Born in Los Angeles, California on May 10, 1989, Jessie Vargas is a boxer with excellent technical skills honed by years of amateur fighting experience. He won two national championships in Mexico and two junior national championships in the United States, and also earned a spot on Mexico’s 2008 Olympic boxing team. By the end of his amateur career, he had compiled a record of 120-20.
A few months after turning 19, Vargas made his professional debut on September 5, 2008 against the 1-0 Joel Gonzalez. He made sure the fight didn’t last long, as he scored a KO in the very first round. He followed that up with three more fights, one every month, to close out 2008, earning two decisions and one stoppage after two rounds.
Jessie Vargas would go on to pile up the victories, eventually building a record of 21-0. That earned him his first title fight, a match against the 23-0 Wale Omotoso on March 16, 2013 for the WBC Continental Americas welterweight title. He ended up cruising to a win by unanimous decision after 10 rounds.
After another 10-round decision win, this one over Ray Narh, he fought Khabib Allakhverdiev for the WBA and IBO super lightweight titles. This fight, which took place on April 12, 2014, was his first that was scheduled for 12 rounds. It ended up going the distance, with Vargas picking up another unanimous decision victory. He would defend his WBA belt twice after that, against Anton Novikov and Antonio DeMarco, with the results being the same – unanimous decision victories after the full 12 rounds.
One reason Jessie Vargas hadn’t broken through, despite his skill and his 26-0 record, was his lack of finishing ability. From September 17, 2011 to November 22, 2014, he won 10 fights in convincing fashion, but all of those were wins by decision. When he started working with Dewey Cooper, the trainer claimed he had helped the young fighter improve his punching power, although many scoffed at this and said that power was a natural trait that Vargas simply didn’t have.
He got his highest-profile fight to date in his next match, which was on June 27, 2015 against Timothy Bradley, known for his rivalry with Manny Pacquiao. The fight was for the WBO interim welterweight title, and for the most part, it wasn’t close. Bradley continually landed sharp punching combinations throughout the fight, but Jessie had his moment in the 12th and final round, stunning Bradley with a hard right hand. He pounced and went for the finish, but unfortunately the referee made a mistake, believing that the 10-second warning was the signal for the end of the fight. That meant the fight was stopped early and went to a decision, where Bradley won on all the scorecards.
Vargas bounced back when he took out Sadam Ali with a dominant performance, eventually scoring a TKO in the ninth round to win the WBO welterweight title. Next, he faced superstar Manny Pacquiao, and while he fought hard, he ended up losing a unanimous decision.