Jessie Vargas stops Sadam Ali in ninth round to win title
The argument against Jessie Vargas has always been that he doesn’t throw enough punches. That wasn’t an issue on Saturday as Vargas showed off his full array of offensive weapons against Sadam Ali, digging lefts to the bodies, mixing in jabs and right hands, dropping him twice and finishing him in the ninth round to claim the vacant WBO welterweight title at the DC Armory.
Vargas boasted he was going to dominate Ali before the fight, that he wasn’t in the same class as him. While Ali performed well in spots in his first title shot and was game throughout, Vargas was the more complete, stronger and accurate fighter, stopping him at 2:09 of the ninth round in a signature performance that was one-sided in the last few rounds.
“I tore him apart piece by piece,” Vargas said afterward. “I was patient. I looked for openings and when I had the openings I fired the shots. This is what I have been working for all my life since I was 8 years old.”
The ending was surprisingly brutal given that Vargas isn’t known as a devastating puncher. Vargas dropped Ali (22-1, 13 knockouts) with a perfect overhand right to end the eighth round. Ali took nearly the full count before he got up and was so shaken up that he walked to the wrong corner.
Ali still hadn’t recovered when he came out for the ninth, his legs a little wooden. Vargas quickly jumped on him, punishing him before dropping him again with another right hand. Ali beat the count but was clearly hurt. When Vargas landed another right, referee Kenny Chevalier stopped the fight with Ali still on his feet, looking perplexed, his right eye nearly shut.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum would like to match Vargas against the winner of Manny Pacquiao’s April 9 bout with Tim Bradley, who beat Vargas last June, though Vargas nearly had him out in the final round.
“I will put him with any welterweight in the world. Maybe the winner of the Pacquiao-Bradley winner, Arum said. “I always knew he could punch like that. He would come to the Top Rank offices and I would tell him all the time that he just had to throw more punches, and tonight he did.”
Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs) also wants Bradley, calling a rematch with him “unfinished business.”
Vargas credited the work he did with new trainer Dewey Cooper as a major reason for the power surge.
“Adding Dewey Cooper to the team was huge,” Vargas said. “He brought out the power, without a doubt. He got the best out of Jessie Vargas tonight. Jessie Vargas is here to stay.”
Ali was crestfallen after some fine moments in the early going. He said that one of the knockdowns caused an ankle injury, which affected him the rest of the fight.
“I take nothing away from Vargas,” Ali said. “He caught me with a good shot. When I got up my right ankle was messed up. No excuses. He landed some good shots, some shots I didn’t see. I was a little off. No excuses. He looked good. I have to go back to the drawing board.”
The match was even in the early rounds. Both boxers fought a brisk first round with Ali landing an overhand right and Vargas pushing Ali back with some hard body shots. They didn’t spend much time feeling each other out as Ali immediately went on the attack, forcing Vargas to respond with some digging shots of his own.
Vargas landed a left hook on Ali in the second that caused Ali to buckle but it was from a wet spot in Vargas’ corner and not from the impact. Vargas continued to push Ali back with a stern jab, though Ali rallied in the final seconds with a slicing uppercut.
The two continued to trade punches in the third as Vargas stalked Ali, landing the occasional left while Ali was content to box off his back foot, occasionally planting to rip off a combination, the round basically even.
Vargas landed a strong left in the fourth that added to the redness around Ali’s right eye. But Ali gathered himself and mounted an all-out assault in the last minute of the round, landing a volley of punches that bounced off Vargas’ head as Vargas lay against the ropes smiling.
Vargas landed a left to the body that caused Ali to stumble into the ropes midway through the fifth. The motion probably should have been called a knockdown since the ropes held Ali up. Vargas seemed to hurt Ali again with a counter left to end the fifth. Ali’s right eye looked nearly shut.
Vargas landed a flush left to start the sixth round and started talking to Ali as he continued to land the stronger shots.
Vargas landed a sweeping overhand right in the seventh that briefly shook up Ali.
Ali hadn’t fought since last April, a period of time necessitated because he was made the WBO mandatory to Tim Bradley’s title in August; Ali waited seven months to get his title shot.
Ali, a 2008 Olympian who defeated Terence Crawford in the U.S. Olympic team trials, rose in prominence after stopping Luis Abregu in nine rounds in 2014 and beating Francisco Santana last April.
Vargas entered the bout on paper having fought the better opposition. He was outpointed by Bradley last June, but hurt Bradley the final round and felt he was saved at the last second by the referee. He also had wins over Aron Martinez and former lightweight titleholder Antonio DeMarco.