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Vargas puts his reputation on the line

LAS VEGAS -- Fernando Vargas has more at stake than just a title tonight when he fights former sparring partner Jose Flores (9:35 p.m., HBO).

He's also got a little something to prove.

Vargas (22-1, 19 knockouts) tries to become a champion again when he meets Flores (42-8, 26) in a scheduled 12-round fight for the vacant WBA 154-pound title. He wants the title, but he also needs to show the boxing world that a devastating loss to Felix Trinidad didn't take too much out of him.

Vargas didn't answer any questions in his only other fight since losing to Trinidad, when he got knocked down in the second round before stopping Wilfredo Rivera in the sixth round May 5 in El Paso, Texas.

"This fight is very important and that's why I worked so hard," Vargas said. "I feel great for this fight because I know I've prepared for it."

Vargas claims he didn't prepare properly for Rivera, having to lose 10 pounds the week of the fight. He blames taking five months off after his loss last December to Trinidad, and gaining weight in the process.

"I was severely overweight," Vargas said. "I felt lethargic, slow. It was because I wasn't in the gym enough. I don't like not being a world champion. I want to be a champion again."

Trail Blazers sign Dudley to pact

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Trail Blazers signed veteran Chris Dudley to a one-year contract, adding another center in case Arvydas Sabonis doesn't return.

Dudley, a 14-year veteran, spent last season with Phoenix. He averaged 1.4 points and 3.4 rebounds.

The 6-foot-11 Dudley spent 1993-97 in Portland. The Blazers are still awaiting word from Sabonis, last year's starter and a free agent, who is playing in Europe and might not return to the league.

Here and there . . .

Florida State's top basketball recruit, North Carolina high school standout Anthony Richardson, was cleared to play this year by the NCAA. Richardson, a 6-7 small forward, had only partially qualified academically, but enrolled and began taking classes in August in an effort to gain full eligibility.

New York-New Jersey captain Tab Ramos will miss the MLS playoffs because of a broken left leg. Ramos was hurt Aug. 15 after being tackled in a game against D.C. United. Bone scans and an MRI exam Friday revealed a stress fracture.

E Dubai has been named the early 7-5 favorite in Sunday's $500,000 Super Derby for 3-year-olds at Louisiana Downs. E Dubai has four victories in seven starts with earnings of $505,800. He finished second to Point Given in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, and won the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park in July.

Nick Catanzaro had a goal and three assists to lead the visiting Buffalo Lightning past the Oakville Blades, 7-5, in an Ontario Provincial Junior A League hockey game.

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