By Chris Robinson
I first caught a glimpse of junior welterweight prospect Jesse Vargas in April of 2010. At the time Vargas was getting ready for an appearance on the undercard portion of Floyd Mayweather’s drubbing of Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand and he could be found putting in work at the IBA gym in Southeast Las Vegas.
Watching Vargas spar with talented welterweight Rashad Holloway, I realized he had a lot of fire behind his craft. The two men traded heavy leather and vicious body blows round after round and I felt compelled enough to approach Jesse afterwards.
We kept in touch in the following months and I have been pleased to watch Vargas’ progression over the past year and a half. Dating back to his 6th round TKO over Arturo Morua on the night of Mayweather-Mosley, Vargas has reeled off seven victories, five by way of stoppage, and now finds himself in the biggest test of his professional career with an upcoming duel against Riverside, California's Josesito Lopez.
Set to take place underneath Mayweather’s challenge of Victor Ortiz on September 17th, Vargas’ showdown against Lopez is just what he is craving at this point.
“I think it’s going to be a great fight,” Vargas told me of the bout, showing his enthusiasm. “We are going to give the fans an exciting fight. This is a great opportunity for me. It will definitely open the doors for many bigger and better opportunities.”
Make no mistake about it, Lopez is no soft touch.
The 27-year old had seen his career taper off after his majority decision loss to Edgar Santana in April of 2008, with his trainer Henry Ramirez questioning his desire to compete as a professional at that point. But Lopez got his groove back nearly a year ago to this day with an upset over Colorado's Marvin Cordova Jr. and he hasn’t looked back since, most recently having pulled off another shocker in January by stopping then-unbeaten Mike Dallas Jr. in the seventh round in Temecula.
It’s a different breed of opponent for Vargas, whose last two fights were both over quickly as he overwhelmed former champion Vivian Harris with a barrage of punches to make him remain on his stool after the first round in April and then returned to stretch Colombia’s Walter Estrada in the second round three months later. The stakes are much higher but at this point Vargas’ focus still remains the same.
“The same mindset, we are coming to win,” Vargas said with confidence. “We’re just looking forward to giving a great performance and to show that we should be among the top contenders in this division. And that’s what we will prove on September 17th.”
Lopez’s career revival at the hands of Cordova and Dallas has served as a clear look into a fighter approaching his veteran years who somehow found a way to right his ship and put all of the pieces in place. While he may not be among the biggest names at 140 pounds, Lopez is very dangerous at this point and Vargas knows what lies ahead.
“I know he’s a good fighter, a very good fighter. He throws a lot of punches, he can box a little bit, and he likes to fight. I’ve always heard that he comes to fight. He leaves it all in the ring and we have that in common there, I also leave everything in the ring. That will come to result in a great fight. It’s a very big opportunity for both of us,” Vargas stated.
Vargas has been putting in some serious work with local talent Cortez Bey and seems to love the ‘brawling’ nature of their sparring sessions. The 22-year old scoffs off notions that this test may be coming too soon by pointing to his performances as a professional and his international experience while competing on the Mexican Olympic Team in 2008.
Vargas had spent several years working with trainer Roger Mayweather but is now under the tutelage of Roberto Alcazar, known best for his work with Oscar De La Hoya in the late 90’s. It’s a union he is comfortable with but more than anything else Vargas seems to take inspiration from training out of the Mayweather Boxing Club as he is in camp with his friend and mentor Floyd.
“It would inspire any fighter, I believe,” Vargas said of Mayweather’s training. “Looking at the pound for pound champion at his work, and looking at how hard he trains, it’s definitely something to look up to. I try to get as much as I can off of him and hopefully you will see that on September 17th.”
Vargas has many of the intangibles that you look for in a star and his bout with Lopez will tell us what we need to know about him at this point. It’s a moment of truth for young Vargas and he is fully embracing it.