On Saturday, March 5, 2016, live from the DC Armory in Washington DC, HBO’s Boxing After Dark returned with a double header headlined by Luis Ortiz vs. Tony Thompson.
The telecast opened up with Sadam Ali (22-1, 13 KOs) taking on Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs) for the vacant WBO Welterweight title.
Ali came out fast, taking charge in the first round behind a quick jab and fluid movement. A solid one-two combination that landed flush on Vargas’ face won the opening round for Ali and had the largely pro-Ali crowd on their feet.
Both men landed solid blows throughout the first half of the fight and after six closely contested rounds, RBRBoxing had the fight scored even at three rounds a piece.
As Vargas worked behind his sharp jab and Ali loaded up on power shots, it looked like either man could take control for the remainder of the bout.
But as Ali’s eye began to close, Vargas began to turn up the heat and land clean power shots.
In the eighth round, Vargas shocked the DC crowd when he landed a monstrous looping right hand that dropped Ali. After the fight, Ali admitted he never saw the punch coming.
“He really surprised me with that shot,” said Ali.
“I wasn’t expecting that, but as I went down I twisted my right ankle and after that I wasn’t able to move like I wanted.”
Ali beat the count and Round 8 ended shortly after, allowing him to retreat to his corner to try and recuperate. But the end was near for the Brooklyn fighter who just couldn’t recover from the punch he never saw.
In Round 9, Ali came out shaky as he circled close to the ropes and looked to get his feet under him. But Vargas was relentless and smelled blood as he went in for the finish.
Ali was dropped a second time, and although he got back up, referee Kenny Chevalier made a wise decision and jumped in to stop the bout, giving Vargas a TKO victory at 2:09.
— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) March 6, 2016
After the fight, Vargas called the victory a “career best win” and called out Timothy Bradley for a rematch, which he feels he earned.
“I felt strong walking to the ring. I tore him apart piece by piece. It was the best I’ve felt in the ring in a long time. I only want one fight which I deserve to get, a rematch with Bradley. I don’t care if he beats [Manny] Pacquiao or not, I want Bradley.”
After tasting defeat for the first time, Ali reflected on his performance and stated that he must correct his mistakes.
“Before the fight I felt really strong, I felt very confident and sometimes that isn’t enough,” said Ali.
“I need to go back to the drawing board and make sure to correct the mistakes that I made in the ring tonight.”