What was once a crowded fight day is now just a major boxing event in the United States.
A junior middleweight clash between Liam Smith and Jessie Vargas is suspended again. The fight was scheduled to headline a February 5 DAZN show at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. Only for the event to be called off as Vargas was forced to step down after testing positive for Covid.
“Although she is doing well, Jessie Vargas has tested positive for Covid,” said Eddie Hearn, head of Matchroom Boxing, representing the two boxers, on Wednesday. “[T]There will be a small delay for his February 5th fight with Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith. A new date will be announced in due course. “
Speculation on at least a postponement, if not outright cancellation, took place on Wednesday after the arena’s website removed all reference to the event after previously announcing the show. Tickets were due to go on sale earlier in the week, only to encounter ‘TBD (‘ TBD ‘) placeholders before abandoning the show altogether.
The battle for old titlists has been in the works for over two years, with plans finally materializing to headline the first DAZN show of 2022.
Smith (30-3-1, 17KO) remains looking for a second title in the junior middleweight division. The 33-year-old was the first in his family of fighters to win a major title, winning the 154-pound WBO belt in a seventh-round stoppage by John Thompson in October 2015. A successful defense followed before suffering a knockout in the ninth round. in the hands of Saul ‘Canelo‘ Alvarez in September 2016.
Nine fights followed, including a competitive but clear loss to WBO junior middleweight titlist Jaime Munguia in July 2018, which was preceded by back-to-back wins over veteran contender Liam Williams. Smith’s only other career loss came in a questionable twelve-round, unanimous decision in favor of unbeaten Magomed Kurbanov last May on the road in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Smith quickly rebounded with an eighth-round stoppage of Anthony Flower on October 9 in his hometown of Liverpool, calling Vargas in the wake.
Vargas (29-3-2, 11KOs) has not fought since losing in competition to former four-division titlist Mikey Garcia on February 29 in Frisco, Texas. The welterweight affair made headlines on DAZN’s last show before the pandemic, with the sport having since returned, but Vargas remained inactive as he sought the right opportunity with other companies.
Outside of the ring, Vargas has previously worked as a commentator for DAZN’s Spanish thread and also recently announced a candidacy for a seat in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District in the upcoming election next November. Vargas, whose family moved to Vegas from California at the age of five, is seeking a place on the Republican ballot as a former Democrat who plans to fight for voters with conservative values.
Meanwhile, he continues the fight to become a three-time titlist.
Vargas previously held the WBA junior welterweight belt and the WBO welterweight title, the latter claimed during a ninth round stoppage by Sadam Ali in March 2016. Vargas lost the belt on his first attempt at defense, an unbalanced loss to Manny Pacquiao in November 2016 — immediately after Pacquiao’s own political race when he claimed a seat in the Philippine Senate earlier in May.
Vargas has only fought five times since then, going 2-1-2 on that streak, including back-to-back draws in 2018 with former four-division titlist Adrien Broner and former veteran title challenger Thomas Dulorme. The last in-ring victory for Vargas came during a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division titlist Humberto Soto in April 2019.
The fight was originally scheduled to take place on January 29 at the Cosmopolitan in Vargas’ hometown, Las Vegas, only to go back a week. The date change also resulted in a change of venue, as Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) has already booked the Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas for a Fox Sports Pay-Per-View event that not only remains in place but is now the only one. show to take place. at the date.
Earlier this week, Top Rank was forced to postpone their February 5 ESPN + event after Jose Pedraza tested positive for Covid ahead of his scheduled clash with Jose Ramirez. The clash of old titlists was scheduled to take place at the Save Mart Arena in Fresno, the venue now hosting the rescheduled March 4 event.
It remains to be seen whether Smith-Vargas will stay in Arizona or return to Las Vegas, the latter apparently being the preferred destination.
“Let’s go back to Vegas, Jessie’s backyard,” Smith joked upon learning of the postponement.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox