Q&A: Rey Vargas
Last year, highly touted junior featherweight Rey Vargas made the transition from prospect to contender. He‘ll look to build on that momentum when he makes his 2015 bow on Saturday against seasoned Argentine Nestor Paniagua.
Vargas (22-0, 19 knockouts) had an impressive 2014, winning all four of his bouts. He started the year with a win over Silvester Lopez, who was giving the young Mexican all he could handle before injury curtailed the fight. Two more victories followed before Vargas asked his promoter to set up a rematch with Lopez.
“It was a very tough fight, but Lopez injured his knee and couldn’t continue. He was winning the fight,” a respectful Vargas told RingTV.com of their first encounter in March 2014. “So I wanted to prove that nobody beats me. That’s why my promoter went to sign him again. I’m the best 122-pounder and I’m not avoiding anyone.”
The second time around, Vargas had visibly grown as a fighter and was far more impressive, stopping the game Lopez in eight rounds.
Vargas believes he will one day follow in the footsteps of his team mate, Jhonny Gonzalez, and become a world champion, but for now he is content to learn his trade.
“I have no rush to get to the top,” the 24 year-old said. “I am sure I will be world champion.”
His promoter, Oswaldo Kulche of Promociones del Pueblo, is equally sure that his fighter will make his mark on boxing.
“He can go very far, he’s got the skill,” commented Kulche. “He is very tall for his division and young. He can and will be a star in boxing. It’s just a matter if time.”
Vargas is ranked in the top 15 by three of the main sanctioning bodies WBC (No. 4), IBF (No. 5) and WBO (No. 7).
As well as Vargas-Paniagua, the Televisa undercard will feature Marcos Reyes vs. grizzled veteran David Lopez in middleweight action. It will be the season premiere of “Sabados de Box,” and will take place in the coastal town of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo (brought to prominence in the 1994 movie “The Shawshank Redemption”).
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on fighting Paniagua?
Rey Vargas – One more step to a world title fight. Paniagua is difficult style but I will adapt and be victorious.
AW – Your last fight you stopped Silvester Lopez in eight rounds. He had given you trouble when you fought in March. How were you able to adjust and win impressively?
RV – Mature, I’m feeling more mature. I think more in the ring and I analyze more my opponents with my trainer.
AW – Your trainer is the legendary Nacho Beristain. Tell us about working with Nacho. Have you worked out with some of the legends at La Romanza?
RV – He is a great trainer, he brings the best out of my career. … I train with Jhonny Gonzalez. I’m a 122-pounder but growing so maybe I will be a 126-pounder soon. Nacho says I am the shadow of Jhonny – I don’t mean I will fight Jhonny, I mean when Jhonny moves up to 130 I will replace his spot and become a 122-, 126-pound world champion.
AW – You have fought once in America, on the Abner Mares-Gonzalez undercard in August 2013, in Carson, Calif. What was that like for you? How was it different fighting outside Mexico?
RV – It was great, exciting, people like my style. I want to be back in (Las) Vegas.
AW – If we go back, you were born in Mexico City – can you tell us about your younger days?
RV – [It] was very difficult for me – no money but my dad managed to take me to school. I will always thank him. I always loved sports, but boxing is great and I’m in love with my career. Now I can pay back my dad and my mom with the money I make. It’s very satisfying.
AW – How did you become interested in boxing? Did you have an amateur career? If so what did you win and what was your final record?
RV – My dad was a boxer so I decided to continue. I was seven times National, Pan-American gold medal. (My) record 128-6.
AW – The junior bantamweight division looks to have a lot of talent at the moment. What are your thoughts on the 122-pound division?
RV – Very competitive division, I love the challenges. Since (Marco Antonio) Barrera, Eric Morales, Israel Vasquez, Leo Santa Cruz, Mexicans have dominated this exciting division, but I will be in that list.
AW – You seem to be going down the WBC route, the current champion is Leo Santa Cruz — is he who you’re aiming at?
RV – Definitely, he is the best and [I] want to fight the best.
AW – What are you goals in boxing?
RV – Four world titles, in different divisions. I always tell my promoter I will make you rich. (laughs) He just laughs.
AW – Tell us about your life away from boxing?
RV – I love fast cars, swimming, [salsa dancing].
AW – Lastly, do you have a message for Paniagua and the 122-pound division?
RV – Rey Vargas time is coming. I am very hungry to become world champion. Nothing will stop me.