By Derek Bonnett
World championship caliber boxing returned to the D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C., USA for HBO’s latest installment of Boxing After Dark. The two-fight televised card featured welterweights and heavyweights in action in bouts with the potential for serious divisional shaping ramifications. The fans got what they expected in the main event from Luis Ortiz and Tony Thompson, but Jessie Vargas and Sadam Ali provided fans with their money’s worth in one of the year’s best bouts.
Luis Ortiz, a Cuban-defector making his home in Miami, Florida, just might be the most dangerous heavyweight in the business. However, proving one is the best is an entirely different assignment when facing Tony "The Tiger" Thompson. Fans looked to be in for a blowout when Ortiz landed an overhand left high on the head of Thompson, dropping him hard on the retreat. The perennial heavyweight contender recovered though and used his guile to extend his effort. The pace was slow and Ortiz stalked the entire evening. To his credit, the Cuban boxer did not waste his punches trying to dispose of Thompson; he simply plied his trade and found openings for his straight punches in search of more left hand opportunities. Ortiz found one in round three as he dropped Thompson just as the bell sounded to end the round. Thompson rose and continued to fight the fourth with mostly arm punches. Ortiz slowed his pace and was tagged by some of the two-time heavyweight title challengers shots, but they possessed little snap. Ortiz worked the body slightly in the fifth and Thompson continued in survival mode. Finally, yet another overhand left caught Thompson in round six. The American boxer went down hard and looked to struggle to his feet after seemingly turning his ankle. A hasty count ensued, but the writing was on the wall and there was no visible protest from the fallen fighter or his corner. Thompson, as usual, was all smiles and did what he could with the late notice.
The official time of the stoppage was 2:29 of round six. Ortiz maintained his interim WBA heavyweight titlist status (a formal way of saying number one contender) and lifted his ledger to 25-0-0 (22). Thompson, among the best contenders of his era, fell to 40-7-0 (27) losing for the second time straight.
Starting the televised card, Jessie Vargas and Sadam Ali put together a memorable tussle for the vacant WBO welterweight title. Ali used his natural speed advantage to take the first frame against the more flat-footed Vargas, landing cleaner and more frequently. However, Vargas’ experience kicked in early as he was able to began landing his left-hand on the unbeaten Ali causing his right eye to swell. Vargas dictated the pace of the fight with his aggressive attack and Ali failed to use his speed effectively to negate the attack with busier combination punching. Ali punched one at a time in round three and Vargas opened up a successful body attack to drain his foe’s energy for the late rounds. The Mexican-American grinded Ali well, keeping him on the move and landing his power punches with increasing frequency.
Ali mounted a comeback in round five. The two welterweights gave as good as they got. Vargas’ power arguably supplied him with the edge. The right hand lead became more of a weapon for Vargas and Ali’s eye began to close more rapidly. Vargas’ pressure because selling the idea that this might not be the distance bout most fans anticipated. The level of action certainly exceeded expectations. Ali seemed unsteady on his feet a couple of times in round six, but he came back for his best round of the night in round seven. Using his speed to land power shots in bunches, Vargas’ defensive short-comings were better accentuated. Ali appeared to be in the rise. However, Vargas got back to some effective counter punching in round eight and dropped Ali at the end of the round with a sizzling left hand, overhand right combination. Ali was clipped in round nine and the glancing blow forced him to touch his glove to the canvas. Vargas was not awarded the knockdown unjustly. Vargas moved in for the finish, but was pushed off by the referee, who only briefly stymied the attack. A second right hand dropped Ali for a second time. Wisely, the referee intervened to save Ali once Vargas landed several telling blows during his follow-up attack.
The official time of the stoppage was 2:09 of round nine. Vargas became a two-division champion with the win and elevated his dossier to 27-1-0 (10). Ali fell to 22-1-0 (13). Vargas labeled the win his career best and only asked for a rematch with Timothy Bradley down the road. The Mexican-American still feels robbed of the opportunity to finish Bradley after hurting him late in their first contest, which was controversially ended early.
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