HBO Boxing Preview: Ortiz v. Thompson, Ali v. Vargas


By: Matthew N. Becher

This Saturday, live from the DC Armory in our Nation’s capital, Golden Boy promotions in association with HBO will present a fun night of boxing, which will include a title fight between two fast rising young stars in the sport and culminating in a heavyweight showdown between the old and new guard of the division.

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First up is a welterweight contest between Jessie Vargas (26-1 9KO) and Sadam Ali (22-0 13KO) for the WBO world title. Both men come from very impressive amateur backgrounds. Ali, was even a member of the 2008 US Olympic boxing team.

Vargas is a fast, slick fighter who has had a string of impressive wins since 2013. He beat Wale Omotoso, Ray Narh and won his first world title as a Jr. Welterweight by defeating Khabib Allakhverdiev. He then defended his title twice against Anton Novikov and Antonio DeMarco, before losing his first professional bout to Timothy Bradley jr. in a very intensely fought contest for the WBO welterweight belt. That was last June, and Vargas has not fought since. The one thing that sticks out pretty glaringly about Vargas is that at only 26 years old, he has already had 5 trainers. Roger Mayweather, Cornelius Boza Edwards, Robert Alcazar, Roy Jones Jr. and now Erik Morales. We’ll see if he was able to learn enough from all those teachers to come away with a victory on Saturday.

Sadam Ali has been brought up the welterweight rankings slowly but surely. He is seen as being one of the next great young fighters in the division and will be getting his first shot at a world title on Saturday. His toughest fights to date were his last two, the first was in 2014 against a very strong Luis Carlos Abregu, who Ali was able to Knockout and the second was in April of last year against Francisco Santana in front of a sold out Madison Square Garden. Both of these fighters’ styles are similar, but when push comes to shove, they can easily find themselves throwing their boxing skills out the window and brawling if need be.

The Main event takes place in the Heavyweight division, where one of the hottest big men in the sport will be on display once again. Luis Ortiz (24-0 21KO) will look to climb even further up the ladder and continue his winning ways towards a heavyweight title, but he will have to go through one of the gatekeepers of the division. Tony Thompson (40-6 27KO), has seen the promise land twice, both ending in losses to Wladamir Klitschko. At the age of 44 he has let it be known that he still wants one more try for a world title, and upsetting Ortiz will be the only way of getting that shot.

Ortiz is the 36 year old Cuban defector who is trying to quickly get to the top of the divisional food chain and take on one of the top 3 world champions. To do so, he needs to pack up his resume with formidable names and he needs to do so in impressive fashion. Last year Ortiz fought 3 times, beating Polley, Vidondo and Bryant Jennings all by the way of the Knockout. He is an exciting power puncher to watch. For a 250lb man, he moves rather gracefully and he will need to impress Saturday to send some more shockwaves through the division and possibly land himself in a title fight by years end.

Thompson is the old veteran of the division. He has been knocked down, just to get right back to where he wanted. After his first title chance in 2008, he went on a 5 knockout streak, to get another chance in 2012. Unfortunately the result was the same, but Thompson didn’t let that stop him. He was deemed a gatekeeper and held that title extremely well. When then undefeated British fighter David Price looked to pad his resume and move closer to a heavyweight title opportunity, he was knocked out not once but twice by Thompson. The same fate happened to the Cuban fighter Odlanier Solis, who wanted to build up his resume quickly, but unfortunately ran into two beating by the hands of Thompson. Thompson knows this is his last shot to make a run, and it will not be easy. But it will be in his home town of Washington D.C. and he has shown the power, guts, and guile to beat up and coming fighters that get in his way.

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