Vargas vs Ali, an appetizer to HBO’s Ortiz vs Thompson, was a fantastic scrap. Jessie Vargas reminded us all once again that he’s a lot more dangerous than we think, putting last June’s controversial defeat to Timothy Bradley to bed once and for all. The Bradley defeat had been making Vargas itch ever since, and so what better way to prove his world-level legitimacy than by beating a much-praised blue-chip prospect like Sadam Ali?
On March 5th, Vargas got that chance. With the WBO title on the line, the matchup also got an extra pinch of spice. For the first 7 rounds, the fight was furiously competitive. Both men’s styles gelled, with the action catching fire in a close-quarter 4th that saw Vargas hurt in the closing seconds. Venom had now been injected, and the rounds became difficult to call from that point on.
Going into the 8th, both men had already absorbed one another’s best punches, and it looked like the judges were going to be needed for this one. At that time, BB’s card read 76-75, Vargas. But then , out of nowhere, Vargas nailed Ali with a long, overhand right in the last 10 seconds, a fight-changing punch that knocked down Ali for the first time in his pro career. Ali went down hard, beat the count, but was unsteady as he walked back to his corner.
Had Vargas missed his chance to finish Ali? No. With Ali clearly still shaken and now sporting a closing right eye, Vargas wasted no time coming forward in the 9th. Vargas wobbled Ali with another right hand, causing his foe to stumble across the ring and soon eat an answered barrage of power shots. Ali went down off another right, bravely beat a second count, but was soon saved by the referee as he lay under fire on the ropes. Ali did not protest.
The victory over Ali catapulted Vargas right back into the Welterweight scene – which our soon-to-be reshuffled Welterweight Top 10 will show – making Vargas a bona-fide threat. He isn’t the Luis Ortiz of the 147-pounders, but I have a feeling the division’s marquee names won’t be in a major hurry to face this guy. Vargas has now proven himself worthy of being branded ‘world-level’, and should be taken very seriously. Catch HBO’s Vargas vs Ali Boxing Highlights here.
Vargas now improves to 27 wins, 1 loss, 10 knockouts, while Ali’s hype reduces marginally as he slips to 22 wins, 1 loss, 13 knockouts.
Vargas now picks up the WBO title – which he was ‘perhaps robbed of’ against Bradley – and is now rubbing shoulders with the division’s best. So what’s next for Vargas and Ali? I don’t need to tell you there are some great fights out there for both guys at 147. A Vargas vs Ali rematch would also be warmly embraced.
If Kell Brook’s promoter is serious about flying his fighter overseas to land big fights, then either of these guys would make for a very challenging opponent. How about it? Brook vs Vargas or Ali, anyone? And let’s not forget about a Vargas sequel against Bradley. Which fight is bigger?