Canadian boxer Samuel Vargas to fight Luis Collazo inside MSG


Toronto welterweight Samuel Vargas, left, throws a jab at Argentine boxer Gabriel Pereiro during their bout in Toronto on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (Chris Young/CP)

Toronto welterweight Samuel Vargas will fight veteran Luis Collazo on March 17 at the Hulu Theatre inside Madison Square Garden.

The 10-round bout will be a co-feature on the St. Patrick’s Day ESPN card headlined by a featherweight contest between Northern Ireland’s Michael (Mick) Conlan (10-0-0 with 6 KOs) and Mexico’s Ruben Garcia Hernandez (24-3-2, 10 KOs).

"For a kid who came from Colombia with nothing, trying to make a name for himself and a better life for his family, fighting at Madison Square Garden feels like a dream come true," Vargas said in a statement. "I’ve fought on some of the biggest stages in the world, but this is where every fighter envisions themselves fighting. It’s an opportunity I won’t let go to waste."

The 29-year-old Vargas, the reigning NABA welterweight champion, came to Canada at 12 or 13.

Vargas (30-4-2, 14 KOs) is coming off a unanimous decision win over previously unbeaten Argentine Gabriel Adrian Pereiro in December at Toronto’s Coca-Cola Coliseum in a bout fought at a catchweight of 144 pounds.

Prior to that, he lost via decision to former world champion Amir Khan at welterweight in a September fight in Birmingham, England, where both fighters hit the canvas.

Collazo (38-7, 20 KOs) also lost a decision to Khan — in 2014.

"This is definitely a fight that Sam should and could win," Lee Baxter, who promotes the Colombian-born Canadian, said in an interview.

"There’ll be a hell of a lot of eyes on him," he added.

Vargas had planned to move down to 140 pounds, a plan that will be revisited after the Collazo bout. He plans to hold his training camp in Toronto.

A native New Yorker, Collazo’s resume includes bouts with (Sugar) Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton, Andre Berto, Keith Thurman and Victor Ortiz. He lost to all but Ortiz.

The southpaw has won his last two fights, against Bryant Perrella and Sammy Vasquez.

"Samuel Vargas is in for a rude awakening," Collazo said.

Conlan, a Belfast native, is a two-time Olympian who won bronze at the 2012 Games and gold at the European championships, world championships and Commonwealth Games. Last time out, he won the vacant WBO Intercontinental belt with a unanimous decision over Jason Cunningham in December in Manchester, England.

The New York card also features a featherweight bout between former junior-featherweight world champion Jessie Magdaleno (25-1, 18 KOs) and former junior-lightweight world title challenger Christopher (Pitufo) Diaz (24-1, 16 KOs).

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