Photos By Franz Mahr, Words By Brandon Wetherbee
On Saturday night at the DC Armory a new WBO Welterweight Champion took the belt. Then the main event happened. Tony didn’t get much respect.
The Armory played host to the Ortiz vs. Thompson heavyweight fight. Before the 40-year-old Thompson entered the ring to a pro-D.C. anthem to face heavy favorite Ortiz, 18 men faced off in 9 lesser weight classes. The conclusion to the main event was all but guaranteed before the first match six and a half hours earlier at 4:30 p.m.
The majority of warriors, a term affectionately used by the MC for the duration of the event, that fought to 4,585 paying customers went the distance. The majority of the eight bouts ended in decisions, both pleasing to fans of technical prowess and disappointing to people that want blood. One fight sort of pleased both camps. The third fight of the night, Kevin Rivers vs. Angel Aispuro, ended with only 44 seconds left in the final round. Aispuro’s ear laceration solidified the win for local favorite Rivers.
The co-main events were well placed on a relatively good card. The Welterweight title fight between Sadam Ali and Jessie Vargas garnered the biggest responses from the crowd. A very vocal crowd of supporters backed the Brooklyn based Ali and an equally large but quieter group wore red headbands supporting Las Vegas’ Vargas. Ali’s entrance music was Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries,” quite possibly the worst song DJ Top Choice had to play (the majority of boxers came out to songs by Future and Vicente Fernández.
The first three rounds of the Ali vs. Vargas fight found both fighters figuring out how to attack. The fourth round saw Vargas connecting on Ali’s skull. The Golden Boy Productions/HBO lighting could not have been better. You could see the sweat fly off connecting hits from across the Armory.
It was a matter of when, not if, for Vargas to give Ali his first loss. It finally came in the ninth round. Following the fight, Vargas gave the quote of the night. “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.” Ali took the mic next and claimed he fell a few times because he slipped. The crowd’s very vocal boos led Ali to say again and again that he wasn’t providing excuses.
“Get some respect, Tony!” That was the mantra for the very short, inevitable Luis Ortiz win over D.C.’s very own Tony Thompson. The main event had a much different feel than the Welterweight Championship. The two heavyweights in the main event knew why they were there and it wasn’t to prove anything to anyone.
The man that garnered the biggest reactions from the crowd wasn’t in the ring. A jovial, very loud, very funny man screamed, “Get some respect, Tony,” upwards of 40 times in the 5 round fight. The crowd was backing him up, the media was laughing and the fighters could not have ignored his cheer-leading. Thompson’s smiles and taunts to Ortiz made the main event feel more like a show than a fight.
Tony didn’t get much respect. He was knocked down in the first round and the only surprise was he lasted into the sixth. The first nine bouts were worth watching and the biggest paydays went to the headliners.
Boxing is in an odd place. HBO still carries championship fights and big names like Pacquiao still warrant Pay-Per-Views, but big names like Pacquiao aren’t doing any favors for the sport. Consider what the public now knows about concussions and the surging popularity of UFC (#UFC196 was the top Twitter trend on Saturday night) and it’s difficult to see the sport reclaiming its former glory. But the ring girls, Tecate sponsorship, bright lights and bloody and broken faces are doing everything they can to hold on. Tony didn’t get much respect, but he got some.
Sadam Ali vs. Jessie Vargas
Luis Ortiz vs. Tony Thompson