Every boxer wants a major world title. To win one is a lifelong accomplishment. That’s one of the reasons fighters put in the blood, the sweat and the tears for countless hours inside the gym.
Another thing boxers want: to fight against the marquee names in the sport and having their hand raised in victory.
Jessie Vargas has accomplished the first thing. The 30-year-old is a former two-division world champion, beating Khabib Allakhverdiev to win the WBA (regular) junior welterweight title in April 2014 and finishing Sadam Ali in March 2016 for the vacant WBO welterweight title.
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But when Vargas has been in bouts against high-profile opponents and the lights shining the brightest, he has come up short. He lost to Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley by a wide margin and gone to a draw with Adrien Broner.
Vargas (29-2-2, 11 KOs) gets one more opportunity to prove he can come through when all the chips are on the table this Saturday, when the Las Vegas native takes on former four-division world champion Mikey Garcia at The Star in Frisco, Texas, live on DAZN. Vargas understands he has to rise to the occasion, and that a loss means getting these opportunities is unlikely for the remainder of his career.
“One hundred percent it is a do-or-die situation,” Vargas told Sporting News. “There’s a lot on the line here — a lot at risk. I have to make sure I perform under the lights.”
Including Saturday’s bout, seven of Vargas’ last eight fights have come at welterweight. Garcia only steps into the ring at 147 pounds for the second time. The first time around didn’t go his way as he was handed the first loss of his career, a lopsided decision to IBF titlist Errol Spence Jr. last March. Although many speculated Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) would drop back down to 140 pounds, he decided to remain in one of boxing’s glamour divisions to take on Vargas. One person not shocked? Vargas.
“No, because as a fighter, we aren’t really that intimated over other opponents,” Vargas said. “I felt that he felt good about his abilities. I think he could take a shot and that he can land one as well. He just wasn’t up on the scorecards when it came to him and Errol. Sometimes a fighter in that position is actually dangerous because of what he wants to prove. I’ve got to make sure that I don’t let him prove a point, and I come out with the victory and use every advantage that I have coming into Saturday. I have to make sure I keep him under control.”
Heading into Saturday night’s fight, Vargas is a sizable underdog against one of boxing’s best. A win means Vargas could be in line to win a world title one more time. A loss, and any chance of significant fights goes to the wayside.
“It means everything,” Vargas said. “This means the future of my career. This means possibly getting back to being a world champion. Mikey’s in my way of trying to earn the respect and admiration from my fans and the boxing fans in general. I have to make sure I perform well. Everything is on the line.”
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