Antonio Vargas Claims Pan American Games Gold while Marlen Esparza Takes Silver

July 26, 2015, 12:09 a.m. (ET)

(TORONTO, CANADA) - The American flyweights took the Pan American Games stage in final round action on Saturday at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. Men's flyweight Antonio Vargas (Kissimmee, Fla.) ended a gold medal drought for the American men on Saturday at the Oshawa Sports Centre while 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and reigning world champion Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas) settled for silver in her first Pan American Games.

Vargas kicked off the night's competition, facing off with Cuban Olympian and 2011 Pan American Games silver medalist Yosbany Veitia in the first bout of the night. The 18-year-old American, who was facing his second Olympian of the tournament, refused to be daunted by his decorated opponent. He grabbed the momentum early, disrupting Veitia's rhythm with his effective aggression. Vargas landed fast combinations and spun out of the Cuban's range throughout the contest. A cut opened over Veitia's eye late in the third round before Vargas closed the show with a final flurry to cement the victory. He won a unanimous decision victory over Veitia to claim Pan American Games gold. Vargas is the first American man to win a gold medal in Pan American Games boxing competition since Karl Dargan in 2007.  He defeated two athletes qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games during his week in Toronto, beating Puerto Rico's Jeyvier Cintron Ocasio in the quarterfinals. Vargas won four bouts en route to Pan American Games gold.

"I worked hard for this victory. This is what I trained for, to be victorious. Cuba has a big name so coming in to this tournament, I studied Cuba and how to beat them and his strengths and his weaknesses. I've been studying him and training just for him. The right hand dictated the pace in the first round and got respect right off the bat. He usually keeps his hands low and with me, he was keeping them up so he respected me. I wanted to break his rhythm. He has good rhythm so the plan was to take his left side away and just throw punches in the middle," Vargas said. "This is a good confidence booster. I feel really confident now, but always stay humble. This was a good experience and it helped me evolve as a better boxer. Getting another gold medal (in the 2016 Olympics) is my goal."

Esparza's bout told a different tale as she battled not only hometown boxer Mandy Bujold of Canada but also a very loud and raucous crowd. Despite the chants of the Canadian contingent, Esparza boxed well throughout the match, showcasing her aggressive style, tight defense and crisp movement. As Bujold looked to penetrate Esparza's defense and movement, the Canadian crowd cheered with every punch their home nation boxer threw. At the end of four rounds, Bujold was named the winner by a split decision.

After failing to make the podium in 2011, the United States finished second in the boxing team standings at the 2015 Pan American Games with five medals. Vargas and 2012 Olympic champion Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) won gold, Esparza took silver and bantamweight Francisco Martinez (Dallas, Texas) and super heavyweight Cam F. Awesome (Lenexa, Kansas) claimed bronze.

Shields, the reigning Olympic, World and Pan American Games champion, will serve as the flag bearer for the United States team in Sunday's Pan American Games Closing Ceremony. She will lead the United States contingent in to the Pan American Ceremonies Venue with her boxing teammates following immediately behind her.

The American squad will return to the United States on Monday morning.

U.S. Results
112 lbs/female: Mandy Bujold, CAN, dec. Marlen Esparza, Houston, Texas/USA, 2-1
114 lbs/male: Antonio Vargas, Kissimmee, Fla./USA dec. Yosbany Veitia, CUB, 3-0