. Now trained by Joe Goosen, Khan seems to be even more reckless than he was when he was with Hunter, and he’s likely to get hit with something big from Vargas tonight. Perhaps Khan won’t get knocked out tonight because he’s not facing a big puncher, but it doesn’t take a lot of power to hurt Khan, as we’ve seen in the past. Julio Diaz and Willie Limond weren’t big punchers, and yet they were both able to hurt Khan with shots.
Khan’s promoter Eddie Hearn is already thinking beyond tonight’s Khan-Vargas fight for Khan’s next fight in December. Hearn wants to match Khan against either Pacquiao or Brook in December. However, with the way that Hearn is talking negatively about the Khan-Pacquiao fight, it’s not likely that fight will happen unless Amir is willing to take less money than the Filipino star. The fight that Hearn is unabashedly trying to put together is Khan vs. Brook for December. If Hearn can put that fight together, he would have only his own hands on the gear shifts for the promotion of the fight. Hearn wouldn’t need to share the promotional duties with an outside promoter like he would if he matched Khan against Pacquiao or one of the other top welterweights in the division like Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman or Terence Crawford. All the money would come to Hearn and his Matchroom promotion if the Khan vs. Brook fight takes place in December.
”Looking at the numbers, if Pacquiao-Khan is going to happen that fight will most likely take place outside of the UK,” Khan’s promoter Eddie Hearn said to the telegraph.co.uk. ”It’s a very expensive fight in terms of the fighter’s demands. Kell is also in the running for the Pacquiao figh. And he’ll want less money than Amir. They all want to fight in December.”
It doesn’t sound too promising for the Khan vs. Pacquiao fight, does it?. It’s important that Khan fight someone popular for his December match though, because he can’t continue to fight soft jobs if he wants to be respected by fans. The boxing public is willing to put up with Khan fighting weak opponents like Phil Lo Greco and Samuel Vargas, because he’d been out of the ring for 2 years after being knocked out by Saul Canelo Alvarez in the 6th round in 2016. By his own choice, Khan decided to sit idle for two years, traveling the world on vacations and generally taking it easy. Now that Khan is back, he’s not been in a hurry to fight the quality fighters in the 147 pound division. That can’t continue to be the case if Khan wants to get ranked high for a world title shot against the likes of the Danny Garcia vs. Shawn Porter winner, WBA ‘regular’ champion Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr. or Terence Crawford.
Predicting tonight’s Khan vs. Vargas fight is easy. Vargas has never shown the kind of talent that suggests that he’ll win this fight. The only change that Vargas has of getting the ‘W’ is if Khan gets sloppy and leaves himself open by throwing a wide hook like he did when he was hurt in his fights against Prescott and Garcia. If Khan throws a wide left hook, he’s going to be putting himself at the mercy of Vargas. It doesn’t matter that Vargas can’t punch. If Khan is wide open for a shot, he’s going to get hurt and dropped. Vargas has already said that if he hurts Khan, he’ll finish him off straightaway and not let him recover. Nevertheless, it’s highly unlikely that Khan will leave himself open in such a manner unless he’s got Vargas hurt and out on his feet. Once Khan hurts, Vargas, he’ll flurry on him to get the stoppage. With the fight taking place in Birmingham, England, there’s a very good chance that the referee will step in and halt the fight at the very first sign of Vargas being hurt. Therefore, I see Khan knocking Vargas out within 4 rounds. Vargas is too much of a lower level fighter for him to have a chance of winning tonight unfortunately.