By Jake Donovan
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more confident boxer in the game today than Jessie Vargas. The Las Vegas-based welterweight titlist has always carried the mentality of being able to handle anyone on the planet, a mindset that has led to two major titles and just one letdown in his career – a 12-round defeat at the hands of the excellent Timothy Bradley Jr. last June.
Moving past the Bradley setback, Vargas bounced back strong with a 9th round knockout of Sadam Ali this past March. The win netted him a welterweight strap – the very same one that was at stake in the Bradley fight where he’d previously vacated his super lightweight belt.
Vargas now moves on to the biggest event of his career, as his first defense comes versus the legendary Manny Pacquiao, who takes a break from his newly appointed Senatorial duties in the Philippines in hopes of adding to his Hall of Fame career.
The Pay-Per-View headliner – which will be independently distributed by promoter Top Rank - takes place on November 5 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, with the locally-based talent flat out guaranteeing victory and shocking the world. Should that occur, the lingering question would be where he could possibly go from there.
“After beating Manny Pacquiao, I’m willing to fight anybody,” Vargas (27-1, 10KOs) insisted during a recent VIP media conference call to discuss the November 5 event. “I leave all that up to my team, my (Hall-of-Fame) promoter Bob Arum and my manager Cameron Dunkin.”
One idea has already been floated, one that could coax the greatest boxer of this generation to come out of retirement.
“Every fighter deep down wants to beat up on his promoter,” quipped Arum. “I'm 85 years old. But Jessie Vargas had a promoter before me named Floyd Mayweather, Jr.; maybe Jessie is willing to take up (that challenge).”
Mayweather hasn’t fought since a Sept. ’15 points win over Andre Berto, the last bout of his record-breaking six-fight deal with Showtime that led to his becoming the richest prizefighter in boxing history. Pushing him well over the edge, of course, was the massive cash grab that came of his May ’15 win over Manny Pacquiao, setting virtually untouchable box office benchmarks.
Vargas was once upon a time touted as a Mayweather protégé, even fighting under the Mayweather Promotions banner for a spell before signing with Top Rank and Dunkin in 2012. At the time and in subsequent interviews, he always insisted that the split with Mayweather was amicable.
Of course, this being a business…
“My promoter said it all - taking on the Fighter of the Decade (as Pacquiao was named for 2001-2010 by the Boxing Writers Association of America), you can only go up from there,” Vargas points out. “Who's the next guy known as greater? That's who we take on.”