SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) _ Fernando Vargas was linked through DNA blood evidence to the beating of a man that led to the star boxer's arrest last year, a prosecutor said.

Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer told the judge about the scientific evidence during a hearing Wednesday and defense attorney Sam Eaton immediately asked for a delay to review the data.

Eaton granted a three-week delay, setting the next hearing for Jan. 3. The trial is to begin in March.

On Dec. 2, in a fight considered the best of the year, Felix Trinidad Jr. stopped Vargas in the final round of a junior middleweight title bout. For Vargas, it was the first loss after 20 wins, 18 by knockout.

The 23-year-old boxer was arrested in July 1999 in the beating of Doug Rossi, 23, inside a Montecito home rented by two topless dancers.

Rossi was beaten about an hour after he helped break up a fight between Vargas and Anthony Arria, the former boyfriend of the woman Vargas was visiting. Rossi sustained minor injuries and did not need to go to the hospital.

Dozier said blood on Vargas' boots matched Rossi's, putting the Oxnard boxer close to Rossi during the beating.

Vargas, who was also sued by Rossi, previously has said he was defending himself from an attack.

Four other Oxnard men were also charged: Vargas' cousin, Ernesto Vargas, 28; Freddie Flores, 22; Carlos Alberto Lopez, 29; and Vincent Arenas, 21.

If convicted, each defendant faces up to nine years in prison.