There was concern going into Saturday night’s HBO main event between WBO junior middleweight champion Sadam Ali and 21-year-old undefeated prospect Jaime Munguia that Ali, despite his status as a 154-pound belt holder, might not really be a legitimate junior middleweight.
After all, the former welterweight contender was virtually in the position he was by accident. Ali was selected as an opponent for previous WBO junior middleweight title holder Miguel Cotto’s farewell to boxing fight. For the uninitiated, that means he was just there to lose and make Cotto fans feels happy and nice as their fighter rode off into the sunset. But age and injury made Cotto vulnerable to a loss that night and Ali’s courage and skill set did the rest. It was a career-making win and a storybook upset for Ali. He was now the accidental junior middleweight champ.
But Munguia, a last-minute fill-in opponent himself for the previously scheduled Liam Smith, was an even happier accident. You see, Munguia was clearly the bigger, stronger and better fighter when the bell rang on Saturday night at Turning Stone in Verona, NY and his sensational HBO debut will probably lead to bigger and better things for both him and the network going forward.
Munguia’s dominant performance over Ali in the title-grabbing victory left no doubt Munguia is a force to be reckoned with in the division. The noticeably larger, harder hitting challenger planted Ali into the canvas twice in Round 1. The referee would have been wise to halt the action there but didn’t.
Ali fought bravely and tried to rally in Round 2, only to find himself down at the tail end of that one, too. Round 3 was Ali’s best round, and in this case best round means he did enough in most of it not to get knocked on his rear. Regardless, Munguia was a man on his way to an easy and destructive win over the smaller, almost helpless looking Ali.
At the start of Round 4, after much deliberation by the referee and Ali’s corner between rounds, the action needlessly continued. But Munguia again knocked Ali down to the ground with such force and brutality this time that the bout was finally called off.
After the fight, Munguia seemed genuinely bewildered in answering a question from HBO’s Max Kellerman about who he wants to fight next. Jarrett Hurd holds the IBF and WBA titles while Jermell Charlo is the current WBC champ.
Munguia was so dominant over Ali he most certainly and immediately becomes a credible opponent to any other 154-pound fighter in the world today, including both the other titleholders.
Undefeated WBC super bantamweight titlist Rey Vargas defeated Azat Hovhannisyan by unanimous decision on Saturday night at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. The bout was a bloody and bruising battle between two rough and tumble warriors. Vargas, the much taller and probably better skilled boxer used hard punches to the body to fend off the tough challenger, Hovhannisyan, who entered the night on an eight fight win streak.
Judges at ringside score the bout for the champion 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112.
A hyper aggressive Hovhannisyan plowed forward with ruthless and reckless aggression early in the fight. Vargas was hit early and often in Round 1, and was forced to bite down hard on his mouthpiece to commit to full tilt tussle.
Vargas is a good boxer, but he likes to fight at a punishing pace. He’s a tall, feisty and hard punching menace who likes to strafe opponents with lefts and right counters, especially if he can get his opponent to come forward.
Hovhannisyan was just the ticket. He’s a compact, firecracking mauler who comes forward for almost three minutes of every round to deliver looping shots to head and body. While Hovhannisyan was able to throw a myriad of punches at Vargas, he just couldn’t quite do enough to get Vargas to disengage. So went his hopes to win the fight. Vargas used sharp counters and looping punches to his opponent’s head and torso to pick up the hardfought title defense win.
Neither competitor proved to be special in the conventional way, but both should be commended. While both are seasoned and skilled professional prizefighters, Vargas and Hovhannisyan are better known as TV-friendly action fighters. Neither will ever be an elite pound-for-pound performer, but boxing needs these types, too. By the end of the fight, both competitors were bloody and bruised from the back-and-forth affair and the crowd in attendance seemed pleased with each man’s effort.
There was high drama in Round 12 when an accidental headbutt opened up a gaping blood hole over Vargas’ left eye to add to the gnarly wound he earned the conventional way over his other one. Vargas managed to fend off the brave challenger with deft footwork and smart head movement to seal the deal.