A little over a year ago, in February of 2013, Ishe Smith (25-6, 11 KOs) became the first world champion in boxing history to be from the city of Las Vegas. Despite all of the glory and history that has emerged from boxing’s past on the Las Vegas strip, the city has only produced one native in Smith to become world champion. Enter undefeated twenty-four year old Jessie Vargas (23-0, 9 KOs). Vargas will be facing unbeaten WBA junior welterweight champion of the world, Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9 KOs), on the undercard of this Saturday’s rematch between Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao.
Vargas has been climbing the ranks, fighting on the west coast for the past few years. First as a protegé under Floyd Mayweather, then as a top prospect for Top Rank. Back when Vargas was still underneath Mayweather’s umbrella, he fought on the 2011 Mayweather-Ortiz card against highly regarded veteran, Josesito Lopez. Lopez would go on to show his merit the year following by breaking Victor Ortiz’s jaw in a TKO victory. Making Vargas’ victory all the more impressive in hindsight.
Fighting other fighters on the level of Josesito Lopez and Wale Omotoso groom a young fighter for the championship level. Vargas confidently states, “I’m 100 percent ready. I couldn’t be more ready. I’ve prepared myself to the best of my abilities. I’ve taken out several undefeated fighters before, and this is no different.”
Vargas will need to have the best preparation he has had in his career if he is to complete his goal of bringing a world title to Las Vegas. Vargas talked about the difference in his training this time around, “This was much more intense, knowing it’s for the WBA, IBO world titles because you get that much enthusiasm. You get to wanting to train and looking forward to the next day.”
Vargas will be facing not just his opponent, but the inexperience of the championship level, the anxiety of his first title fight, and the pressure of being watched by millions around the world. If Vargas can get through the obstacles presented to him, he will have the most glorious night of his career in the city he grew up in.
Vargas opened up a big smile at the thought of representing his hometown as a world champion. “It would be wonderful. I’m so involved in my community. It’s not only becoming a world champion, and representing Las Vegas, but becoming a world champion and being known in your community. There is going to be a different world champion from Las Vegas. We’re all going to celebrate.”
This Saturday night Vargas, and the boxing world, will know whether the city of Las Vegas will indeed have something to celebrate.