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Emiliano Vargas Ready To Show Both Sides On His Rise To The Top

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“One thing I will say is that I am a very respectful person. If you disrespect me, then you will see a different side of me.”

The 19-year-old Emiliano Vargas certainly sounds polite and respectful during an interview, but anyone might imagine that with a surname like Vargas, and with that proud blood running through his veins, what the other side looks and sounds like.

Emiliano is one of the three fighting sons of Fernando Vargas, the excellent junior middleweight from the late nineties and early-noughties, who fought the likes of Ike Quartey, Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Ricardo Mayorga.

Sometimes – perhaps rarely – the fiery Californian was the good guy. Often he was the baddie of the plotline. Ultimately, the ability to flick the switch has been passed down to young Emiliano. 

“God says that I should turn the other cheek, but I find that hard to do,” he said, with a smile. “My father and his career – you either loved or hated him. There was no in-between. 

“But this is the sport which I find myself in. I know the man who I step inside with wants to take my health away from me. I know that. If they want to talk, I can talk too. I have that side in me, and I get that from my dad being who he is. 

“However, there is only one Fernando Vargas. I will never try to be like him or have that chip on my shoulder, but I will never be disrespected.”

Vargas was a boxing cult hero to many, involved in some excellent fights and some colorful grudges – particularly with De La Hoya and Mayorga – and he is on the ballot to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. 

“I look back on his career, and I feel he was a voice for most Mexicans,” Emiliano added, discussing his dad. “He was here as a second generation. He wanted it all, and he was coming for it all, and he didn’t care if he took bumps along the way. I think he represented our culture beautifully and I want to do the same.

“I do not mind if they say that I am Mexican or the U.S. At the end of the day, I am grateful to be Mexican and American, so I represent both sides. Every time I fight, you will see that. 

“You will have never seen a boring Vargas fight in your life, and you never will. I promise you that.” 

Emiliano’s father certainly boasted a back-catalogue of classic fights – and one stands out to his skilful son.

“Yeah, I like the Ike Quartey fight [from April 2000],” he said. “I think my dad threw something like over 1,000 punches in that fight. He boxed well and was able to out-jab the jabber because Quartey did have a really beautiful jab. 

“Before that fight, people were saying that Quartey beat Oscar. So it was a really big fight. 

“I like that one, and the Raul Marquez fight because of the angles and the bangs. Everything was on point that night.” 

Emiliano is now finding his own way, even if his dad is alongside guiding him. He has raced to 8-0 (7 KOs), scoring a number of quick wins and, so far, ticking off just 18 completed rounds.

Vargas was born in Oxnard but lives in Las Vegas and on Friday night at Glendale’s Desert Diamond Arena meets the 10-8 Texan Nelson Hampton.

The lightweight prospect made his debut in May 2022 and has started to turn heads, but with his progress comes more attention, more exposure for an already famous surname, and greater pressure.

“Yeah, look… at every stage of my career, I feel there are always nerves, but at the end of the day, I know I am going to win, but it is how I am going to win,” he said. “I think it is the pressure I put on myself, but every person who steps into the ring has a puncher’s chance if they put on 8oz gloves. 

“I have prepared myself 110 per cent and that is where my confidence comes from. I have covered every stone, put in all the miles [on the road] and the sparring and training. That is where the confidence derives from. 

“I have done my part, and now the rest is in God’s hands, but I know I will come out victorious. 

“Right now, I have found my stride. I have had eight fights now. I’m finding my groove in fighting and cutting weight, training more efficiently and improving every aspect of my game. I am looking to improve every time I train and fight.”

All novice pros are under pressure to impress. A loss and a fighter is too often written off. Anything less than a decisive performance and the social media reception is tepid at best. There is the added load of the surname for Emiliano to shoulder.  

“Right, but I think I put most of the pressure on myself so that I can be the best fighter I can be,” Vargas continued. “I want to be the best athlete. I know my name is heavy but I do believe I put more pressure on myself on wanting to be the superstar that I know I can become. 

“I know God has put favor on me and my life because it’s something that is destined to happen. I know it is. So I just feel the pressure of wanting to be great because I want to be able to outdo myself every time, but at the end of the day, I believe in three things; God, the hard work I put in and my God-given abilities, all in that order. Those three things are in the back of my mind every time I fight.”

Emiliano is the youngest of the boys, with Amado (10-0 – 4 KOs) and Fernando Jr. (14-0 – 13 KOs) both also upcoming pros, and he is happy to point out how they all differ.

“Boxing-wise, [Fernando Vargas] Junior and I have a flashier boxing style. He is a southpaw, quick, counters, and all his fights have gone by knockout. He is very flashy with his knockouts, and I believe I am, too. 

“Amado, he will come and wear you down round after round. He is very good at that. He is a ‘dog’ and will be in your face all night, but he doesn’t mind getting hit a little bit, so you better be in shape. 

“It [training together] is a beautiful thing. They will throw three punches on the bag, and I will throw five. We will go back and forth like that. Ever since we were kids, we have tried to outdo each other, especially having brothers involved in the same sport.”

Who has the most promise?

“We will leave that one up to the fans; that is their job to decide,” Vargas smiled. “My brothers and I will never let fame, money, or fans come in between us. Whatever the public wants to say, they can say it, but at the end of the day, my family is the biggest strength I have. 

“I have two very loving parents who will support me in anything I want to do. It could be ballet, boxing or whatever I want to do. 

“My brothers, too, I know that they will catch a bullet for me and I would do the same for them. That is one of the biggest strengths that I have going for me. 

“As you said earlier, talking about that pressure. I feel at ease when I am at a big venue. It could be the T-Mobile, Madison Square Garden hopefully, one day, but having my family there with me makes me feel very comfortable.” 

Emiliano has his eyes on the bigger picture at 135lbs, which is home to several of the biggest stars in the sport. Times have changed since his father plied his trade and the best routinely fought one another, although he remains hopeful that history might start repeating itself.

“I think we have [a good era],” he said. “I do and I don’t agree with that [not enough big fights happen]. In the past, we did see more big fights but we are seeing some being made right now. 

“We saw [Gervonta Davis] ‘Tank’-[Ryan]Garcia, which was like a Superbowl event. You had [Terence] Crawford-[Errol] Spence, which happened not too long ago. You have [Tyson] Fury-[Oleksandr] Usyk happening and all these great fights happening, man. It is what we need and what boxing needs, and I am excited to see it happen. 

Vargas has studied the sport closely, as one might have imagined. He’s a fan of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, likes to watch Naoya Inoue – “he really is a monster” – and he enjoys Roy Jones and Floyd Mayweather fights.

While Emiliano might like to emulate them one day, he is on his own path – albeit with his brothers alongside him and on one his father has already trodden – and he has his own goals in mind, both short and long-term.

“Definitely, this year, I want to rank in the top 15, I don’t know if I will rank in the WBC, WBA, WBO or IBF, but I will be happy to rank in any of them,” he said. 

“I am looking to fight for a world title in 2024. All the fighters at 135 or 140 can get it but I know that they are going to be in line to fight for world titles, too. So if there are guys in the way, they are in my way, so let’s make something happen.”

At lightweight, Top Rank stablemate Shakur Stevenson has a slice of the gold, as does Gervonta Davis, so Vargas has quite a way to go.

“Definitely, like I said, there are some great fighters in there,” he concluded. “I believe I am one of those great fighters and I have sparred with these dudes at 135 and 140. I have tested my skills against the very best, and I know I can compete with them, and I feel I can dominate at this level. 

“All it takes for me to be there is the experience, which I do need to get, but after 14-15 fights, I will be ready to go.”

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