From father to son: How one Milwaukee boxer is trying to win big for his family, his city

From father to son: How one Milwaukee boxer is trying to win big for his family, his city

MILWAUKEE (CBS58) -- A hometown boxer is ready to take his career to the next level while shining a light on boxing in Milwaukee.

"My name is Rolando Vargas; people know me as Nano," said 23-year-old Nano Vargas when CBS 58 met him at Brew City Boxing in West Allis. "My main goal, you know, my dream is to become world champion."

Vargas has been boxing since before he was old enough to go to school.

"I was around three years old. My dad taught me at a young age. My dad used to train my brother when he was younger, and I would always look at their training and would get excited about it. So, since a young age, my dad started teaching me you know, after work, he will come home tired, but I'll bother him to train me. He was willing to put in another effort," he said. "So, I always knew that's what I wanted to do. I was little, three years old; the gloves were up to my elbows couldn't even hold them up, but it was a good time."

He has been training ferociously since then, willing to do what it takes, no matter how much it hurts.

"I don't like getting punched, but I'll take the hit," he said through a laugh.

Many would not consider taking a punch worth it, but Vargas loves everything about boxing.

"It teaches you discipline. It teaches you to discipline, and it teaches you how to eat right, how to train, how to stay focused," he explained. "It keeps people off the streets."

Boxing was always his destiny, as he followed in the footsteps of his favorite boxer: his dad. Rolando Vargas Sr. was a professional boxer in Mexico. When Vargas Sr. came to the United States, he hung up his gloves to provide for his family. Despite this, his love for boxing was still alive, and he started to pass down his skills and his wisdom to his two sons.

"I always wanted to be like my dad. He really inspired me. [He's] a great person, and [I] took a lot of advice from him," Vargas said.

"Hard work beats talent. That's something my dad always tells me. [It] doesn't matter how talented you are, if you're undisciplined, and you don't put in the work, there is going to come a guy or a girl that is putting in more work than you. They may not have the same skills or the same years of experience, but they're going to get you."

Those sage words from his father became a way of life for the young boxer.

"I like to say I sacrificed a lot of my youth to be in the sport of boxing. I didn't really [while] growing up, hang out with many friends, and didn't stay in after-school programs. Nothing really like that. I couldn't do any other sports because I wanted to dedicate myself to boxing. So, all other sports were off, and you know, I look at it as one day it's going to be worth it. You sacrifice a few years of comfort for decades of freedom," Vargas explained.

"I really want to give my family the life they never thought that would ever have. I feel like 80% of the reason I box is because I want my family to have a good life. I want my kids to have a good life, my kids' kids, for generations to have a good life, that they'll be able to go to school and pick a career they want to do."

For those closest to him, like his older brother Johnny Vargas, Nano's drive is apparent in every punch he throws.

"Seeing him grow in the sport, it was an amazing thing. You know, since he was little, grabbing the big gloves that barely fit him, at the age of three, four. [Seeing him] just becoming a master in the craft," Johnny Vargas said.

"I could see that he was something special. A lot of people just don't have the abilities he has. He is one to make it far in the sport of boxing."

For Nano, his dreams extend beyond the ring, to his city: Milwaukee.

"I wasn't I wasn't born here. But I was raised here," he said.

"When he got into boxing, he said he wanted to fight in Milwaukee, his hometown," Vargas' brother Johnny said.

Before he went pro, Vargas left his mark in the amateur arena.

"I did 161 amateur fights in total. I had 20 losses out of 161. I won the 2017 Junior Olympics and that was probably one of my biggest accomplishments. Around 2017, 2018 I won the WBC Amateur Tournament, another big accomplishment for me," he said.

When he was 19, everything went up a notch when he decided to become a professional boxer.

"It's a lot of training more, more discipline. You've got to take things more [seriously]. It gets more dangerous. The gloves get smaller, no head gears," he said.

"It's just a whole another level."

Vargas dedicates time to his sport by constantly practicing and preparing to make sure he is ready when the bell rings.

"I train six to seven days a week and like two to three times a day," he said.

"The hard work is done in the gym. All the training, running, conditioning, and stamina you get, and then in the fight, it's the easiest thing. You show up, and you fight. The hardest part is the training, the diets."

With more fights on the horizon for 2023, Vargas is ready for his, and the city's, time to shine.

"I really want to put boxing on the map and put Milwaukee on the map for boxing. It's one of my main goals," he said.

"I want to do bigger fights with a higher level of opponents. You know, the more you fight, the harder fights get. So, it's going to be a great year."

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