Can the Sadam Ali-Jesse Vargas winner be a dark horse in the welterweight division?
By Hector Franco
This Saturday night in Washington D.C. at the DC Armory on the undercard of the Luis Ortiz-Tony Thompson heavyweight match up, Jessie Vargas and Sadam Ali will face off for the vacant WBO welterweight title. The title was recently vacated by Timothy Bradley in order to face Manny Pacquiao in a rubber match on April 9th. Ali was the mandatory for the title for quite some time and is now finally getting his shot at the title. This match-up for Ali, however, is more than a title; it’s his chance to put himself in the company of the top welterweights in the division.
2014 was a great year for Sadam Ali. He was able to stay active fighting three times during the span of the year. In the biggest test of his career, he was able to stop Luis Carlos Abregu in November of 2014. It was followed up with a rather lackluster 2015 campaign where he fought just one time. Ali defeated Francisco Santana via unanimous decision on the undercard of the Wladimir Klitschko-Bryant Jennings card. Since then he has been playing the waiting game awaiting his opportunity to fight a title.
Ali’s opponent Jessie Vargas was last seen in the ring against elite welterweight Timothy Bradley. It was a somewhat competitive bout, where Vargas did well in spots but was ultimately outclassed over the second half of the bout. Vargas did have one specific moment in the bout where in the last twenty seconds he landed a well-timed right hand on Bradley that that left him visibly hurt. The referee heard the ten-second warning and stopped the bout prematurely thinking that it was the bell to end the contest. Vargas was angry that his opportunity to win was stolen from him. He let the world know just how he felt for the next few months. Jessie was and still is adamant about getting a rematch with Bradley. Due to the one sided nature of the bout and the fact that Vargas only had one moment of success, a rematch was not demanded by the boxing public which has left Vargas bitter. For Vargas, this presents another opportunity to win a title in his second division. There is a stigma with Jessie Vargas that he has gotten away with close decision victories for much of his career. His bouts with Khabib Allakhverdiev and Josesito Lopez could have easily gone the other way. With a victory on March 5th, it will put Vargas in the conversation as being one of the top welterweights in the division.
Both men are not the biggest punchers, however, the bout could be determined by who can take the other’s punches better. Ali has the advantage in the foot speed and hand speed department. Ali can fight off of his back foot and hurt his opponents as shown in his bout with Abregu. Vargas at this point has the advantage in experience, as he has been a world champion before fighting on the undercards of Manny Pacquiao for several years. Something to consider also is that Vargas even in losing to Bradley has gone 12 rounds with one of the best in the world. Bradley simply put is head and shoulders above anyone on Ali’s resume. What will be the key here in this bout is self-identity. Ali knows who he is as a boxer. Vargas has changed trainers for his last three bouts going from Roy Jones Jr., Erik Morales to relatively unknown Dewey Cooper. Vargas doesn’t know if he wants to be a boxer or a brawler. Against Ali this could prove to be a critical mistake. Hopefully the winner of this bout will be put in a position to face the other top welterweights sooner rather than later.