At the age of 21, Antonio is a sensational prospect at 118 pounds. He is a former elite amateur at the international level, and was named USA Boxing’s “2015 Elite Male Athlete of the Year.” He won gold medals at the 2014 Pan American Youth Championships and 2015 Pan American Games, and represented the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
He stayed very active with five fights in his first nine months as a pro.
In his last fight on November 3 in Kissimmee, Florida, he won a six-round unanimous decision against previously undefeated Jonathan Garza.
Boxing News’ Eric Armit reported [excerpts]: Vargas moves on to five wins as he outpoints unbeaten Garza. Vargas was in control from the first round. He had height and reach over Garza and was able to keep him on the back foot. In the second Vargas rocked Garza with two hard rights to the head, and then dropped him with a slick left hook. Garza survived that but was never in the fight.
Vargas seemed content to get in a few rounds. He shook Garza with a right to the head in the fifth and landed some more rights in the sixth. Scores 60-53 from all three judges. [End Armit item]
Antonio said, “I’ve been working with my trainer, Tito Ocasio, since I came back from the Olympics. He’s more of a professional-style coach, he’s trained several world champions. I decided to train with him because he’s one of the best professional coaches in Florida right now.
“The gym I go to is his gym. It’s called John 3:16 & 17 Boxing Club in Ocala. The verse is, ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’
“My style – man, I like to bring the fight! I can box – I can be nice – but I just love to throw punches and let the fans see a good fight.
“My first couple of fights as a pro, if I can, I want to fight at 115, get a little title shot, then move up to 118. But I’m growing. I remember in the amateurs, at the Olympics, making 114 was really hard for me. But if I can’t make 115, I’ll fight at 118 for my first couple of fights.
“I don’t have a nickname. My teammates used to call me ‘No Respect,’ but I didn’t really like it.”
AMATEUR, PERSONAL BACKGROUND: “I was born in Houston, Texas. My dad is from Bayamón, Puerto Rico, and my mother is from Houston. She’s Mexican – I’m half and half. My family moved to Kissimmee, Florida, when I was 12 years old, and I moved to Ocala on my own a couple of months ago. I have a 16-year-old sister, I have an eight-year-old sister, and I’ve got a 23-year-old stepbrother. My dad is an ironworker, he works in construction. My mom works at Walmart right now. I’m the only boxer in my family. My dad used to train, but he never really fought.
“I was nine years old when I started boxing. My math teacher, she wanted to put me on medication because I had ADHD. [note: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder] I was a very hyper kid. I remember my second-grade teacher called a meeting with my parents and the principal in the classroom. They told my parents, ‘Your kid is out of control. He’s too hyper, he’s always getting into fights and causing trouble.’ The teacher and principal decided to put me on medication. My dad was like, ‘All right, we’ll do it to keep them happy,’ but he never put me on medication. Instead, he put me in the boxing gym to keep me occupied and so I could burn energy sparring and running. A couple of weeks later, the teacher was like, ‘Man, the medication must be working.’ My dad was like, ‘No, we just put him in boxing.’ Never once has my dad put me on medication. Everything is natural.
“I had 130 amateur fights – 123 wins and 7 losses. I won about 14 national titles altogether.
“I remember 2013 was the first year I made the U.S. national team and I was on it for three years, through the 2016 Olympics. I have some good friends from the team, and we talk every now and then. Marlon Esparza, she’s like a sister to me, and Shakur Stevenson and Jonathan Esquivel are good friends, too. Shakur beat me by a split decision in the 2014 Youth finals – a very close fight – and we’ve been friends since then. Jonathan didn’t make the Olympics, but he won the 2015 Trials at 178.
“I’m actually ambidextrous – I can do everything with both hands. I can throw a ball with both hands, I can write with both hands. If something is on my left-hand side, I write with my left hand. If it’s on my right-hand side, I write with my right hand.
“My fiancé, Melody Montes, is a boxer, too – that’s how we met. [note: Melody was the 2014 Women’s National Golden Gloves gold medalist at 119 pounds] She started boxing when she was eight years old. We used to go to a lot of national tournaments together – we both lived in Florida. After I won the Pan American Games in 2015, I didn’t have a coach. I started going to her gym and her dad started helping me out. She had a big crush on me and I had a big crush on her. We just started talking every day at the gym, and a month later we started going out. We’ve been going out for almost a year and a half now.”…