LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) – Las Vegan Jessie Vargas is set to defend his WBA super lightweight belt for the first time Saturday at The Cosmopolitan – four months after winning the title.
Born in Los Angeles, the Palo Verde High School graduate has been passionate about boxing since he was a kid, saying that he often chose to train rather than spend time with friends.
“It's very hard for any youngster to separate themselves and say, ‘Hey let's go out man. I have a fight coming up,’ ” said Vargas, who has been dubbed “The Pride of Las Vegas.”
“As a kid, we go through a lot of struggles. One of the struggles that I went through is having people try to take you in the wrong path. There's several things that can go wrong there.”
The boxer’s first title defense in the 140-pound weight class comes against Anton “The Pick Hammer” Novikov. Both are undefeated in their careers – Vargas, 24-0; Novikov, 29-0.
Vargas has been outspoken in his opposition to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in his sport.
“The fighters should be clean. Any fighter who chooses to do steroids, they’re cowards,” he told BoxingScene.com.
Vargas won his WBA title on April 12 at the MGM Grand in a unanimous 12-round decision over then-undefeated boxer Khabib Allakhverdiev.
“They yelled my name, and that’s when it’s just like a sigh of relief,” he recalls, “because this was my dream when I was 8-years-old. So day-by-day, I dreamed.
Vargas has trained with Boxing Hall of Fame referee Richard Steele and ex-boxer Roger Mayweather, the uncle of the controversial champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., also a Las Vegan.
Vargas works to inspire local children, recently coming across a local 8-year-old, the same age Vargas was when he began training to box. He allowed the youngster to hold up his championship belt.
“It kind of fits into the (narrative) that really nothing is impossible,” Vargas said.