Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
Jessie Vargas knew at a young age he would be competing for a boxing world championship.
One video, in particular, cemented his goal.
When Vargas, a 23-year-old Las Vegas resident and Palo Verde High School graduate, first started boxing as an 8-year-old, his father gave him a documentary on one of the sport’s legends, Julio Cesar Chavez.
Vargas watched the video repeatedly, dreaming of one day matching Chavez's success. Fast forward some 15 years and the dream is becoming more reality each time he steps into the ring.
The welterweight is undefeated in 19 fights and ranked No. 9 by the WBA, No. 10 by the WBO and No. 16 by the WBC. He’s highlighting a card Thursday inside the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, taking on Aron Martinez of Los Angeles in a 10-round bout.
“I would watch the video and be so fascinated with everything he had accomplished and everything he had and wanted the same thing,” Vargas said.
Headlining a card in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day week is an honor reserved for the sport’s top fighters. Several feel it’s only a matter of time until Vargas is the main attraction on Saturday — there’s two high-profile cards, one each at MGM Grand Garden Arena and Thomas & Mack Center — instead of Thursday.
Josesito Lopez, whom Vargas beat last September, is in the main event of the card at the MGM against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Yes, Vargas is that close.
“By next September, he should be a world champion,” said Robert Alcazar, Vargas’ trainer. “There is no question in my mind. I have no doubt this kid is going to be something big in the sport of boxing.”
This will be Vargas’ first fight being promoted by Top Rank Promotions, switching this summer from Floyd Mayweather’s Mayweather Promotions. Changing promoters could give Vargas a faster route to getting that championship opportunity, Alcazar said.
“His new team, these new people, it’s the best in boxing,” Alcazar said.
Vargas, who will be fighting for the third time as a welterweight, took a 10-round unanimous decision in May against former IBF champion Steve Forbes in his most recent fight. His first welterweight fight was a victory last September against Lopez, who went on to upset Victor Ortiz in August to win a WBC title.
It took a few months for Vargas to feel comfortable at the new weight division, but the end result could potentially be the championship for which he’s striving. Regardless of the weight division he’s competing in, Vargas said his ability as a counter-puncher and his aggressive style of fighting never changes.
“I feel good at this weight right now. It was the right decision,” he said. “I’m developing more as a welterweight and becoming a better fighter.”
Being patient, especially when seeing someone he defeated — Lopez — receive a marquee fight, is half the battle for Vargas. He understands there is much work left in his progression, including Thursday at the Hard Rock against Martinez (18-1) in a fight he should win.
“I’m still growing as a fighter and growing stronger,” he said. “I beat Lopez. He beat Victor, and now he is fighting Canelo. Imagine where I can be in a year or two.”
And in five years?
“When I was young, I used to dream about seeing myself with the world title, with the WBC belt,” he said. “That was basically the picture in my head. I would see it like a movie. I’m seeing it now.
“Believe it or not, when I was 8 years old, I said that’s going to be my belt. My idol was Julio Cesar Chavez, and I said I would be in his position.”
Arguably one the coolest joints in town, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino houses some of Vegas' best entertainment, restaurants and nightlife.
At Hard Rock, it's all about the music. From the light fixtures made out of drum cymbals and guitar shaped door handles to stage costumes and tools of the trade of legendary musicians displayed on the walls, the hotel screams rock and roll. The Hard Rock's Joint has hosted some the biggest names in music — from The Who to Bob Dylan to hometown heroes, The Killers.Aside from the music venues, the pool at the Hard Rock is one of its biggest attractions. Spread out over 4.7 acres, the pool area features swim-up blackjack, a bar and grill, private cabanas, a bevy of secluded nooks, a waterfall and an extensive live music venue with a dance floor. During the summer, the pool transforms into the Rehab club on Sunday afternoons.
The resident nightclub Body English fuses European elegance with a rock star bachelor pad and it often a hot spot for visiting celebs and popular DJs. Vintage rock memorabilia lines the walls at Wasted Space, Hard Rock's anti-club.
Restaurants at Hard Rock are just as hip as the rest of the casino. Pink Taco serves up Mexican dishes, as well as a Central American and Caribbean menu. Nobu, one of five worldwide Japanese-specialty restaurants from famed Nobu Matsuhisa, satisfies a different taste. For round-the-clock cuisine, Mr. Lucky's 24/7, is sure to ease your appetite even after a Vegas-all-nighter.