Former junior welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas has a chance to add a second world title to his collection when he squares off with unbeaten 2008 U.S. Olympian Sadam Ali for a vacant welterweight belt in what many view as a toss-up fight on Saturday night (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C.
In his last outing Vargas came close to a last-second knockout of Timothy Bradley Jr. challenging for his 147-pound belt (which he later vacated) but lost a clear unanimous decision. On that June 27 night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, future Hall of Famer Erik Morales was in Vargas’ corner as his trainer for the first time, but he will not be with Vargas on Saturday.
Instead, Dewey Cooper, a retired Las Vegas cruiserweight who went 19-3-3 in his 2001 to 2012 career, trained Vargas for the fight and will man his corner.
There is nothing new about a fighter changing trainers but Vargas has taken it to the extreme. A pro since 2008, Vargas is already on his sixth trainer as he readies to take on Ali (22-0, 13 KOs), 27, of Brooklyn, New York.
Vargas (26-1, 9 KOs), 26, of Las Vegas, has worked with Roger Mayweather, Robert Alcazar, Ismael Salas, Roy Jones Jr., Morales and now has welcomed Cooper to the club. He changes trainers like some fighters change their trunks.
He said he had a good training camp with Cooper and is learning from him.
“With him I'm throwing a lot of combinations, setting down on my punches, throwing the punches correctly,” Vargas said. “Just small things that needed correction and that we are putting together, just going back to the basics.”
But what’s the deal with six trainers in eight years, especially for such a young fighter? That is highly unusual.
“Yeah, it is,” Vargas admitted. “Situations that I was put in just led me to either split, more than anything, just split. I've learned from each coach, and I have nothing but respect for them. But things are complicated.
“What can I say? One trainer (Jones), unfortunately, didn't have the time for my camp. Another trainer (Salas) had to leave to be in training camp with another team while I was in training camp. And others, Robert Alcazar, wanted to do training out of California and I was out of Las Vegas. So it's just different things. With Roger, he was very sick, very ill. I wasn't able to train with him any longer at that time. So it's just the situation that was put in front of me that led me to making a decision of switching up, either me or them. But I've learned from every trainer. I can say that. And I'm learning from Dewey as well. So that's a big benefit.”
Vargas said it would, of course, be good to settle into a long-term groove with one trainer to have the continuity in his training camp fight in and fight out.
As an example, Manny Pacquiao has reached wild success with Freddie Roach as his trainer since 2001.
“Well, those fighters are fortunate to have that team that would stick with them or that they felt comfortable with,” Vargas said. “I unfortunately -- not so much unfortunately, because I have learned from everybody, but I haven't been put in that position just yet. Like you said, I'm still young.
“So I'm still looking for the trainer that I'm going to settle down with and feel comfortable with. And I'm feeling comfortable with Dewey. I look forward to showing off what we are putting together. He's putting in a great effort and he also wants to bring out the best in me because he had a close relationship with me.”