If one drew up a list of the nicest guys in boxing – heck, in all of sports – former WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas would have to be in the top five.
Vargas is not only an easy-going and engaging guy, but he’s also always eager to help those in need.
Michelle Corrales-Lewis is the CEO and president of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. She does much charity work in the state, particularly in Las Vegas, on behalf of the Hall, and is often in need of fighters to make appearances.
Vargas is always her go-to guy.
“He’s one of the most humble and genuine guys out there and he’ll do anything for you at the drop of a dime,” she said. “He’ll show up anywhere for charity, or just to do something nice, without any notice. He’s the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet. He’s so family-oriented and so down-to-earth.
“I can’t tell you how many things I’ve seen him do for people. I can always count on him to go to a school or to visit kids and they always love him. They know what he’s about.”
He won’t be Mr. Nice Guy so much on Saturday, at least for the 45 minutes he shares a ring at the Barclays Center with Adrien Broner in an important welterweight fight that will be televised by Showtime.
The welterweight division is probably boxing’s best, and deepest class. Fighters such as Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman, Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter and Lucas Matthysse are competing at welterweight. Vargas, who lost his WBO welterweight title by unanimous decision to Pacquiao in a 2016 bout, needs a win to keep himself in the mix for a shot at one of the big names ahead of him.
The enigmatic Broner is an elite talent himself who doesn’t always get the most out of it. But coming off a loss to Mikey Garcia, Broner figures to have a lot of motivation as well.
Vargas, though, is confident he’ll come out on top in what figures to be a high-paced fight.
“I just feel I’m the better fighter,” Vargas said. “He’s a talented fighter, but I myself, I’m also a talented fighter. Of course, I feel I’m a very talented fighter and a step above Adrien Broner. Because of that, we’re going to give the fans what they want to see, which is entertainment. I’m more versatile than he is, but he can also come in and try to fight, but he’ll also at times try to outbox his opponent.
“He does a few things here and there, but it’s going to make it an interesting matchup. I believe you’re going to see a brawl every now and then, because I’m going to fight it out of him. But you’ll see a boxing match at other times. You’ll see a lot of diversity. It’s going to be enjoyable for the fans, and me representing Las Vegas, I go out there with that on my shoulders.”
Vargas might be best known for the sheer number of elite trainers he’s worked with in his young career. He’s currently being trained by Hall of Famer Mike McCallum, but in the past has worked with Ismael Salas, Roy Jones Jr., Dewey Cooper and Roger Mayweather.
Each, he said, added something to his game. But perhaps the man he learned the most from is one who never trained him. He has spent much of his career training at Mayweather Boxing Club and had the opportunity to observe the way the legendary Floyd Mayweather prepared himself for battle.
He realized the opportunity, learning from one of the best of all-time, and said he tried to pick up on things that Mayweather did.
“One of the things [I learned from Floyd] would be the mental fortitude and learning how to always stay positive,” Vargas said. “Knowing exactly what you’re doing and how to play the mental game, as well. I’ve learned that from seeing him in sparring. Plus, his work ethic. His work ethic has been impeccable. I’ve never seen someone train so hard.”
If Vargas gets past Broner on Saturday, he said he hopes to land a bout with WBA-WBC champion Keith Thurman next.
And at that point, if he has back-to-back wins over Broner and Thurman, he’ll be the guy the rest of the field is chasing.
It would be a change, as he’s always been the guy pursuing the big fights.
But there is one thing that won’t ever change: He’ll be the same old Jessie.
“If people had a chance to know him the way I do, everybody would love him,” Corrales-Lewis said. “He’s a special guy. There aren’t a lot like him.”
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