Luis Ortiz vs Tony Thompson & Sadam Ali vs Jessie Vargas
BY KID HERSH
HBO Boxing After Dark from Washington, D.C. First up was Sadam Ali (22-0, 13ko's) vs Jessie Vargas (26-1, 9ko's). In the first round Ali showed his advantages of quick hands and feet. He was popping off combinations that were extremely fast and then using his footwork to get out of range. Vargas did have some success at the end of the round, notably a right hand that he stepped into with full force and landed on Ali - the punch showing no effect at the moment but leaving someone such as myself wondering if Ali could handle punches like it over the course of a full 12 rounds. In the second round Vargas started having more success by pressing the fight and landing shots in between Ali's punches, taking him off rhythm and noticeably frustrating him. This continued into the third round, where Vargas marked up Ali's right eye for the first real damage done in the fight - after landing a solid left hook early in the round. The fourth round saw a great fight heat up even further as Vargas started off hot, tagging Ali by being first with his shots, only to have Ali come on strong at the end of the round when he landed a right hand followed by a left hook to the temple that has Vargas yelling and pounding his chest for more, which, Ali gladly gave him as he backed Vargas into the ropes and threw powerfully sharp punches with bad intentions on them. Some landed and some glanced off but to my eyes it looked like Ali thought he had Vargas hurt when really Vargas is just getting going. In the fifth round I saw Ali fading in both physical ability and confidence, with his legs not looking as sharp underneath him or springy while Vargas is looking very energetic and looking like a twelve round fighter - which we all know he is, having been on the big stage many times and gone the distance in fights many times over. The rounds were tough to score for the next couple, with both men having success with their respective punches but it still looked to me like Vargas is the seasoned professional, not fading at all and still very crisp with his shots while Ali doesn't have much pep in his legs or quickness to his punches anymore. He only does in small bursts when he digs deep but otherwise he isn't maintaining it like a seasoned professional does. It's as if he was grabbed off Friday Night Fights and thrown into a title fight, having all the promise in the world but not the proper managing underneath him to succeed. In the eighth round, in the closing seconds, it all caught up with him as Vargas set up an overhand right right beautifully that he masked behind a jab. The punch slammed home on Ali's chin, snapping his head violently and sending him to the canvas. He rose but Vargas was very upset because the referee gave an extra second or two in pointing Vargas to a neutral corner (Or was it neutral? It looked like he pointed at his own corner). The referee then bungled further calls right away in the ninth as Ali's corner was biding time by leaving the stool in the ring and the referee bit down on the bait by prolonging the action to get the stool out of the ring (thereby giving Ali more time to recover). He then missed a knockdown as a right hand glanced across Ali's cheek while he was on the ropes and caused him to stumble sideways, his glove touching the ground to keep him upright. This was a minor infraction though, because really while "by the book" would mean it is a knockdown I would argue that it is simply an argumentative point now because Ali is on his way out and I think we are just looking for excuses to pile on this referee if we pick this one to clearly point out. In any case, another knockdown was scored and then the fight was stopped at probably just the right time (as Lederman would point out when coming on later - backing the referee who he has been long time friends with). This is a sensational win for Vargas - the signature win of his career that he has been waiting for and needing so badly to rocket his career forward onto the big stage. In the post fight Ali would claim that he re-injured his ankle, which felt fine but it was an injury that popped up in training camp and he says was healed until the first knockdown. This would explain why it looked like his legs were gone, although I know many people would argue his legs were gone because of a chin issue. Glad to see Vargas finally get the respect he has seemingly deserved as he dedicates himself to boxing as his craft.
Main event time with Tony Thompson (40-6, 27ko's) vs Luis Ortiz (24-0, 21ko's). The fight started with Ortiz stalking and landing a left hand (first of the fight) that put Thompson down. This is, of course, aside from the jeering from the crowd about Thompson's rotund shape - with tires on his lower back. Back to the knockdown though; he was not in any hurry to end the fight though, as Thompson got up and stayed the remainder of the round as Ortiz lightly pressed and only threw a couple of combinations that Thompson covered up wisely for. The next round was a very slow one, with Thompson trying to last by catching Ortiz with pecking shots coming inside and then leaning back out of range. This continued until Ortiz finally landed another flush shot at the end of the third round - a left hand over the top that thudded home high on his head, perhaps behind the ear, that put Thompson down. Thompson rose and was saved by the bell but of course the writing was even bolder on the wall. Thompson was able to prolong the fight further, at a really boring pace as he actually managed to get in some agonizingly slow punches; even 1-2's at times. The fight finally caught up with Thompson in the sixth round when he was put down from an overhand left. It looked like Thompson hurt his leg on the way down but it mattered not, this ending was inevitable.