Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011 | 2 a.m.
When Jessie Vargas steps into the boxing ring Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the most significant fight in his career, don’t expect the 22-year-old Las Vegas resident to be intimidated.
Sure, being the main attraction on the undercard of the nearly sold-out Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight comes with pressure, but it’s a moment the Palo Verde High graduate has seemingly been preparing for his entire life.
“When I was 10 years old, I said this is what I want, and I set my mind to it,” said Vargas (16-0, nine knockouts), who is fighting Josesito Lopez in a junior welterweight bout. “I would picture everything that is happening now when I was 10 years old. I would see it like a movie. I knew this would happen. I know I’m going to be the world champion, so I’m living the goal I set for myself.”
The fight, which will be televised as part of HBO pay-per-view, has more hype behind it than all of Vargas’ previous matches combined in his four-year career. In comparison, his last fight was at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm.
“This is just the beginning for him,” said Robert Alcazar, his trainer. “He is still humble. He is still with class and with respect for people. As long as he continues like that, he will get to any goal he sets for himself.”
Vargas won’t have to look far for motivation.
He works out at Mayweather’s gym in Las Vegas’ Chinatown, getting an up-close look at the training regime of one of the sport’s all-time great fighters. Mayweather (41-0) is fighting Victor Ortiz in the main event of Saturday’s card.
“Seeing Floyd training is very inspiring because you have a millionaire working like a fighter who has nothing,” Vargas said.
Vargas used to be trained by Mayweather’s uncle, Roger Mayweather, but recently switched to Alcazar so Roger Mayweather could focus on his nephew.
“Before I came in, he was a slugger,” Alcazar said. “The kind of fighter I want to build is a boxer and puncher. That is what I have been working on the last six weeks.”
It’s something Vargas has been working on since he joined the sport. Bouncing around several local gyms during his childhood, Vargas never wavered in his dreams of becoming one of the sport’s best. It’s something he will get an introduction to Saturday.
“This is what we have been waiting for,” Vargas said. “Any fighter has been waiting for this opportunity giving to me. Now I have to take advantage of it.”