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What’s more harrowing for boxers than fighting? Maybe family


It’s not as surprising as, say, George Foreman’s transition into the grill-hawking star of a family sitcom, or Mike Tyson’s reinvention as a Broadway song-and-dance man.

But it’s safe to say that while he was boxing, few of Fernando Vargas’ opponents ever looked across the ring and thought that one day he’d be on TV, covering himself in flour to convince his wife and kids that he’d spent all day in the kitchen baking the birthday cake he bought at the store.

There the former light-middleweight champion is, though, doing that and more as the gregarious, beleaguered dad of the based-in-Vegas reality series “Welcome to Los Vargas” (9 p.m. Sunday, mun2).

Following the exploits of Fernando and his family — wife Martha, daughter China, sons Fernando Jr., Amado and Emiliano, and father-in-law Alfredo — the bilingual series, English-subtitled when necessary, feels like the sort of thing you’d see on Bravo, only with a little more religion and a lot more flavor.

Ten-year-old Emiliano, labeled “such a big snitch” by 12-year-old Amado, revels in tattling on family members. Alfredo melts all the Tupperware by putting it in the oven. And Martha wastes no time in reminding Fernando that the last time he cooked, he gave everyone diarrhea. When Martha pulls money out of her brassiere, Fernando is incredulous. “My wife puts everything in her bra,” he marvels. “Apples. Cellphones. Lipstick. Water bottles.”

Its name was inspired by the city’s iconic sign, and “Welcome to Los Vargas” promises to showcase plenty of the valley, from a Frankie J concert at the Fremont Street Experience to the rides atop the Stratosphere to the North Las Vegas boxing gym, rechristened Feroz Fight Factory, that Fernando is dedicated to getting up and running.

If anything, “Welcome to Los Vargas” resembles a less-scripted, less-white version of “Duck Dynasty.” (Although Fernando does have a white friend named Chris, who’s always referred to as “my white friend Chris” and even, hilariously, identified in an onscreen graphic as “Fernando’s white friend Chris.”)

The point is, neither show is afraid of the religion that plays a big part in its subjects’ day-to-day lives.

“Boxing saved my life. I know it did,” Fernando, 36, narrates while talking about his childhood spent locked up or sleeping in alleys. “I was going nowhere quickly, but God put boxing in my life.”

■ Catching up: Their documentary “Tim’s Vermeer” missed the final cut during the Oscar-nominating process, but the last couple of weeks have been pretty good to Penn and Teller. The CW has ordered nine episodes of “Penn &Teller: Fool Us,” in which aspiring magicians try to wow the duo. And Travel Channel has ordered a pilot for “Street Cred,” a hidden-camera series that would find Penn Jillette scouring the country for the best street performers.

■ Inside the scrum: If you’re still trying to figure out what the 2014 USA Sevens International Rugby Tournament is, you can see for yourself as coverage from Sunday’s final day at Sam Boyd Stadium is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Universal Sports, 11 a.m. on NBCSN and 1:30 p.m. on KSNV-TV, Channel 3.

■ Special screening: The documentary “The JFK Assassination: The Jim Garrison Tapes” is set for 7 p.m. Friday at UNLV’s Greenspun Auditorium. The free screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with authors Dick Russell, Joan Mellen and Jim Marrs.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.