Former welterweight champion says more sleep, and improved workout techniques under new trainer Mike “The Bodysnatcher” McCallum has put him in the best mental/physical condition of his life as he faces Adrien Broner Saturday night on Showtime.
Jessie Vargas would always invent an excuse in his head to keep going.
The former welterweight champ knew what he had to do, though there was always some external distraction that crept up and got in the way — whether it was talking to some girl on the phone until the early morning hours or channel hopping, trying to keep his mind busy. Most times, however, his skull would be preoccupied with his upcoming fight.
In the meantime, Vargas kept losing something essential, despite how trivial it may seem, and that was sleep. Anyone who knows Vargas also realizes quickly the 28-year-old from Los Angeles, California, is a high-energy guy. But there has to be an off switch somewhere, doesn’t there?
“That’s what I had to find and it’s taken some time for me to find it,” Vargas said. “I used to waste a lot of energy and never realized how important rest and sleep was. I used to think so much about my next fight that I would never get enough sleep.
“If you kill your body like that, it’s never a good way to go into the ring. It’s something I’ve definitely learned these last few years. It’s why I say I’m not only physically stronger than I’ve ever been, but psychologically stronger. I’m getting my nine or 10 hours of sleep during training camp.”
Vargas (28-2, 10 KOs) is counting on that to translate into putting Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KOs) and his career to rest when they meet this Saturday in the Showtime-televised (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) main event from Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, New York. The Vargas-Broner 12-round clash, which will be fought at a 144-pound catchweight, is the highlight of an exciting tripleheader that will also feature former 154-pound world champ Jermall Charlo taking on Hugo Centeno Jr. for the WBC's interim 160-pound title, and former world champions Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Jesus Cuellar fighting for the vacant WBA 130-pound title.
Vargas has learned to divorce himself from external distractions as he’s gotten older. He also credits new trainer Mike “The Bodysnatcher” McCallum for his new level of discipline.
Whether or not that would have changed Vargas’ only two pro losses, which came against Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, is certainly up for speculation. Though his new perspective drips with a sagacity that’s been a restful force.
“Every fight I have learned something new, and in every situation you grow,” Vargas said. “I’ve done a lot of growing up. I used to get on the phone with my girl and talk forever, and I knew I had a morning run. I beat myself up. It used to get in the way at that time. But even back in that time, Broner was not at the level of any opponent I faced then.
“I was 24, 25 and in the ring with Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. I beat Sadam Ali. Broner has never faced anyone of that level. I’ve evolved through time and experience. I needed to learn to calm myself down. I was living and thinking boxing and it actually hurt me. I didn’t know how to distract myself and still continue what I had to do with training.”
Vargas worked with McCallum for the first time in his last fight, a unanimous 10-round decision over Aaron Herrera in December. Vargas said he learned he listened better to McCallum. One of McCallum’s edicts was to “take it easy.” Vargas still works hard. There’s no questioning that. He now incorporates down time during training camp. He’ll watch a movie. He has Netflix. He’ll take in a local mall.
“ I used to waste a lot of energy and never realized how important rest and sleep was. I used to think so much about my next fight that I would never get enough sleep. ” Former Welterweight Champion Jessie Vargas
He’s found his “off switch.”
There’s one weakness he continues to battle.
“Ice cream, I have a big sweet tooth,” Vargas said. “You want to motivate me? Put a chocolate ice cream cone on the other of the side of the ring between me and Broner. He wouldn’t have a chance. I’ve always been disciplined. Just not as disciplined as I am now. Before, I would have a cheat day and eat ice cream, or candy.
“I won’t do that now. But afterwards, who knows?”
Vargas knows what he’ll be facing in Broner.
“The Problem” has only been a problem to himself lately. Once looked on as someone who could take the vacant mantle that was going to be left by Floyd Mayweather Jr., Broner finds himself staring at his career mortality. His out-of-the ring issues have been a distraction. He’s 3-2 over his last five fights, granted those two losses came against Mikey Garcia and Shawn Porter.
Broner simply has yet to scratch the promise many once thought he had.
Broner will be faced with a physical disadvantage. Vargas is 5-foot-10, with a 71-inch reach, to Broner’s 5-6, with a 69-inch reach. Vargas also feels he has the fresher body, thanks to this vitality he’s found.
Plus, he says, he’s not going to let Broner get under his skin, as “The Problem” can do.
“I’m not looking at anything he does, I’m just looking at what I have to do to beat Broner,” Vargas said. “I’ll admit I have a great task ahead of me. I’m not looking at his problems, or his antics, or any of the other junk he does. My mind is focused on me and to push forward. This is a big opportunity for both of us.
“Nothing he can do really bothers me in or out of the ring. My goal is simple: To come out with a victory while entertaining my fans. This will be no different. The pressure is on him. He’s fighting for his relevance.”
For a closer look at Jessie Vargas, check out his fighter page.