Nick Ball Deflated After Controversial Draw With Vargas

Liverpool’s Nick Ball appeared hard done by to earn just a draw with the WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas at the Kingdom Arena in Saudi Arabia.

Ball dropped Vargas twice – officially, although one should not have been called a knockdown – in rounds eight and 11 and took charge in the second half of the fight, but ultimately had not done enough on the scorecards that read 114-112 for Vargas, 116-110 for Ball, and 113-113.

Vargas won the first half of the fight without question. The champion from Mexico, now 36-1-1 (22 KOs) was sharp with his rangy shots but was also able to land well downstairs as he built an early lead.

Liverpool’s Ball, 19-0 (11 KOs) looked a little one-dimensional, and the height difference was stark. Vargas is nearly 5ft 8ins; Ball is 5ft 2ins, and you could easily detect what they would try to do. Vargas was trying to spear Ball with long one-twos; Ball was trying to move his head to work his way in.

In the second round Ball attempted to get in close but Vargas claimed him and they tussled untidily before Vargas steadied Ball with a jab moments later.

Ball was given a verbal warning from the referee Giovanni Poggi for throwing Vargas to the deck in the third, and Vargas was having a tough time containing the taller fighter, who at the same time was finding it tricky to breach Ball’s high guard.

Vargas showed good variety near the end of the session, landing with some left hooks to keep the Englishman honest, and the champion looked more relaxed with what was in front of him in the fourth. Ball’s nose was also reddening.

The Liverpudlian might have been better served working Vargas’ body, but he often over-reached when trying to stretch to connect on the Mexican’s face, and Vargas countered him stiffly with a smooth left hook as Ball repeatedly attacked from too far out.

Instead it was Vargas who was working the body of his opponent – a short right hand on the inside here; a lead left hook there; and after one such shot Ball dropped his gloves to protest to Poggi that he had been hit low. Whether he had or not, the action promptly resumed.

In the seventh, however, Vargas was clipped by an overhand tight and the Mexican wobbled unsteadily, his legs stiffened. Ball managed to repeat the trick again, and Vargas was in trouble and while Vargas kept whipping in his own shots in return, Ball had won the round big.

In a blasé show of defiance, Vargas went head-to-head with Ball at the bell to end the session, and it seemed Ball finally might have him where he wanted him.

As the fight wore on, Ball’s tail was up and Vargas seemed to be getting his legs back under him but in the final seconds of the eighth round the challenger went to throw Vargas again and as Vargas went flying Ball landed a left hand and Vargas went down. It was scored a knockdown. Vargas and his team vehemently protested, and they had a point. It was scored a knockdown unjustly when Ball should have been warned for the rough stuff.

Still, Ball was looking fitter and stronger as the fight went on, Vargas was having a tougher time keeping the challenger off him, and the Mexican was unable to control the distance or the pace. Ball’s timing started to click. It also seemed as though Vargas didn’t have the strength or spite to keep Ball off any longer.

Going into the 10th, Vargas might have been ahead but the momentum was with Ball.

Vargas stumbled from a right to the body combined with a slip in the 10th, but Vargas was sometimes guilty of moving to his left either with his chin in the air or his left hand low, and he invited Ball’s success with the right hand.

With two frames to go, it was worth questioning whether Vargas would have the strength back down at featherweight to stem Ball’s attacks, and the Mexican was soon on the back foot again, with Ball sweeping in from distance behind both hands.

Vargas did land a good left hook with about 30 seconds left in the round but as Ball tried to make amends a disorganised Vargas again was sent tumbling by a short right hook. It was untidy, but it was a legitimate knockdown.

Ball was unrelenting through the 12th, marching through everything that came his way and not giving Vargas a moment off until the final bell and when the draw was announced, there were boos from the crowd.

It marked a big step up for Ball, who said he knew he was ready for such a test.

Vargas lost his last fight, to O’Shaquie Foster, back in February 2023 up at super featherweight, and had fought only three times in four years.