NEW YORK – Jessie Vargas was left with a difficult choice once met with direct overlap between his boxing career and political aspirations.
The former two-division titlist hoped to have the best of both worlds in a year that was to begin with a February 5 clash with former WBO junior middleweight title claimant Liam Smith. Las Vegas’ Vargas tested positive for Covid, which forced a postponement by more than two months, which in turn forced him to suspend a political campaign as he sought to represent the Republican party in the upcoming election for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District.
“We really wanted to do both, I wanted to proudly represent my community in Congress,” Vargas told BoxingScene.com of the painful decision to withdraw from the Republican primary. “We had to suspend our campaign but I will always be a community leader, I will never stop fighting for my people.
“Unfortunately, this fight with Liam Smith couldn’t happen when we planned [due to Covid]. Once the date was pushed out further and further, we made the decision to withdraw from the race and just have a full training camp for this fight with no distractions. I plan to become a three-division world champion.”
Vargas (29-3-2, 11KOs) won’t quite enter the ring versus Liverpool’s Smith (30-3-1, 17KOs) as a punching politician this weekend at New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden (Saturday, DAZN, 7:30 p.m. ET). Entering the ring in any form, however, has always been the priority.
The scheduled 12-round junior middleweight fight marks the first fight for Vargas since a competitive but clear points loss to former four-division champ Mikey Garcia in February 2020, the last DAZN main event before the pandemic. A combination of the global health crisis, injuries and finding the ideal opportunity to return to the ring leaves Vargas with a career-long 26-month hiatus entering Saturday’s co-feature bout.
It comes with the heavy heart of knowing that Vargas had to leave behind the chance to command a political chair for a community he feels has been underrepresented for far too long. That dream is merely on hold and not dismissed outright, as he will continue to be a voice for his people.
There will always be 2024 to revisit a Congressional seat but there is no time like the present for his bid to claim a third divisional title.
“There is a lot I want to achieve in my community. I can and will continue to be a voice for change,” insists Vargas, a former WBA junior welterweight and WBO welterweight titlist. “There is still a lot of fight left in me, inside the ring. I’m going to settle this business with Liam Smith and then focus on becoming the [junior middleweight] champion.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox