Tomlinson, Vargas to close in on title shot

When junior lightweights Francisco Vargas and Will Tomlinson meet in their 10-round main event on Thursday night (HBO Latino, 9:45 ET/PT) at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, they won’t be fighting for a world title. But they will be fighting to position themselves a significant step closer to getting a shot at one.

"This bout is going to get me a step closer to the direction I want to go, which is fighting for a world title,” Tomlinson said. “Vargas is ranked by the WBO and the WBC, and a win over him will get me a shot at those rankings. The sanctioning bodies know who I am, and a win over Vargas will remind everyone where I belong. I will be back amongst the best.”

Said Vargas, 30, of Mexico, "I know Will is training hard, and I'm glad he is. He has nothing to lose and everything to win. I am right around the corner from a title, and I'm working very hard as well. This fight is important to me because it puts me closer to a world title fight, and I am preparing to fight at 100 percent to win this fight."

In the co-feature, Los Angeles-based Ukrainian light heavyweight prospect Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (12-0, 10 KOs) will face Fabiano Pena (11-0-1, 8 KOs), of Brazil, in a 10-rounder.

In July, Vargas (21-0-1, 15 KOs), who is managed by Joel De La Hoya -- older brother of Vargas promoter Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy -- scored his biggest win as he destroyed faded former two-division titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez in a third-round knockout victory.

"This is going to be a tough and exciting fight,” Oscar De La Hoya said. “Francisco is ready to go for a world title, and this challenge will bring him closer if he wins. Will Tomlinson is a strong fighter and will bring a tough fight.”

Tomlinson (23-1-1, 13 KOs), 28, of Australia, suffered his only loss to Jerry Belmontes in an upset 10-round decision last March in Las Vegas. Since then, Tomlinson, who owns a 2013 decision win against former world titleholder Malcolm Klassen, has won two bouts in a row, albeit against low-level opposition. But he is ultra-confident going into the fight with Vargas, a former Olympian.

“You are only as good as your last fight, and good opportunities don't come by very often,” Tomlinson said. “When they do, you have to grab them with both hands and capitalize on the moment. Vargas is going to be there to fight; he is going to be in front of me and I welcome that. His style suits me. I want him to throw punches because he is going to get hit as well. I believe I will be throwing the faster, sharper punches.

"I am going to control the pace of the fight, the movements, and I am not going to let Vargas recklessly work me down. I am going to hit him hard and I am going to make him realize he is fighting someone that can assert his strength and power. I am going to be fighting proudly for all my fans in Australia, all the Latino fans, all the American fans. I look forward to introducing them to ‘Wild’ Will and putting on a good show.”