The best fight of the weekend lived up to the hype as Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10KOs) stopped Sadam Ali (22-1) following a pair of sensational knockdowns in the final two rounds of the fight. With the vacant WBO welterweight championship on the line, the two fighters thrilled an HBO audience and fans in attendance at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C. as the co-feature on the Ortiz-Thompson card.
Ali created the kind of fight he was hoping to initiate in the first few rounds. However, he wasn’t able to throw Vargas off his rhythm in the process. Vargas was quick to remind his opponent that he is a very capable boxer as well and to his part he was able to find success despite the fact that he was operating within a fight suited to Ali’s tempo.
The first few rounds were very competitive even if Ali looked like the more impressive athlete. Still, it was often difficult for Ali the athlete to keep momentum when Vargas the fighter was exploiting holes. The herky-jerky nature of Ali’s in and out tempo did not faze Vargas, although it was very pretty to watch from a pure spectator’s point of view.
That said, Vargas was able to keep rounds close by delivering the most meaningful punches. Ali was landing very hard right hands, but they did not hurt Vargas which resulted in an inability to keep the Las Vegas-based fighter honest.
At the end of the 4th round, fans were treated to a culmination of action which exploded in the ring as Ali started to string his punches together. It finally appeared as though Ali could tame Vargas as he was noticeably affected by the sequence of offense on the part of Ali. Still, the round was close because Vargas had been edging out Ali in the punches landed category.
Vargas rebounded well in the next round and the exchanges between the fighters heated up. You got the sense that Vargas felt in complete control of the fight even if Ali flashed his skill and stole a few moments. But Vargas was able to keep the momentum in his favor by mashing together his come forward brand of fighting with a selective, almost methodical nature in his attack.
In the 8th round, Vargas capitalized on the plan he had been instituting since the beginning by knocking down Ali with a hard overhand right that landed flush. Two things to clarify: firstly, Vargas wasn’t setting Ali up for one punch the entire fight or even over the course of the past several rounds. Instead, Vargas continued with his game plan and grew confident after realizing that it could be effective and that Ali couldn’t hurt him. Also, it is worth noting that while it will be the picture perfect right hand that gets played for years to come, it was actually the jab along with a slight faint that contributed to sending Ali to the canvas. It was the beginning sequence of the combo which caused Ali to never see the right hand coming.
Ali was able to make it back to his feet, although there was some controversy as the referee allowed Ali extra time to rest by taking a significant pause between the counts of 7 and 8 to warn Vargas to get to his corner. It infuriated Vargas who likely experienced flashbacks to his 12th round with Timothy Bradley in which the referee stopped the fight prematurely after mistaking the 10-second warning for the end of the round—Bradley had been hurt in the moments leading up to the referee’s blunder.
The ninth round began and it was clear that Ali was still on wobbly legs as Vargas, yet again, hurt Ali with a right hand which sent him flailing to the other end of the ring. Vargas smelt blood and was looking for his opportunity. Vargas was able to knock Ali down again and although Ali would make it to his feet, it wouldn’t take long before Vargas finished the fight on the referee’s stoppage.
In the post-fight interview, Vargas called for a rematch against Timothy Bradley.