On Saturday, Oct. 28, as the main event of a sold-out Paramount Theater in Huntington, Bellport boxer Alex “El Toro” Vargas won the WBA Continental USA Super Lightweight title and belt by a unanimous decision after eight rounds against formidable opponent, Julio Rosa of Puerto Rico.
“I’ve wanted this for a long time,” said Vargas. “The belt was vacant, so it was up for grabs. You need consistent fighting, a good opponent, and time to win. You have to pay your dues to earn your shot.”
Vargas returned to the ring in May 2023 after an 18-month hiatus for his training at the Suffolk County Police Department and had originally wanted a title fight then, but was told by boxing federations that a more consistent fight schedule was needed.
“I finally got the opportunity to win it,” said Vargas of his big night. “It feels great. I’ve always wanted it. Growing up as a kid, becoming a professional, I always wanted to get a belt.”
With his professional record now 14-0, Vargas’s title victory was hard-fought against Rosa, who challenged “El Toro” more than previous boxers.
A knock-down in the first round (only the second time Vargas has been knocked down professionally) affected Vargas’s psyche, but he utilized the anxiety to hone in on his dissection of Rosa’s strategy.
Typically, boxers in Vargas’s weight class have a 68-inch reach, but Rosa had a 72-inch reach.
“I misjudged his reach, and that’s how he was able to knock me down,” said Vargas.
“I was down technically two rounds after that, so I was playing catch-up. I couldn’t make another mistake,” said Vargas. “Usually, I’m much looser when I fight, but I had more pressure—the knock-down, the belt on the line, in front of all my people—I didn’t want to let them down.”
Characterizing Rosa as a “rough, rugged fighter,” Vargas said this was especially challenging as his opponent “didn’t care if he got hit. He came there to win.”
Rallying with those in his corner (which, by visual inspection of all the pink shirts donning his name, was the majority of the crowd), Vargas began to pick apart Rosa’s instincts, like Peyton Manning figuring out the defensive players’ tendencies.
With his title win, Vargas will now be climbing the rankings and breaking the top 15 of WBA’s roster, which means he can challenge other fighters in the top 15.
The road to the title fight was fraught with additional challenges, as Vargas is one of the few professional fighters to also have a full-time job.
Training began 10 weeks prior to Oct. 28, with Vargas working 40 hours a week in alternating 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shifts.
“I was more mentally prepared this time, having been through it before,” said Vargas, “but yes, training before and after work, without a consistent schedule, was definitely challenging.”
“It’s always in my head when I fight that I represent the job in a positive way,” said Vargas.
To add to his pride of being an officer of the law, Vargas added KRS One’s “The Sound of Da Police” to his introductory song.
“It’s pretty cool to have a job that supports me the way they have from, lieutenants, to sergeants, to different precincts watching me fight or wishing me luck on social media. There’s such a bond,” said Vargas.
While Vargas said he does tune out the crowd during fights, he did hear one of his biggest fans, sister Daniela, cheering him on with her affectionate nickname for him, “Adi.” Mother Sandra said the nickname came out when Daniela was young and couldn’t pronounce the name Alex.
“My family is great, especially with all the stress going into a fight—the dangers of boxing, cutting weight—it wears on everyone and they have their own roles,” said Vargas.
With his ever-increasing fame, Vargas considers himself “lucky” that sponsors typically contact him for fights, but humbly remembered his father endlessly networking when he first turned professional.
Daniela said Vargas was her “inspiration” and “best friend.”
“Growing up, Adi and I were always close. My parents made sure that we were always a tight-knit family […] I think we’re each other’s No. 1 fans,” said Daniela of Vargas supporting her during her days of competitive dance.
“I don’t think many understand how tough and brutal this sport is […] I can’t even imagine how it feels for my brother, so I always make sure that I am there for him when he needs me—physically and mentally,” said Daniela, who often volunteers to pick up Vargas “healthy” meals because “he is too weak due to the weight drop.”
The week of the fight, Daniela and Vargas had routines that included shopping or watching movies and a prefight breakfast of (typically) French toast.
“Before leaving for the fights, we say our goodbyes and one thing I always tell him is to stay humble yet hungry, and I think that truly describes him—he doesn’t have to tell people how great he is, he just shows it in the ring,” said Daniela.
Sandra recalled the “brutal” training Vargas undergoes with each fight and said, “While individuals are impressed with his boxing skills, which are incredible, very few are aware of the sacrifices that my son has made and will continue to make. I am absolutely amazed and blown away by the determination, discipline, and sacrifices that he has made in order for him to get to this point.”
Father and trainer, Michael, who prefers to be in the background, shyly skirted the opportunity to comment, but said he wanted it to be “all for my son.”
Sandra, echoing his sentiments, said, “I am the mom of a champion.”