Former two-division champion Jessie Vargas wants to prove he belongs with the welterweight elites, while Mexican veteran Aaron Herrera believes he has the power to foil such plans.
After more than a year on the outside looking in, former welterweight champion Jessie Vargas returns tomorrow night with an increased level of excitement and determination. And that could spell trouble for every top contender and titleholder in the 147-pound division.
Always a highly skilled, action-packed fighter, Vargas (27-2-0, 10 knockouts) will be making his Premier Boxing Champions debut against Aaron Herrera on the FS1-televised card (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) with a greater sense of urgency as well as a heavy heart—each of which is expected to fuel his drive toward another title bout.
Despite being out of action since November 2016, when he lost his welterweight title to Manny Pacquiao, Vargas is favored to leave the ring in Lancaster, Calif., victorious—notwithstanding the fact that Herrera will make his fifth ring appearance this year.
According to Vargas ring rust will not be an issue for him. His speed, activity level, superior overall skills and boxing know-how have all improved during his time away.
“I’m very happy with the position that I’m in now, and it couldn’t come at a better time,” Vargas said. “When you have good, honest people around you with positive vibes, it’s career refreshing.
“I come to the gym with a different mentality now. And, in my view, I’ve knocked out two of my last three opponents—Sadam Ali and Tim Bradley.”
If ever there was a time for a hiatus, the past year was it. However, the time away wasn’t completely without heartache. His longtime cornerman and father figure, Rafael Garcia, died in November due to Leukemia. Garcia was 88.
While Vargas witnessed firsthand Garcia’s deteriorating health, his passing was very difficult for the highly-rated welterweight to handle. Several weeks after Garcia’s passing, Vargas realizes that the best way to deal with the loss is to devote the rest of his career to the man who has been instrumental to his success inside and outside the ring.
“ People are going to be surprised at how enhanced my power will be now at 147. I’m already a well-established name in the sport with a great style, but fans want to see knockouts. I’m pushing for the stoppage in every fight. ” Former two-division world champion Jessie Vargas
This newfound career purpose, excitement over being part of the PBC team and an opportunity to face the best fighters in today’s welterweight division has Vargas eager to put on a dominating performance against Herrera. But Vargas has too much experience and too much at stake to look beyond any fighter, especially one who is equally determined to make a huge name for himself.
“You’ll see a more-experienced, mature fighter who knows exactly what it takes, that a knockout can come at any time, and who is working on his power,” Vargas said. “People are going to be surprised with the things I’m discovering about my body, at how enhanced my power will be now at 147. I’m already a well-established name in the sport with a great style, but fans want to see knockouts.
“I’m pushing for the stoppage in every fight from now on and beating Herrera the way I’m planning will provide a statement that puts me back in the public eye, letting them know that (I’m) back better than ever.”
Vargas’ intent to exchange power punches Friday night is music to Herrera’s ears. And while Vargas is the more-skilled, more-accomplished boxer, Herrera (33-7-1 with 22 KOs) is seen as the harder puncher—at least on paper. Fifty-four percent of his victories have come by an early finish.
“I’m going against a really good fighter, but he doesn’t punch very hard,” said Herrera, who has stopped four of his five most recent opponents. “I will go bombs away from the first round. He can’t hurt me. I’m confident I will win this fight.
“This is a great opportunity for me. I’ve got to start faster than I did against Brandon Rios and I can’t take anything for granted. The fans will get a great fight and definitely be winners on fight night.”
A toe-to-toe affair is certain: Vargas is determined to make sure fans demand that his next fight is against a fellow top contender or titleholder. An impressive knockout will surely help him achieve that goal.
Herrera, on the other hand, knows his best chance to upset the former champion is to end this fight early—a slugfest improves his odds. This is a career fight for Herrera and he refuses to let it slip away.
If Vargas and Herrera remain true to their words, this fight won’t go the distance.
For a complete look at Vargas vs Herrera, visit our fight page.