Devin Vargas still gets goose bumps whenever he hears the theme music promoting the Olympic Games on television.
Eight years after earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team that sound still brings back great memories.
"Every time the Olympics start coming around and they start talking about it and I hear the theme music I get goose bumps," Vargas said. "No matter how far, it's been eight years, it still feels fresh to me."
Plenty of time has passed since Vargas boxed in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
"I think about it a lot," said Vargas, 30, who owns an 18-2 record as a professional boxer. "Every time I see anything about the Olympics automatically it takes me back.
"It was one of the best times of my life traveling with the U.S. boxing team. We became family. I rarely see the guys but when I do it's like we haven't lost a step in our relationships. We're all still close friends."
The memories about wearing the red, white, and blue uniform left a long-lasting mark on his heart and mind. He felt his patriotism and love for his country and hometown were never more on display than during his time in Greece.
"I was proud when we went over there," Vargas said. "It was close to 9-11 and there were terrorist threats and all that stuff. I knew going over there that something could happen, but I was proud to be an American.
"I was proud to represent the nation, but I was probably more proud to represent Toledo because Toledo hadn't had a boxing Olympian in forever."
Vargas said time spent in the Olympic Village was special and will always be remembered quite fondly. Athletes from across the globe settled into the area for two weeks and made it their own community.
It was common to see the likes of talented athletes like LeBron James mingling in the Olympic Village.
To spend time in that kind of atmosphere made it clear to Vargas just how significant of an accomplishment it was to even be an Olympic participant.
"I've been to 13 or 14 countries but Greece was obviously the best one," said Vargas, a Start High School graduate. "I couldn't even describe just how awesome the Olympic village was."
After spending countless hours and expending loads of energy and perspiration sparring and competing in the ring to eventually earn a spot on the U.S. boxing team, the heavyweight fighter looked forward to facing Olympic competition. It was anticipation more than nervousness that had him excited heading into his first fight.
Vargas, who was the captain of the U.S. boxing team, stopped Morocco's Rachid El Haddak at the 1:20 mark in his opening round fight.
But in the second round, he fell 36-27 to Viktar Zuyev of Belarus.
Vargas took a punch below the belt early in the fight and never completely recovered from the strike. It could have resulted in a disqualification for Zuyev after Vargas remained on one knee for a few moments before resuming with the fight.
Ultimately, Vargas' pursuit of a gold medal came to a disappointing end.
"The fight that I lost I was hit with a low blow," he said. "I went down and it hurt and it took a lot out of me. It took a lot of wind out of me.
"I remember sitting on my knee and looking over to my dad [Ray] and my dad told me to get up. I knew if I would have stayed down I would have probably won on disqualification and advanced through my rounds, but I got up.
"In my heart I would have rather lost on my feet than get a disqualification for the win."
Returning home without a medal didn't diminish Vargas' appreciation for the experience.
"It was a stressful time when I was trying to get on the team," Vargas said. "Once I got on the team it was like a weight had been lifted for a little bit.
"I wanted to do my best in the Olympics and hopefully get a medal. That didn't quite work but it was still a time that I'll never trade for anything in the world. All the stress and all the stuff that went into becoming an Olympian was awesome.
"I hope one day I can push my kids into getting to that point and get to the Olympics, if not in boxing, maybe another sport."
Vargas' professional boxing career hasn't played out exactly how he had hoped. He's still looking for a title bout. He still believes he's got a lot of boxing left in him.
However, Vargas has decided his career will not continue in the heavyweight ranks, which he believes is overcrowded with older fighters long past their prime.
He's hoping to schedule a fight in the super-cruiserweight division (210 pounds) in September and eventually wants to settle in at the cruiserweight division where more opportunities to move up the ranks seem possible.
He hasn't fought in nearly a year after dropping a heavyweight bout in Poland to heavyweight Andrzej Wawrzyk last September.
Wawrzyk won by way of a TKO after the fight was stopped in the ninth round.
Vargas suffered a busted eardrum during the fight and was kept out of the ring for three months afterwards until doctors determined the injury had healed enough.
Vargas said he's eager to schedule his next fight and return to the ring.
"I think I've got at least five good, hard years left in me and retire about 35 or 36, which is not a bad living," he said. "I still love the game and I still want to fight."
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.