In the short term, it looked as though Jessie Vargas had made a mistake leaving the stable of fellow Las Vegas resident Floyd Mayweather Jr. to join up with Las Vegas-based Top Rank Promotions nearly a year ago.
Prior to the switch, Vargas had been positioned well in showcase bouts on Mayweather pay-per-view undercards, perhaps the most visibility a young fighter could ask for.
After being brought on with Top Rank, Vargas took a bit of a step back. He was no longer fighting Josesito Lopez or Steve Forbes type guys at the MGM Grand on pay-per-view. He had been relegated to fighting lesser heralded names like Aaron Martinez and Vito Gasparyan on ESPN2 at places away from the Las Vegas Strip.
But when Top Rank and their matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman make decisions on what speed they are going to move you at, you would be smart to listen.
“They did tell me to be patient, that they were gonna get me there,” said Vargas in a phone interview with RingTV on Thursday.
“I know that Top Rank and my manager Cameron Dunkin know what they are doing, and I am not arguing it at all. I won’t lie to you and say I don’t want to be on pay-per-view, because who wouldn’t want to be. They take their time with their fighters and they know what they are doing. I’m on HBO tomorrow night and if I put on a great show, hopefully I get back on there and get a shot pretty soon.”
Those that stuck with Mayweather, even while he was in jail last year, have been rewarded generously. The fighters that are furthest along in their careers have been given showcase bouts on Showtime Championship Boxing broadcasts. The younger fighters just beginning their pro careers have been moved at a solid pace. For Vargas, it could have been frustrating to watch his former stablemates claim glory while he waited for his big opportunity, but he harbors no ill feelings.
“As for Mayweather Promotions, I am happy for them, they know what they are doing. I am happy for Ishe Smith, that he won a world title recently. But I’m only focused on myself and my career, not what anyone else is doing.”
Tonight, that patience pays off as Vargas will get an opportunity to fight in the televised co-feature of the Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov HBO World Championship Boxing broadcast. His fight with fellow unbeaten welterweight Wale Omotoso takes place in Carson, Calif. at the Home Depot Center.
It is an intriguing matchup. Neither Vargas or Omotoso are necessarily thought of as the future top dogs of the sport. Omotoso came over to the United States from Australia not long ago and has toiled in the obscurity of untelevised undercards for the most part since then. Vargas has fought on television, but hasn’t really scored a spectacular victory over any of the fringe contenders and gatekeepers he has stepped in against.
“He’s an undefeated fighter, he has 19 knockouts out of 23 wins, so he’s going to come to fight,” said Vargas of his opponent. “Anytime you have two undefeated fighters in a fight, you’re gonna see a good matchup because neither guy wants to lose.”
Tonight, one of these two fighters is expected to take a big step forward into the role of legitimate contender. Top Rank hasn’t gotten a lot out of either guy, so from their perspective it is a good move throwing them in against each other and seeing who survives.
Stylistically, it could produce an exciting bout. Omotoso is a puncher who has proven since coming to the States that he has some issues with his chin. He’s been dropped by journeymen a handful of times but has climbed off the canvas each of those times to win. Vargas is a non-puncher who throws a good volume of punches but has faded at the end of fights. Both fighters’ glaring weaknesses will be on full display and open for their opponent to take advantage of.
Sometimes it is two fighters’ weaknesses that help produce a tremendous action fight, and not their strengths. With the main event Saturday being a one-sided matchup on paper, Vargas has an opportunity to steal the show the way Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado did at this same venue last October. That fight took place underneath Nonito Donaire against Toshiaki Nishioka and was such a success that the two will do it again a few weeks from now in the major leagues at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Just getting a taste of what it feels like to participate in an event as big as this weekend’s, Vargas is anxious to pick up a victory and move onto even bigger fights, hopefully as a headliner in the not-so-distant future. Saturday night, Vargas will find out if his patience paid off.
“I am taking my own path and I am making my own path,” said Vargas.
“I am happy with how my career is going, I really am and I’ve been given some pretty good fights. I am happy and am excited to see what is next for Jessie Vargas, to see the improvement. There are always going to be better fights, stronger fights, so I am just excited to see what is to come.”
Vargas said he hopes to contend for a world title at the end of the year, though he trusts in his team that they’ll know the right move when it comes along.
“I hope for right around the corner to fight for a world title. But we’re young, we’re not in a rush. By the end of the year would be nice, but I’ll leave that to my manager. Whenever he feels it is time, that is when we’ll take our shot. I can’t wait.”
Photos / Chris Farina-TOP RANK
Mark Ortega is the boxing columnist for the Martinez News-Gazette and is a member of the Boxing Writers Assoc. of America and the RING Ratings Advisory Panel. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org well as followed on Twitter @MarkEOrtega.