Monday, March 20, 2023  |



Jessie Vargas sees gate to stardom in Pacquiao



That’s what Jessie Vargas has dreamed about ever since he watched Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya as a young boy. Daydreaming about one day being just like them. On Saturday, he’ll have his chance when he faces the living legend, Manny Pacquiao.

The showdown will be for Vargas’ WBO welterweight title but there is so much more on the line for the 27-year-old who will be across the ring and 36 minutes (or less) away from boxing immortality.

“Superstar. That’s what I’ve always wanted and dreamed of,” Vargas (27-1, 10 knockouts) said days before he steps into the ring with boxing’s only eight-division world champion. “In order to get to that position you have to beat a fighter that is respected by the entire world. After I beat him, everyone will know who Jessie Vargas is.”

The road to superstardom has been a long one for Vargas. He’s had multiple trainers during his professional boxing career and has been fighting tooth and nail to be recognized for his talent. But despite being undefeated for his first 26 fights, Vargas wasn’t highly regarded. His low knockout percentage didn’t help matters but in his darkest moment he turned the corner.

Back in 2015, Timothy Bradley was thoroughly outboxing him for 35 and a half minutes. And then, out of the blue, Vargas connected with a massive punch that buckled the durable Bradley. Vargas landed a pair of follow-up power shots that had Bradley badly hurt. But the referee mistook the 10-second warning as the final bell and ended the fight. Bradley won a unanimous decision but Vargas realized the power that had eluded him for much of his career. Although he suffered his first loss, he gained a great deal of confidence that would carry over into his next fight.

“I knew I had to bring myself back up to the top and show everyone that I should be number one,” Vargas said. And with the help of trainer Dewey Cooper, who has a background in boxing and kickboxing, he’s been learning how to harness and unleash that power. “(Cooper) is the reason why I’m increasing my power. It’s very important.”

That may be the understatement of the year.

In order to neutralize Manny Pacquiao’s speed and awkwardness, a fighter must force him to respect their power and possess the reflexes to catch Hurricane Pacquiao when he storms in. Regardless of Vargas’ seven-inch height advantage, a significant reach advantage and being 10 years Pacquiao’s junior, none of it will matter if he can’t force Pacquiao to respect his power. That’s when Cooper chimed in to explain how Vargas will tame the wild Filipino.

“(Pacquiao) is an athletic fighter and his movements are more conducive to a basketball player,” Cooper explained. “He has fast feet but sometimes his feet get out of control. People try to fight him as a boxer but he isn’t a boxer. The way you beat that speed is with intelligence, sharp eyes and quick reactions.”

And who laid the blueprint for how to beat Pacquiao?

“I watched all of the Pacquaio-Marquez fights,” Cooper told RingTV. “Every fight could have went to Marquez. Marquez had the perfect style for Pacquiao.”

Cooper boasts that Vargas has the ability to make adjustments on the fly and has been trained to shift his style for any situation. It’s certainly going to be needed against Pacquiao.

But it’s no secret that this isn’t the same Pacquiao as the typhoon that ransacked everyone in his way. He’s older and his focus isn’t squarely on boxing. A politician first, Pacquiao has had to find time to squeeze in his training sessions. But Vargas isn’t concerned with any of Pacquiao’s extracurricular activities.

“He can do whatever he chooses to and I’m going to do what I do best,” Vargas said. “I just hope the best Pacquiao shows up so when I beat him there will be no excuses.”

If there’s one thing that Vargas isn’t lacking, it’s confidence. Although he’s as much as a 7-1 underdog, the 27-year-old has no doubt in his mind that the torch Pacquiao carried for so long will snatched by force on Saturday night. Beyond that, Vargas envisions what the future will entail.

“Superstardom will be everyone recognizing who I am and showing the love and support for being one of the few fighters that tries to carry themselves with a lot of dignity and honor,” Vargas said.

“The target will be on me now, I just have to get used to it.”


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Ring Magazine Dec 2016

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