How ‘El Toro’ has stayed motivated in the pandemic

Undefeated Bellport boxer preps for upcoming match


Six days of training per week, two times a day, for over a month.

It’s what prepares Bellport’s boxing sensation Alex Vargas for just three (or less) crucial minutes in the ring.

Vargas, nicknamed “El Toro,” has been physically and mentally preparing himself for his next upcoming match in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 20. The undefeated boxer will go up against boxing pro Jose Carreaga of Mexico, who also holds a winning track record.

Vargas’s last match in November 2020 marked another win for the 25-year-old. He defeated his opponent with a first-round knockout. The 1-minute, 40-second match served as Vargas’s ninth win and quickest professional bout.

He said he’s had plenty of time to prepare: “I took a little more time off than I usually do to heal my body and take a break mentally and physically so I could come back,” Vargas said in a phone interview last week. “Now, I feel fresh and ready to start the new year off all healed up. I’m excited.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about changes to all sports. For boxing, one major shift is a lack of audience members—which boxers often use to pump themselves up during a match, Vargas said.

“That’s really weird for a fighter,” Vargas said. “You have to adapt to that, because you feed off of the energy of fans.”

With the crowd absent, Vargas has had to find alternative forms of motivation. For him, it’s the push toward national recognition and fans tuning in virtually.

“It’s to keep winning and getting one step closer to winning a world title,” he said. “I’m still motivated because I know a lot of people are tuning in, whether it’s live on YouTube or through a stream.”

Vargas began his professional career in bouts against undefeated fighters and won. At the mere age of 17, Vargas garnered the attention of the boxing community when he won the New York Golden Gloves at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, a statewide boxing tournament sponsored by the New York Daily News.

So, how does one become a boxing pro?

“It just takes a lot of time and commitment, for the most part,” Vargas said. “It’s continuous wins and getting records. Each win gets you more recognition and you keep moving up in the ranks.”

His father, Michael Vargas, said he’s trained his son in the ring since he was a child, but kept him active in other sports, like baseball, basketball, soccer and track.

Michael said his son told him he wanted to be his boxing grandfather, and by age 9, Alex was competing in boxing matches once a year.

“I wanted him involved in team sports,” Michael said. “Boxing is kind of a lonely sport, so I wanted to make sure he was involved with other kids.”

You can watch the live stream of Vargas’s next match on Feb. 20 on iFL TV’s Youtube channel.


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