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For professional boxer Fernando Vargas, Jr., defense is a crucial aspect of his daily life. Whether he is dodging an opponent in the ring or overcoming challenges life throws at him, if there is one thing Vargas, Jr. is going to do, it’s fight.

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The Mexican-American boxer also understands the tremendous legacy he and his brothers inherit as sons of Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas. He also understands the immense shadow that legacy can cast. What does he do? He fights against many’s perception that he was handed his good fortune.

Vargas, Jr. tells mitú, “If you don’t really understand, you know, being in someone’s shadow until they are the son of someone you know is a legend like […] Jordan’s son or, you know, whatever the case may be.”

“It’s a little tough going into something knowing your dad’s already an all-time great. You got to kind of tune that out, you know. I think to myself, I’m the one that did the running. The one that did the mountain runs and the one that took the black eyes. The bruised ribs. The sparing. The training,” he explains.

Fernando Vargas, Jr. knows that killer defense comes from a solid foundation, something his dad has helped him build

“Yes, my dad opens doors for us. But, you know, the father-son relationship is a challenge as well. Sometimes we don’t see eye-to-eye. It could be things that my dad sees that maybe I think I see a better perspective in. But I gotta trust his guidance,” he explains.

Part of getting those knockout punches? Timing. Vargas, Jr. notes that it’s not just about throwing the punch. You need to know when the perfect time is to mount your defense.

“You need to be, you know, all around the board prepared for whatever. But, I think at the end of the day, you do have to be defensive first because you can’t go out there looking for the knockout. If not, you’ll get knocked out,” Vargas, Jr. explains.

The pro boxer tells mitú that his dad has always told him that “it shows” when someone tries too hard to be defensive.

“So basically, what he’s trying to say is don’t go out there looking for it, let the shoots open up. Stay behind your jabs, touching your temples, nice height guard. You know, again, be defensive,” Vargas, Jr. says.

He continues, “If the shots open up, if you see them hurt, then go after them.”

“Granted, I know all my fights I’ve won by knockout. But there’ve been some fights where I still get the knockout, but it didn’t come off as clean [or] as sharp as I have looked rather than when I let the shots just open up and let the knockout come to me,” the Mexican American boxer explains.

Fernando Vargas Jr. says that without a good defense in boxing, your chances of winning decrease

“Defense is really one of the most important things because you start with defense — you start with your jab, [in the] early rounds you try to figure out mistakes that your opponent creates. You’re in a fight; you want to be defensively sound,” he asserts.

What does Vargas, Jr. do when he’s tired? Keep his guard high because he knows that when fatigue sets in, flaws become more apparent. He notes that the fighters with solid defenses typically win the fights.

“The one that has, you know, a clearer face or is more defensively sound usually ends up winning the fight,” Vargas, Jr. details. 

One of the techniques he relies on for blocking is the catch (or slip). According to Vargas, Jr., the catch requires a boxer to position his arms in a way that is optimal for maintaining a good defensive position and protecting your upper body. It also requires strategically placing the fighter’s feet in a way that supports whatever is going on up top. 

But for Vargas, Jr., being left-handed means his defensive strategy and game have to be that much tighter. If not, he could risk injury.

Regardless of the challenges, Vargas, Jr. is doing what he loves and advises that others do the same

The pro boxer, who has achieved 11 career knockouts, explains that doing something that makes you happy is essential. He posits that when folks do what they love, they won’t feel like they are working.

“If you’re not happy with what you do —  so many people are doing things that they are not loving, and then they continue [to] ‘work.’ You know what I mean? And I don’t work at all. I love what I do,” he asserts. 

Vargas, Jr. notes that it’s essential to have both short and long-term goals. 

“So I think a good calculated plan, once you kind of know what you want — go after it. Let no one stop you. Don’t worry about what people have to say because, you know, nine times out of ten, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” Vargas, Jr. quips.

That is unless they know what they are talking about.

“And if they do know what they’re talking about, you know, you do want to listen to them because you want to do you want to listen to people who are at that level or maybe in the same industry that you want to go through. And be okay with saying, ‘Hey, this person is better than me, but I want to be around them,'” he affirms.