Spotting a world champion from the get-go has been a special treat in my third decade as a boxing beat writer.
It doesn’t happen very often.
Jessie Vargas (26-0, 9 Kos; above in Al Applerose photo) was one of those rare prizefighters who on first glance, it was obvious, he would be a world champion. The Las Vegas boxer faces Tim Bradley (31-1-1, 12 Kos) on Saturday, June 27, at the StubHub Center in Carson. HBO will televise the Top Rank event.
The vacant WBO welterweight title will be the prize.
The first time I saw Vargas he was part of Mayweather’s team and gym. He fought a kid from the Dirty South who resorted to kissing Vargas. Vargas simply fought harder and easily won the fight at Pechanga Casino. It was a pretty good fight card that also introduced Sergio Martinez to the U.S as he trounced Alex Bunema. The main event saw Alfredo Angulo and Yuri Gamboa in eventful scraps. Still, Vargas stood out.
Vargas was introduced to the Home Depot Center next. Since then the name has been changed to the StubHub Center. That first appearance in Carson, Ca. he scored his first win by technical knockout.
From then on Vargas faced stiff competition including several undefeated prospects. He always scored well and showed polished skills despite his lack of pro experience. On some of the next cards he was put on pretty decent cards and eventually signed with Top Rank.
Knockouts became fewer once he advanced up the rankings as they always do. But you couldn’t ignore his tight defense and ability to scrap with more experienced fighters like Josesito Lopez, Vivian Harris, and Wale Omotoso. Vargas had that kind of Winky Wright look to him from the beginning.
“I came up the hard way with tough fights,” said Vargas, 26, when he was in Los Angeles for the media day. “I’ve learned in the ring.”
Critics like to point to his lack of knockouts but Winky Wright wasn’t known for prodigious power either. Others criticize his jumping from trainer to trainer but if you’re good, you’re good. Oscar De La Hoya had many trainers until settling for Floyd Mayweather Sr. It didn’t seem to hurt him. Abner Mares was another who ventured from trainer to trainer. He did pretty good too.
It all comes down to Saturday, when he faces “The Desert Storm” Bradley.
“I’ll just have to be at my best,” Vargas said.
Speaking of Bradley, he was another who looked like a world champion in his very first pro fight. I saw the Palm Springs fighter jump in the boxing ring for Thompson Boxing Promotions in his pro debut. That night on August 2004, at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Bradley fought another boxer making his pro debut. It was a one-side fight that saw Bradley simply overwhelm Francisco Martinez with speed and more speed until the fight ended in the second round. It was obvious Bradley had that extra gear the world champions need.
Vargas, like Bradley, has escalated from prospect to world champion at lightning speed. The age advantage goes to Vargas, but the experience factor goes to Bradley. It’s an evenly matched fight that will determine the future of both fighters.
Thompson Boxing Promotions
Speaking of Bradley, it was Thompson Boxing Promotions that spotted the Palm Springs speedster and others like Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera, Josesito Lopez, and Yonnhy Perez. They have a knack for spotting talent.
On Friday at the Doubletree Hotel, Thompson Boxing showcases several prospects ready to hit the big time. Among those on the card are Jose “Gato” Roman, a hard-hitting boxer-puncher from Garden Grove, California and Cesar Villarraga, an undefeated lightweight from Colombia.
Matchmaker Alex Camponovo has a knack for finding hidden talent. You can bet there’s another hidden jewel in their promotion company ready to break out. They also put on the best club shows in the southwest region, maybe the entire country.
A pretty good fight card takes place in Northern California on Friday when middleweight Paul Mendez meets David Alonso Lopez in the main event. In the co-main event Alan Sanchez and Canada’s Steve Claggett meet in a welterweight match. It should be a guaranteed explosion. Fox Sports 1 will televise.