“It’s about me and my family,” Vargas told Maxboxing back in December, “I know we have a story to tell and this is going to be different than other reality shows. We hope to give you an understanding of a family that’s been through ups and downs - like every other family in the United States or in the world has - and through our love of God and through the love of each other, we’ve been able to stay together. I mean, I don’t know what boxer can say that he’s still with the mother of his kids!”
Ah, yes, Martha, through thick and thin, has stood by her man. Vargas admits, “I’m not going to say I’ve been perfect. I’ve been far from it; y’ know what I mean? But God gave me a strong woman and I’m just grateful because she could’ve left many times with all the things I put her through. God gave me a strong woman and I’m just blessed because to be with the mother of my kids after 19 years - and this year will be 20 - and we’re still in love with each other more than ever. Like I said, our faith brought us even closer and I just feel that my family can give people inspiration along with a lot of laughs because we love to laugh.”
Vargas is still just 36 years old; believe it or not. Although he’s been on the conscience of boxing fans since he represented the United States in the 1996 Olympics (when he was a teammate of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Antonio Tarver and David Reid) and after signing on with Main Events, he quickly became one of the game’s bright stars with his distinctive look, fan-friendly style and open disdain for Oscar De la Hoya. There was a certain charisma to “Ferocious” that made him telegenic and popular. Whether you hated or loved his persona, you paid attention. But his career was that of a shooting star because just as quickly, as he became the youngest junior middleweight titlist in boxing history, he was retired by age 29 after losing to Ricardo Mayorga in November of 2007. In between, Vargas faced the likes of Ike Quartey, Felix Trinidad, De la Hoya and Shane Mosley.
But he sure packed in a lot of career in just 31 fights. Early on though, retirement was difficult for the restless Vargas.
“It was tough for me because I don’t have a job,” said a man who only punched for pay to make ends meet till that juncture. “It’s like my job was to train, workout, be ready, fight but I don’t have a job, so it was tough because all you have is time and you don’t feel worthy. So it was tough because at that time in my life, I became very depressed and I started drinking heavily all the time and I’m glad God brought me out of that and I’m not going to say I don’t drink now but I do not take it to the extreme like I did before. I’m just thankful that God took me out of that.”
During this stretch, “El Feroz” was a rolling stone.
“I was bad, man. I’d leave for weeks at a time,” he recalled, leaving Martha in charge of everything else and, well, stewing. “I’d pick up the phone, call; it would ring. She’d pick up, [and say] ‘Motherf*cker’… ‘click.’” This would be repeated a few times as Vargas discovered that hell hath no fury like a female left behind. Finally, Fernando would call to basically ask permission to come back home. “I’m just blessed my wife stuck it through. I have a strong woman. I’m a good man but I got a greater woman,” he admits.
There were reports a few years ago of Vargas attempting another go-round in the ring. But alas, don’t call it a comeback. It ain’t happening. “I moved on from that. There was a time where I wanted to come back but you’ve got to understand; I have a one-on-one relationship with God and everybody here in this house can be sick. Me, I can walk around in a tank-top and I never get sick. My kids can be having fevers; my wife could be like coughing up a storm and I never get sick. But when I was trying to come back, I caught pneumonia when I was in training camp.”
The message was clear to Vargas.
“God told me to leave it alone and I left it alone,” he says. But boxing is still in his blood and he now works with fighters and has opened up his own gym in Las Vegas, the Feroz Fight Factory (which he wants everyone to know is located at 3240 Civic Center Drive).
Remember those cute toddlers you’d see on the shoulders of his handlers as Vargas made his ring walk? Well, Fernando Jr. is now 17; Amado is 13; Emiliano is 10 and he has a daughter to boot, Mibella Lorena, who is six years old. As you see his kids now grown up (Fernando Jr. is just months from the Senior Prom), you begin to think about how much time has passed since Vargas was this young, precocious boxer from Oxnard.
Vargas Family on Film Roll - Image made by icheehuahua, Doghouse Boxing & MaxBoxing.
“It’s crazy because my son got his driver’s permit and he’s driving me around and I’m looking at him and I’m like, ‘I can’t believe it. I was carrying you in my arms yesterday, man,’” said Vargas, who isn’t so sure himself where time went. His son is actually taller than the father. “But I tell him, ‘That don’t change nothing. You can be like six feet, seven feet; I’m still going to bring you down,’” Vargas says laughing. “[Fernando Jr.] goes, ‘Dad, why does everything have to be a fight for you?’”
Well, it’s simple: it’s because his old man is a fighter at heart. Bottom line is Vargas had to fight. He really had no other choice. His sons - largely because of their father’s success as a prizefighter - never had to consider this occupation. But Vargas points out, “My kids have talent. If you go on my Facebook page and see my kids, they can box. Amado was knocking kids out left and right and then one day, he goes, ‘Dad, I don’t want to go to the gym no more.’ I said, ‘You made me sign you up for the gym, this and that, for nothing?!’ So I leave it alone but they know how to fight.”
The key is - they don’t have to.
“You gotta understand; their struggle is good because of the fact that God is good and I’m able to make their lives more comfortable because I didn’t have the Jordans. I had to fight for my stuff. Everything I bought, everything I have in my life, literally, I fought for. So my kids, you work hard to give them a life they never had and for which I’m blessed,” said Vargas, once a rather incorrigible youngster who spent time in juvenile hall and was suspended from school in Oxnard before seeing a local commercial on TV for an amateur tournament that brought him into the gym and to the sport of boxing. It’s also where he met Eduardo Garcia, who Vargas calls, “‘Mi Jefe,’ which is my boss, my dad. I’m so grateful that God put somebody like him in my life so I can learn from and try to be the father I didn’t have to my kids.”
For all his notable achievements in the ring and the millions he earned, Vargas is proudest of the promise he kept to his wife years ago: to be a responsible father to their kids and a husband who could be relied upon (eventually). He didn’t want to repeat the vicious cycle of his absentee father, whom he despised. As Vargas began his amateur career, he was known as “Fernando Javier Chavez,” using his mother’s maiden name before switching to “Vargas,” vowing to make it a surname his family would be proud of.
Vargas sounds happy. He seems to be in a good place, content with his life, what he’s accomplished and excited for what lies ahead. Yeah, he’s now Peter Griffin - a family guy. And it’s for the whole world to see on mun2, which will broadcast 13 one-hour episodes this season.
Vargas makes it clear; this won’t be “Jersey Shore” with Mexicans.
“I’m not going to put my family out to look like a circus; this is not “Circus Vargas,’” he points out with a laugh. “It’s ‘Welcome to Los Vargas’; my family’s not a circus. I don’t want none of that and I’m here to give the world and families hope that through struggle, through trials and tribulations, keeping God first and loving your family all the time - along with a lot of laughter - your family will be alright.”
Vargas has lived in Las Vegas for several years now, having moved away from the 805 long ago, a place he helped put on the map as his career ascended in the late ‘90s.
“You gotta understand; the Bible says (paraphrasing), ‘No man is a king in his own land,’ and regardless if you have a lot of supporters, you’re always going to have a lot of haters. But that wasn’t the reason that I moved,” he explained. “I moved because you have old friends; you get old ways and their old friends that want to hang out with you, y’ know? They’re not even your friends - they’re acquaintances. So what do you do? What do you say? ‘I gotta do this. I gotta do that.’ And I hated to keep doing that, so you gotta understand as soon as I made money, I actually moved to Camarillo - with all the white folks.”
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