Fernando Vargas says he is "tired of being put in the same sentence" as Oscar De La Hoya, as the 18-year-old boxer from Oxnard begins his own quest today for an Olympic medal.

"Back home, people hate him," Vargas, the youngest member of the U.S. boxing team, said of De La Hoya, who was the only American fighter to win a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Because he is from the same general vicinity and a Latino, Vargas says he is continually being compared to, or asked about, De La Hoya.

"My idol was Julio Cesar Chavez, and the fighter I follow most today is Felix Trinidad," Vargas says. "I was for Chavez when he fought De La Hoya. I still don't know why Chavez had to take that fight, because he didn't have nothing to prove. Chavez is very brave. He has a lot of heart. He's a great champion.

"Oscar, he's Oscar."

Vargas, born in the U.S., says, "Oscar's reputation is somebody who forgot his own people. I'm tired of being put in the same sentence as him. . . . To be in the same sentence as him always, it's very frustrating for me."

A welterweight, the 147-pound Vargas is matched against Tengiz Meschedze of the Republic of Georgia today.

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