LAS VEGAS, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Oscar de la Hoya and Fernando Vargas meet Saturday night to decide who is boxing's top junior middleweight in the world.
De la Hoya and Vargas both lost to retired champion Felix Trinidad, and each holds one of the three major 154-pound belts. Both also are Mexican-Americans, but have never been friendly and the bout is being billed as "Bad Blood."
De La Hoya (34-2, 27 KOs) captured the WBC super-welterweight title on June 23, 2001 with a unanimous decision over Francisco Castillejo. He was scheduled to fight Roman Karmazin last December, but tore a ligament in his left wrist and underwent surgery.
de la Hoya, 29, initially injured his wrist in a victory over Oba Carr in May 1999. He lost two of his next three fights, including a controversial majority decision to Trinidad for the WBC welterweight title in September 1999.
Trinidad went on to beat Vargas with a 12th-round technical knockout in December 2000. Trinidad was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, when he was beaten by Bernard Hopkins in a bout that unified the middleweight class last September. Trinidad fought in May, but announced his retirement shortly after.
With Trinidad no longer in the picture, the winner of Saturday's fight could meet IBF junior middleweight champion Ronald "Winky" Wright, or move up to fight Hopkins.
"I believe that de la Hoya will win the fight," Trinidad said in a conference call on Monday. "It's a very close fight, whoever can keep control, will win the fight."
De la Hoya, who started his professional career as a junior lightweight, is 20-2 in world championship fights.
"I'm going to get a win," de la Hoya said. "That's all I know and if a knockout comes, it comes. I'm not looking for it. But this fight is meant for a knockout and I feel very excited by it."
De la Hoya showed his punching power in posting a fifth-round technical knockout of Arturo Gatti in March 2001, but Vargas feels the former lightweight champion does not have as much strength at 154 pounds.
"Who has he knocked out? Not even Arturo Gatti. I mean, who?" Vargas responded when asked about de la Hoya's punching power. "He hasn't knocked out anybody above 135-140 pounds."
Vargas rebounded from the loss to Trinidad with a sixth-round technical knockout of Wilfredo Rivera in May 2001. He then captured the WBA junior middleweight belt with a seventh-round knockout of Jose Flores last September. The punching power of Vargas is always visible, but against de la Hoya, he most likely will need his skill as a boxer as well.