Bantamweight Antonio Vargas aims to conquer 115 and 118 pounds
Antonio Vargas wants to not only conquer one weight class but two at the same time. For now, he hopes a shot at a world title at 118 pounds will soon be in play.
Vargas will face gatekeeper Francisco Pedroza Portillo, Friday night, at Caribe Royale, in Orlando, Florida. The 10-round bout will headline a three-bout telecast that air as a tape-delay the following day on CBS Sports Network (7 pm ET/ 4 pm PT).
The 26-year-old Vargas (16-1, 9 knockouts), who resides in nearby Kissimmee, most recently fought on February 25, breaking down Michell Banquez before stopping him in the sixth round. The win over Banquez took place over four months after Vargas stopped Jesus Martinez in the third round.
Friday, Vargas will face a fighter in Pedroza who is coming off a unanimous decision victory over former bantamweight titleholder Rau’shee Warren. Pedroza has won five of his last six bouts with the only blemish coming at the hands of bantamweight contender Jason Moloney on April 9 of last year.
Despite being the favorite going into the fight, Vargas is not overlooking his opponent.
“I know he has a lot of experience,” Vargas told The Ring earlier this week. “He’s fought a lot of good fighters throughout his career. I’ve seen videos of him where he does some good things in the ring and I’ve also seen some flaws in his game. I’m going into my fight focused.”
Vargas has excelled in the ring since the sole loss of his career that came in May 2019, a first round knockout loss to Jose Maria Cardenas. It would be the last bout Vargas would fight under the Top Rank banner, which signed him to a promotional deal after Vargas represented the United States, at the 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro.
Since the loss to Cardenas, Vargas has won his last six fights, five of them by stoppage. Vargas does not necessarily look for the knockout, whereas he trains to go the distance, but finds ways to break down his opponents.
“I don’t go for the knockout,” said Vargas, who is promoted by Amaury Piedra. “I feel I do a good job breaking down my opponents. I look for openings. That’s the first thing I look at. I take into account the speed and the level of skill each opponent has. Even during my last four bouts, which were knockouts, I didn’t try to go in there to knock my opponents out. I just tried to land my punches and find a rhythm.
“I think I’m precise with my shots. I sit down on my punches but it also depends on where you place them. I do it over and over again. It’s worked for me. I know I can go rounds with my opponent. I’m ready for that.”
Even as Vargas attempts to make a name for himself at 118 pounds, he also wants an opportunity to fight for a world title. With undisputed bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue moving up to 122 pounds, thus vacating his world titles, Vargas hopes to position himself for a shot at any of the titleholders or the opportunity if a vacant title is up for grabs.
Vargas believes he can even move down in weight and fight at junior bantamweight. He hopes to become undisputed champion in both weight classes.
“I hope I could get a world title shot by the end of the year,” said Vargas. “I know I can make 115 pounds. I would like to be a world champion in both weight classes. If the plan is to go through the world titleholders at 118 pounds, then so be it. I can easily make 118 pounds and I could accept any fight. I just want to be a pound-for-pound fighter.”
Despite the bumps in the journey toward fulfilling his goal of winning a title, Vargas remains confident that his best days are yet to come. Vargas believes the loss to Cardenas was a blessing in disguise, as it taught him to reassess what he does in preparation for a fight.
Vargas is confident the boxing world has not seen the best version of him. He hopes to be given that opportunity to show what he is capable of.
“I know wins stand out more. My name is not out there. I want to show that I’m resilient in a fight. I’m not the fighter that lost and I hope people don’t make a lot about that loss. I bounced back and I became a stronger fighter. I bounced back, physically and mentally.
“I’m still learning and I’m nowhere near my peak. I’m two to three years away from my peak. The best of me is yet to come.
“After this fight, I hope for a world title fight. I can adapt to any style pretty well. I’ve seen all sorts of styles. I hope to get that opportunity. I’m not running from anyone. I’m ready for anyone.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow Francisco on Twitter @FSalazarBoxing.