By Jack Tiernan: Former WBO junior middleweight champion Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith (31-3-1, 18 KOs) put on a masterclass performance on Saturday night, stopping inactive former two-division world champion Jessie Vargas (29-4-2, 11 KOs) at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In the tenth round, ‘Beefy’ Smith unloaded with a series of heavy shots to the head of the exhausted and hurt Vargas, resulting in the referee Steve Willis stepping in and halting the contest. The time of the stoppage was 0:41 of the tenth round.
In between the ninth and tenth rounds, Vargas’ coach Nonito Donaire warned him that he would stop the contest if he didn’t show him something. As it turns out, Donaire didn’t get a chance to throw in the towel because the referee halted the fight before he could.
Smith wore down the 32-year-old Vargas, who hadn’t fought in 26 months since his loss to Mikey Garcia in February 2020. Vargas fought well in the first couple of rounds but looked exhausted & rubber-armed from round three on.
Still, Vargas fought hard, landing a lot of punches, taking advantage of Smith’s nonexistent defense. Like in all of Smith’s fights, he applied constant pressure, focusing on his high volume attack to wear Vargas out.
In round three, Smith suffered a cut over his right eye from what appeared to be a clash of heads. The two fighters were banging heads quite a bit, and there were a lot of elbows. On several occasions, Smith wrapped Vargas in a headlock while he was bent over.
Smith would then walk Vargas all the way across the ring while keeping him in a headlock. Surprisingly, the referee didn’t give Smith a stern warning for this dirty tactic, as he was choking off his air of Vargas while doing this procedure.
Although Smith got the victory, he didn’t show the kind of performance that would suggest that he’s a threat to the 154-lb champions Jermell Charlo or Brian Castano.
If Smith were fighting either of those guys tonight, he would have likely been chewed up.
Also, some of the contenders at 154, Tim Tszyu and Sebastian ‘Towering Inferno’ Fundora, would be a nightmare for ‘Beefy’ Smith. It’s doubtful Smith could hang with those guys at this stage in his career.
He looked surprisingly good for a fighter as inactive as Vargas has been. This was only his sixth fight with him in the last six years, and he’s only won one battle during the last five years.
It’s shocking how inactive Vargas has been over the years. He’s essentially been a part-time boxer for years, and this is what happens when a fighter doesn’t keep busy. Given the inactivity, it’s not surprising that Vargas ran out of gas early in the fight.
If Vargas isn’t going to be an active fighter, he needs to think seriously about retiring because his career isn’t going anywhere.
If Matchroom Boxing still has Vargas under contract, they need to think about what they can do with this guy because he’s not capable of winning a world title at 154, especially with him fighting every two years. Vargas needs to decide whether he wants to continue fighting. If so, he needs to be fighting two to three times a year.
It was a bad sign that Vargas lost to the smallish past his prime, Mikey Garcia, in his last fight in 2020. If Vargas had anything left, he should have dominated the 5’5″ Mikey, who lacks the size to be fighting at 147.
Undefeated middleweight prospect Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams (10-0, 9 KOs) defeated previously unbeaten Chordale Booker (17-1, 7 KOs) by a first-round knockout to capture the vacant WBA Continental Americas strap.
2020 Olympic gold medalist Galal Yafai (2-0, 2 KOs) beat Miguel Cartagena (17-7-1, 8 KOs) by a second-round knockout. The fight was halted after the second round by Cartagena’s corner.