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Title fight at Tahoe Saturday

Caesars Tahoe will provide the theater for perhaps the best boxing card in the world this weekend.

Nowhere else can you see an IBF world champion, former IBF champion and possible future heavyweight champion of the world on the same card like you can in Stateline on Saturday.

Not only will fight fans be able to catch a glimpse of unbeaten 21-year-old Fernando Vargas and his fists of destruction, but his opponent, Raul Marquez, is a once-beaten ex-champ who desperately wants his title back. In addition, in the co-main event, former Evander Holyfield sparring partner David Tua of Auckland, New Zealand, will try to continue on his desired path of a heavyweight title match.



“I’m especially grateful to Caesars because they’re taking a chance to put people in here. The people who walk up here Saturday – if they’re lucky enough to get a ticket – are the ones who will be lucky. It’s a good show that they have here,” said the 77-year-old Lou Duva, whose promotional company Main Events delivered the six-fight card that begins at 5:45 p.m.

As if the 16-0 Vargas of Oxnard, Calif., needed added incentive other than to defend his IBF junior middleweight title, Marquez has obliged him. Vargas claims the 30-1 Houston pugilist disrespected him during a recent teleconference promoting the fight.




“I know what I have to do and he’s been talking a lot. Now we’ll see if he can back up what he has to say in the ring,” Vargas said.

However, Marquez, the former champ, says Vargas started the verbal sparring.

“He’s been talking and disrespecting me all through camp,” Marquez said. “He said he could hit me with his eyes closed, and that I cut easy.”

Vargas will make $500,000 for the fight and Marquez’s paycheck will total $100,000. Joe Cortez will be the referee.

Vargas quick ascension to a world title should come as no surprise. He’s been ahead of the game since he seriously took up the sport as a 10-year-old.

“I fought men as a kid and I was the youngest at 16 to win a U.S. championship, I was the youngest ever on the Olympic team and now I’m the youngest to hold the junior middleweight crown. It’s been like that for me and I put an exclamation point on that,” he said.

Vargas said his controversial 8-7 loss in the 1996 Olympics motivated him even more.

“I just picked myself up and said to myself, ‘Some great champions have been (shortchanged) at the Olympic slike Roy Jones and Evander Holyfield. Now I have to do the same,’ and I think I have to this point,” Vargas said.

While many observers will be looking for Vargas to continue his string of 16 knockouts, he won’t count on it.

“I don’t look for knockouts, they just come, and I have been fortunate they have come. I don’t underestimate any fighter,” he said.

His trainer, Eduardo Garcia, will remind him, anyway.

“It’s not good for a fighter to only think about a knockout. It’s a possibility that one day he will have to go to a decision. He’s always prepared to go 12 rounds, but he doesn’t believe he’s going to go 12 rounds,” Garcia, who has trained Vargas for the past 11 years.

Vargas hasn’t gone past the seventh round during his brief-and-overpowering pro career.

Marquez (30-1, 20 KOs), a 27-year-old from Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, Mexico, became the IBF junior middleweight champ by beating Anthony Stephens in April 1997. He lost the title eight months later to Yory Boy Campas, who eventually surrendered the belt to Vargas.

Meanwhile, the co-main event between top-10 heavyweight contender Tua and Gary Bell of Brooklyn, N.Y., promises to deliver even more power punches.

“David can hit as hard as any heavyweight alive. It doesn’t matter who it is. If he hits them on the button, they’ll drop,” said Kevin Barry, one of Tua’s previous managers.

Evidence of Tua’s power surfaced in his pro debut as he broke Ron Hume’s ankle with a swift left hook to the head in the first round.

Both fighters have served as sparring partners for Holyfield. Despite a 33-1 career record, including 28 KOs, Tua is in no hurry to fight for the championship.

“I am a very patient man. I never was, but I have learned to be. Every one has his day. And when mine comes, I will be ready. That is why I never bother my head about who I’m going to fight next, be it Jimmy Thunder, Mike Tyson or whoever. That’s Lou’s business. Mine is to be ready for when that time comes,” said Tua, whose lone blemish is a loss to Ike Ibeabuchi.

Tua was born on the smallest island in Western Samoa – Faleatiu – but was raised in Auckland, New Zealand. The former church choir boy had an exceptional amateur career, which climaxed in his winning the bronze medal for New Zealand in the 1992 Olympic Games. According to his Internet home page, his father should get all of the credit for his boxing success.

“My father used to call grown men off the street to box with me,” he said. “If these grown men would beat me, my dad would reward them with a loaf of bread or sweets from our little convenience store, and I would get the strap. Eventually I tried to avoid those sparring sessions, but if my father saw me sneaking off, I’d get more straps.

“Obviously my dad could see in me things that I didn’t know existed. I thank God that everything my dad could possibly have thought of, dreamed of, has come true.”

The 5-foot-10 Tua honors his father Tuavale Mafaufau by using the first three letters of his name, Tua, as his ring name.

Tua held the World Boxing Council Intercontinental heavyweight title in 1996. He lost the championship to Ibeabuchi in 1997 in Sacramento. In December 1998, Tua won the USBA and IBF Intercontinental heavyweight title when he defeated Hasim Rahman in Miami.

Tua will make $150,000 and Bell $75,000. Vic Drakulich of Reno will be the ref.

The rest of the six-fight card includes an eight-round lightweight bout between Juan Lazcano (16-2-11, 11 KOs) of El Paso, Texas, vs. Tito Tovar (18-15-2, 8 KOs) of Denver, Colo.; an eight-round heavyweight match between John Kiser (14-20-4, 5 KOs) of Denver vs. Sam Hampton (19-6-2, 15 KOs) of Virginia Beach, Va.; a four-round featherweight clash between Mario Aguiniga (2-0, 1 KO) of Oxnard, Calif., and Francisco Guzman (1-0, 1 KO) of Los Angeles; and a four-round super middleweight fight between Eric Regan (2-0, 1 KO) of Roseville, Calif., and Marcos Cruz (2-0, 1 KO) of Inglewood, Calif.

Tickets for the July championship fights start at $35. Doors to the event open at 5:30 p.m. For tickets, phone (800) 648-3353 or call any Ticketmaster outlet.

Because of the interest in tickets, Caesars opened additional seating on Thursday. Only 300 seats in the 1,990 capacity showroom remain.

“I think there will be some tickets left for walk up on Saturday, but we’re anticipating a sellout,” said Trish Gilbert, a public relations spokesperson for Caesars Tahoe.

How are tickets selling. Price range

Ironically, Lou Duva has managed or trained all four fighters involved in the card’s top two fights.

It’s a good show that they have here.

I’d be glad to work with some hotels up heere.

Tua, 33-1 with 28 KOs only defeat to undefeated Ike Ibeabuchi

“I am a very patient man. I never was but I have learned to be. Every on e has his day. And when mine comes, I will be ready. That is why i never bother my head about who I’m going to fight next, be it Jimmy Thunder, Mike Tyson or whoever. That’s Lou’s business. Mine is to be ready for when that time comes.”

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