By: Oliver McManus
In the dust of Linares-Lomachenko over on ESPN there were two more world title tilts live on HBO, from the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Verona, New York, in a card lacking the hype of legacy but delivering buckets of credibility and tasty match-ups.
Sadam Ali vs Jaime Munguia was the headlining bout with Ali’s WBO Super Welterweight title at stake – Munguia, 28-0, arrived in New York the vast underdog having taken up the challenge on less than two weeks’ notice, following Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith’s withdrawal, and Ali, 26-1, was on a quest to prove his victory over Miguel Cotto last year was not a mere fluke.
Photo Credit: HBO Boxing Twitter Account
The fight started off with Ali visibly looking the smaller, more diminutive figure – his opponent a natural middleweight – and whilst Ali looked to be the more mobile of the two fighters and put his sprightly figure to good use, it was Munguia who started off the brighter with a clipping left hand dropping the champion in the first round… twice.
The Mexican challenger seemed in complete domination, easing his way into his rhythm and never completely stepping up the gas, round two came and he simply reverted back to his jab that saw him have so much success in the first – the key, beforehand, was to work on the counter-attack but Munguia simply did not give Ali a chance to impose his gameplan, twice more would Cotto’s conqueror crumple to the canvas.
That was before the bell to signal the end of round two even went and when it sounded again to start round three, the story was much the same – sheer domination from the unexpected challenger who was putting to short shrift the naysayers, seizing his chance opportunity at the title – a near knockdown in the third put beyond doubt whether this would go the distance with the crowd warming to Munguia.
A third of the way into the fight and at the fourth round came the climatic ending, another knockdown from a supreme, confident Munguia left Ali out of his depth and reeling – in visible pain, this wasn’t a fluke victory by Munguia, this was an utter demolition job, a bank robbery almost, and there could be no questioning the skill and shot selection from the brave 21 year old… AND NEW WBO SUPER WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD.
Rey Vargas, expecting a “wild war” went into his fifth world title fight against a game, gritty, Azat Hovhannisyan, following two comfortable points victory in the back-end of 2017 to retain his WBC Super Bantamweight title against Oscar Negrete and Ronny Rios, respectively.
Hovhannisyan, nicknamed crazy, was also coming off the back of a win over Ronny Rios – a sixth round knockout – in March of this year and was confident of continuing his momentum all the world to grabbing that prestigious world title belt.
And he started off looking the fresher, more prepared of the fighters, going to the centre of the ring in the opening round in a bid so shock Vargas into submission but it failed to rattle the Mexican who instead opted to trade some bruising shots with his Armenian counterpart.
Startled but little else, Vargas hit back with some big shots of his own but came off visibly worse when a cut above his left eye started to open up… superficial damage, that’s all.
The brawl-like contest continued much into the first third of this fight and it seemed evident that Azat was aware the only way he was going to win this fight was by pushing Vargas into the unknown, the uncomfortable.
But whilst Vargas was, arguably, mentally uncomfortable, he was physically serene and targeted the body of Hovhannisyan – everyone’s weak point – sending huge combinations into the guts of the Armenian before letting a flurry unravel towards the latter stage of the third round.
Aware that this was have success, Vargas continued this onslaught of an assault to the Armenian’s body and started to utilise his left hook a bit more – really opening up Azat – but the challenger responded in the sixth with, a last, do or die effort, swinging wildly in an attempt to connect with a final bomb.
The fatigue showed going into the final half with Vargas’ attempted-toppler slowing demonstrably and suffering from the affects of the body shot – another cut was opened up, this time above Vargas right eye – and whilst there were periods of success for the challenger they were all too brief and all to rare.
A brawl, an ugly but spectacular brawl, Vargas dealt with it comfortably enough to earn the win on all three scorecards, 112-116, 111-117, 110-118.