Las Vegas boxer Jessie Vargas savors second chance at welterweight title

Jessie Vargas again is within reach of achieving one of his goals — world titles in multiple divisions.

The former World Boxing Association junior welterweight champ from Las Vegas gets a second try at winning the World Boxing Organization welterweight belt when he faces Sadam Ali tonight in a 12-round bout at the Washington, D.C., Armory. HBO will televise the fight, the co-feature to the heavyweight title fight between Luis Ortiz and Tony Thompson.

“I’ve been given this opportunity, and I’m not going to let it slip away this time,” said Vargas, who lost to Timothy Bradley Jr. for the WBO title on June 27. “Now is not the time to start a losing streak.”

Vargas (26-1, nine knockouts) has spent the past five weeks working with Dewey Cooper to prepare for Ali (22-0, 13 KOs), after having Erik Morales work his corner for Bradley. Morales couldn’t fit this fight into his schedule, so Vargas called Cooper, who has known Vargas since he was 8.

“I’ve been prepared before for big fights, but this is at another level,” Vargas said. “We’ve had full control, and I didn’t overtrain. These last five weeks went by quickly, but we got everything done.

“I’ve never felt stronger, and I’m in great shape. There’s no excuse not to win this fight.”

Vargas said he wants to pick up where he left off in June, when he rocked Bradley with a huge right hook with 14 seconds left in their fight. Only this time, he is confident the referee will let the fight continue. Referee Pat Russell stopped the action with eight seconds left because he thought he had heard the bell ring at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

“The key to winning this fight is being keen and alert from the opening bell,” Vargas said. “I waited too long to go after Bradley. You can’t wait too long in a fight like this.”

Vargas said he expects Ali, a minus-300 favorite at the Wynn Las Vegas race and sports book, to stick and move. Cooper wants his fighter to cut the ring off and make Ali stand and engage Vargas.

“Jessie knows what he needs to do,” Cooper said. “I thought the preparations went great. There was a harmony to our work. He trusted me, and he did more with less effort.”

Both fighters made weight Friday, with Ali coming in right at the 147-pound limit and Vargas weighing 146.2. And while Vargas again is fighting away from Las Vegas, he’s confident he’ll get a fair shake from the officials.

“We’re looking to win every round,” he said. “(Ali) is a very good fighter. But he’s never been in the ring with anyone like me. I’ve fought some of the best that are out there, and I think my experience and my strength will be the difference.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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