Having appeared at the 2008 Olympics, the natural progression for Francisco Vargas was to turn pro.
“I wanted to turn pro and become a world champion like a lot of the great Mexican fighters before me,” Vargas told RingTV.com through his manager, Joel De La Hoya.
The Mexico City native first became interested in the sport whilst watching the games in 2000. Unlike many of his boxing countrymen, Vargas came from a middle-class background, both parents worked good jobs and supported him.
He won eight national titles in his amateur career, posting a 150-12 record in the unpaid ranks and culminating with the Olympics, in which he lost in the round of 16.
Having turned 29 back in December, “El Bandito” feels he doesn’t have any time to waste, but is close to fighting the top junior lightweights in the world.
In the second half of last year Vargas really started to make inroads, posting a pair of wide decision wins over fellow unbeaten Brandon Bennett to claim the NABF title, before besting once-touted prospect Jerry Belmontes.
Vargas (18-0-1, 13 knockouts) will kick off his 2014 campaign when he meets Abner Cotto on the undercard of Saul Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo tonight, though it won't be part of the Showtime pay-per-view it will be featured on the Showtime Extreme segment.
Anson Wainwright – On Saturday you fight Miguel Cotto's cousin, Abner. What are your thoughts?
Francisco Vargas – I think it's a good fight for me against a known name. Another step closer to the bigger fights.
AW – What do you see as his strengths and his weaknesses?
FV – Cotto is a good, tall boxer with a solid amateur background but I believe my pressure will be too much for him.
AW – You had a strong finish to 2013, outpointing Brandon Bennett and then Jerry Belmontes. How do you view those wins now?
FV – Bennett and Belmontes had slick styles and beating them showed I can handle those styles and gave me more confidence in my abilities.
AW – How far do you think you are from fighting the best 130-pounders in the world?
FV – Every fight is a learning experience and I believe I'm improving every time. I should be ready in the next few fights but my manager, Joel De La Hoya, should know when I'm ready and I trust his judgment.
AW – When you look at the division, what are your thoughts on the current champions: Takashi Miura (WBC), Takashi Uchiyama (WBA), Argenis Mendez (IBF) and Mikey Garcia (WBO)?
FV – I think all beltholders in my division are great champions and are there for a reason. I just have to keep working harder and keep winning my fights and my time will come.
AW – How did you become interested in boxing?
FV – I got interested in boxing when I saw the Mexican boxing team participate in the 2000 Olympics and I started boxing as an amateur when I was 15.
AW – Could you tell us about those days and also what it was like to represent Mexico at the Olympics?
FV – I had over 150 amateur fights with 8 national titles and participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was a dream and honor for me to represent my country.
AW – Tell us about yourself away from boxing, what do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies, interests etc.
FV – When I'm not training for a fight I enjoy spending time with my children and family and I also like playing soccer in local leagues.
AW – Who is your boxing hero and why?
FV – I appreciate the styles of the great Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Juan Manuel Marquez.
AW – Do you have a message for Cotto?
FV – I want to let Cotto know that I've been training hard and I'm ready to give the fans a great show. I hope he's ready and comes to fight and doesn't run.