Francisco “Bandido” Vargas, a tireless warrior
On December 25, 1984, Francisco Javier Vargas Pelaez was born in Mexico City, the oldest of four brothers. He was always restless and at school it was common for him to be reprimanded and his mother was called because he was a quarrelsome child. One of his uncles took him to the Jordan Gym to channel his energy into boxing and that’s where he found his true passion.
Francisco watched the qualifiers for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games on television and promised himself to excel in boxing, first by representing his country in the Olympics and then by becoming a world champion.
As an amateur he participated in the 2006 Central American Games, the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2008 Olympic Games.
Vargas made his professional debut in March 2010, defeating Daniel Calzada by unanimous decision at the Gaylord Hotel in Grapevine, Texas. From there he began to attract attention for his aggressive style and strong punch.
In March 2012, the “Bandit” signed a promotional contract with Golden Boy Promotions, something very beneficial for his career because they gave him a big boost in addition to expanding his fan base in Mexico and the United States.
His first fight under the Golden Boy banner was against Carlos Martinez, knocking him out technically in the third round. This victory was followed by six. In January 2013, he faced veteran Ira Terry, knocking him out in just two rounds. In May, he arrested Cristian Arrazola in three episodes. On August 9, 2013, he faced the also undefeated Brandon Bennett, defeating him in a ten round war to win his first major title as a professional, the NABF super featherweight.
The winning ways continued for Vargas as he defeated quality and experienced fighters. On December 13, 2013, Vargas won by decision over former world title challenger Jerry Belmontes. On March 8, 2014 he defeated Puerto Rican Abner Cotto by unanimous decision.
The eyes of the world turned to the “Bandit” in the Canelo Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara, when he scored a thrilling knockout victory over Puerto Rican legend and former world champion Juan Manuel Lopez. In 2015, Vargas headlined his first all-star event, at that time broadcast on HBO, defeating hard-hitting prospect Will Tomlinson, by eighth round knockout.
On November 21, 2015, on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto vs Canelo Alvarez bout at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, Vargas had his moment of consecration when he won the World Boxing Council super featherweight title defeating then champion, Japanese southpaw Takashi Miura.
A brutal right hand from “Bandit” nearly sent Miura to the canvas in the first round, but Takashi held his own and withstood the attacks from the Mexican, who looked good for the first two rounds.
A headbutt caused a slight cut on the right cheekbone of Vargas and little by little he was giving the fight to Miura, who in the fourth round connected a powerful left hand that hurt the face of the Mexican and sent him to the canvas, but he managed to recover. Vargas’ right eye was badly hurt in the seventh, it seemed only a matter of time before the Japanese finished the fight.
In the ninth round, a left jab opened the way for Vargas, who finished off with a right hand to send Miura to the canvas. The “Bandit” went all out for the win over a Miura who just wanted the round to end, but Vargas kept attacking him until the referee stopped the fight.
Miura and Vargas undoubtedly stole the night and received the Fight of the Year award.
On June 4, 2016, in a bout at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, “The Bandit” retained his world title in another Fight of the Year, with a draw against compatriot Orlando “Siri” Salido.
The fight lived up to expectations, even exceeded them. It was a pretty even fight and difficult to score, both fighters exchanged punches continuously, there were alternating domains where both went through complicated moments, but showed a great physical preparation where they did not stop throwing punches at any time. After twelve intense rounds one of the judges gave the victory to Vargas by 115-113, while the other two judges 114-114 and 114-114.
Consolidated as one of the toughest champions of the moment and above all known for his bravery and power of fists, Francisco took one more challenge in his career. On January 29, 2017 at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, he faced Miguel “Alacran” Berchelt, losing the title in another war.
This defeat did not stop him, he tried to regain his crown challenging Berchelt; and although as usual he fought fiercely and gave his all, his corner decided to stop the fight considering that the “Bandit” was taking too much punishment.
Vargas returned to the ring in the lightweight division, earning two knockout victories and making it clear that he still had something to give to boxing.
The “Bandit” returned to the ring on June 19 to face one of the most feared punchers in the lightweight division, his compatriot Isaac “Pitbul” Cruz, who took the victory by points over the former world champion, who ended up with a tremendous cut on his right eyebrow.
Once again the “Bandit” showed that he is a warrior who does not give up. He faced a younger and stronger opponent showing his great condition and courage.
So far the future of the “Bandit’s” career is uncertain, even though he is always a guarantee of spectacle, it is possible that he has already fought his last fight, but we will always remember him as a tireless warrior and one of the bravest fighters of recent times.
By J. Landeros
The opinions expressed by the “columnists” in the articles are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the WBC.