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Jessie Vargas frustrated by frequent underdog status ahead of Mikey Garcia bout

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Jessie Vargas during his welterweight fight against Humberto Soto (not pictured) at The Forum on April 26, 2019 in Inglewood, California. Vargas scored a sixth-round technical knockout to defeat the former two-division champion. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

The proudest moment of Jessie Vargas’ young life came a few years ago when he purchased his parents a home in Summerlin, a large master-planned community in northwest Las Vegas.

It was, the two-time world champion said, a long-time dream he was able to fulfill as a result of his success in boxing.

But it wasn’t long before he saw his parents again. His parents moved back in with him, occupying the second story of his Las Vegas home, while he has the first. And his two sisters have moved in with him as well.

It’s another sign of his success as a fighter, even though he’s the perennial underdog. He’ll fight Mikey Garcia on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, DAZN) in Frisco, Texas, and, as if often the case, will go in as a decided underdog.

Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) is a -550 favorite at the MGM Grand Sports Book to win the welterweight bout. Vargas, despite being the naturally bigger man, is +440.

Vargas, who is 29-2-2 with 11 KOs, has only lost to elite fighters Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. His draws were against Adrien Broner and Thomas Dulorme.

He is puzzled by why he’s always an underdog, though Garcia was a consensus pick on most pound-for-pound lists of the world’s best boxers until his loss 11 months ago to Errol Spence Jr.

Vargas, who is one of the nicest guys in boxing, suspects his affable demeanor is what leads people to doubt him.

“I don’t know what it is for sure, and it’s frustrating and honestly, it’s p---ing me off a bit,” he said. “Excuse my language, but it’s hard to take. I don’t get why people look at me the way they do. They doubted me the first time I became a world champion. Then, I fought Sadam Ali, who was a boogeyman in the division at the time, and won my second title and they were still doubting me. I don’t get the credit I deserve but I continue to work hard and it fuels me.

“I’m from the hood. You put me in a rough neighborhood and believe me, I’m OK. But that’s not the image I want the young fans to see. I want to be looked at as a positive role model and a person who supports the community. I want to help the kids who are in need and need a role model to look up to to show them the way.”

Vargas conducts himself similarly to the way that Garcia has always carried himself. Both have invested their money and Garcia has long worked in real estate.

Vargas said he’s been investing for several years and hopes that by the time his boxing career is complete, he’ll be set for life and won’t have to work if he doesn’t want to do so.

He hopes to turn an upset win over Garcia into a rematch with Pacquiao or a bout with Spence, both of which would be lucrative and place him near the top of the division.

Garcia’s only defeat came last March in a bout with Spence, and he’s never been stopped. Vargas’ goal is to become the first to do so.

“It’s in my mind,” he said of a finish of Garcia. “I mean, I think that would show the work I’ve done and the improvements I have made. I know everyone says this because they feel it’s something they need to say, but I’ve had the best camp of my career and I feel like I’ve taken a couple of big steps [forward]. I’m so confident and enthused and energized. 

“I have a good tactical game plan to help me to win this fight, but everything is on point and coming together. My strength and conditioning has been terrific and I want to show the power I possess now. This is going to be a gigantic victory for me.”

If he gets it, he’ll be able to put away the tired old narrative that he’s not quite good enough forever.

“I try to be a good person and give off a positive image, but I can also fight, man,” Vargas said. “I want to prove I’m the best in this division and for me, it begins with Mikey. They won’t be able to question me any more after this.”

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