Boxer Jessie Vargas aiming to be No. 1 welterweight: 'I am right there with the best'

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Jessie Vargas, left, punches Adrien Broner during the fourth round of their welterweight boxing match April 21, 2018, in New York. (AP)
Jessie Vargas, left, punches Adrien Broner during the fourth round of their welterweight boxing match April 21, 2018, in New York. (AP)

Jessie Vargas isn’t just one of the nicest boxers in the world, he’s one of the friendliest, most genuine people you’ll meet anywhere.

He’s 28-2-1, was formerly a world champion and has shared the ring with some of the biggest names of his time. He’s rated third at welterweight by every major sanctioning body.

Yet he’s rarely mentioned in discussions of the division’s elite, which begin with Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford.

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And that slight is the one thing that gets the easygoing Las Vegan annoyed. It’s also why he’ll fight with a chip on his shoulder Saturday when he faces Thomas Dulorme at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago in a bout streamed on DAZN.

“I am right there with the best, there’s no doubt about it,” Vargas said. “You mentioned Danny Garcia as one of the best. Look at what I have done. My only two defeats were to Manny Pacquiao, one of the pound-for-pound best fighters, and even that was a close fight, and the other fight that didn’t go my way was Timothy Bradley. Everyone knows what happened there. I had him out and I pulled off the upset in the last round, but the referee chose to stop the fight before the bell even rang.”

The one other blemish on his record is a draw with Adrien Broner in his last fight. Vargas jumped out to an early lead, but Broner roared back in the second half to make it a fight.

Vargas learned a hard lesson in that bout. He was in command and decided to play to the crowd by changing his style a bit. It opened the door for Broner to change the momentum.

Vargas, who nonetheless believes he won that fight, vows he’ll never make the same mistake again.

“You have to maintain for three minutes of a round and for 12 rounds in a fight when you are at this level,” Vargas said. “It’s never an easy task because your opponent is trying to do the same thing, but I realize you can’t let any opportunity go to waste. Even having said that, I know I won the first half of that fight easily. The second half, I wanted to make it a fight. I wanted to make it an entertaining matchup.

“We’re entertainers and we do this for the fans, and I wanted to give them what they wanted to see. Maybe that was my mistake. I went out there and started to brawl, and it’s the only reason why you could give Broner a couple of rounds in the second half, because I began to brawl with him and fight on the inside and at the middle distance and I gave him the opportunity to land a couple of shots. But I look at that and even though he landed a few shots, I felt I was getting the best of most of those exchanges.”

It was a sobering experience to wind up with a draw in what could have been the signature win of his career, and it will no doubt impact him against Dulorme.

Vargas, who has done work as a Spanish language boxing analyst, raved about Dulorme, who is 24-3 with 16 knockouts. Dulorme will be fighting with something to prove, as he is coming off a loss to Yordenis Ugas in August and is 2-2 over his last four bouts. He was knocked out by Crawford in six rounds on April 18, 2015.

Vargas, who is being trained by Hall of Famer Mike McCallum, feels his performance against Dulorme on Saturday will show he’s gone to the next level as a pro.

“All of the guys, like Pacquiao and Bradley and Broner, they’ve helped make me the guy I am today,” Vargas said. “People have said for a while that I’m one of the best in the division, and that was nice, but it’s not good enough any more. I want to be the best in the division, and I have everything to achieve that. I have punching power. I have ring generalship. I have intelligence inside that ring. I know how to box. I can fight on the inside.

“No matter what, any of my fans who watch me know they’ll be entertained. Anyone who watches Jessie Vargas knows they’ll see an entertaining matchup, but that’s because I put myself in that position. I want them to remember my fights for a long time. I’m ready to show what I have against anybody, and the great thing for me is with this deal with [promoter] Eddie Hearn, he’s going to do everything to get me those huge fights so I can back up what I’m saying in the ring.”

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