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Boxer Vargas Says He Was Victim

September 16, 1999

MONTEBELLO, Calif. (AP) _ Displaying photographs showing a large welt across his back, boxing champion Fernando Vargas claimed Wednesday he was the victim of an assault, not the assailant.

Vargas, one of his cousins, and three others have pleaded innocent to assault charges stemming from a July incident in an apartment in Summerland, Calif., just outside of Santa Barbara.

``Obviously I was the victim; I have the scars and I had the contusions to prove it,″ Vargas said.

The undefeated IBF junior middleweight champion also is named in a civil suit filed by Doug Rossi, who claims he was beaten after breaking up a fight between Vargas and another man.

Arnoldo Casillas, one of Vargas’ lawyers, said Vargas filed a countersuit Wednesday in Santa Barbara, alleging the boxer was struck with a pipe. The suit seeks $5 million in damages.

``I feel I’ve been treated unfairly because of who I am,″ Vargas said during a news conference at his lawyers’ offices. ``I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. At no time did I commit a crime.″

Another of his lawyers, Gregory Moreno, held a photograph of Vargas’ injured back as the boxer spoke.

Vargas, 21, of Oxnard, Calif., has alleged that Rossi and Anthony Arria beat him during the incident on July 25. Neither was charged.

``A review of the police reports prepared by the Santa Barbara sheriff’s department clearly established a reason to charge Fernando Vargas and the others he was with with assault on Doug Rossi,″ deputy district attorney Hilary Dozer said by telephone Wednesday. ``There was no basis for the reverse.

``Vargas is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, he’s charged with conspiracy. The injuries to Doug Rossi were of such severity that the law allows for increased punishment for that behavior.″

Prosecutors said Rossi received bruises and a broken finger.

Rossi’s lawyers in the civil suit, which seeks unspecified damages, didn’t immediately return calls from The Associated Press.

``I only blame myself for putting myself in that position,″ Vargas said. ``I am not repentant for anything else. Why should I be?″

Vargas and the other defendants are charged with assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit a crime.

A preliminary hearing is to be scheduled.

Conviction on the assault charges could carry a prison term of almost eight years, Dozer said. Charged along with Vargas are his cousin, Ernesto Vargas, 27; Carlos Lopez, 28; Freddie Flores, 21, and Vincent Arenas, 20.

Vargas is 17-0 and has stopped all of his foes. Eight days before the incident, he successfully defended his title by knocking out Raul Marquez.

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