Rey Vargas vs Nick Ball fight analysis
Mexican Rey Vargas (36-1, 22KO) comes back down to featherweight to defend his WBC belt to No.1 challenger Nick Ball (19-0, 11KO) on March 8 in Riyadh on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight clash with Francis Ngannou.
Signed to Frank Warren, 26-year-old Ball has appeared on some of Queensberry Promotion’s biggest events, such as when he stole the show against Isaac Lowe on the Tyson Fury vs Dillian Whyte fight card at Wembley Stadium in 2022.
The Liverpool star has even headlined his own shows, such as when he smashed through Mexican Jesus Ramirez Rubio in under two-minutes at the York Hall in 2022, who was meant to be a tough test.
So it may come as a surprise to see the Queensberry fighter appearing on the undercard of an Anthony Joshua show. But it will make no difference to him whether Queensberry stablemate Tyson Fury or Matchroom’s Anthony Joshua headlines in the main event above him; he will be laser focused on his mission on the night.
A product of Everton Red Triangle – a century-old boxing gym in Liverpool – Nick Ball has been guided by top trainer Paul Stevenson since the amateurs. And now, the duo are set to enter into the club’s biggest fight of the century.
Ball signed with Frank Warren in February 2020, entered the top 10 in the UK by the end of that year, then gatecrashed the world rankings in 2022, where he has since climbed his way to the very top position until there’s only one man left in his way.
Mexican two-weight champion, Rey Vargas, is currently 7-1 in world championship contests. He first became a world ruler when he conquered the WBC super-bantamweight belt in February 2017 against Brit, Gavin McDonnell, in England. He defended that 122lbs belt five times before moving up to 126lbs.
To win the WBC featherweight version, he had to defeat highly-rated unbeaten Filipino, Mark Magsayo, who was 24-0 at the time.
When he dared to be great to become a triple champion, he fell short to O’Shaquie Foster, who outpointed him widely to collect the vacant WBC super-featherweight title in their last fight in February 2023.
His loss to Foster was his first fight up at super-featherweight and also the first time without his long-term trainer Ignacio Beristain in his camp or corner.
Aged 33, Vargas has fought just three times in over four and a half years, whereas Ball has had 10 bouts within that time.
Rey is rangy and sharp, with quick reflexes and head movement. He is a stand-up tall fighter, so Ball should be able to land his shots on such a big target.
He will have a considerable size, reach and experience advantages over his challenger on fight night, in what will be his 17th championship contest. Rey had already won his first world title before Ball had even had his professional debut.
Ball is aggressive and advancing, so Vargas will not have to go looking for him. The taller man will do best to keep the fight long, but Ball is known for getting in on the inside despite his short, hunched stature, similar to Mike Tyson. His explosiveness and quick, clever footwork allows him to land big left and right hooks from range, as he leaps in deftly with little effort. He also has a great jab and doesn’t neglect it, he uses it very often and it’s sharp, fast, accurate and powerful.
He puts his punches together extremely well and manages to get a lot of power and momentum behind each one. He can switch to southpaw to confuse opponents and keep them guessing. And after all of this variety and unloading power punches from the first round, the 26-year-old doesn’t tire out and can still go up through the gears in round one, the same way he can in round 12. As an athlete who lives the life, in tip-top shape. physically and mentally, he could keep up the same high pace from the first to the last round and looks like a fighter who would have belonged in the 15-rounds era.
Dev Sahni asked the public to choose his boxing nickname and ‘The Wrecking Ball’ is the alias that stuck, but others have referred to him as ‘The Scouse Gervonta Davies’, which tells you just how good this kid really is.
Despite the height and reach advantages, it’s going to be harder for Rey to punch down than it will be for Ball to punch up.
Around three-inches taller, Vargas will have to target the head, because it could be overly risky and potentially costly to reach too far down with his punches.
When the champion does let his hands go, he tends to be really open, so if Ball can be quick to counter, he could land some really clean shots on him, but the window of opportunity will be fleeting.
Vargas often carries his left hand down low so Ball could be landing his big overhand rights constantly. Ball is not easy to push back and he’s a determined, stubborn, proud man; you can just tell he doesn’t like to be overpowered, so if he’s pushed back, he aims to instantly overcome his opponents in retaliation again. The same applies when he gets punched; if his opponent throws three to four shots, he will throw five to six back. In his fight with Isaac Dogboe, there were a few occasions where he took the full force of a big left hand, but he took them well, and contrary to the commentary from Richie Woodhall, he wasn’t wobbled or weakened even once. There was on scenario where a left hook stunned him for a split-second so he held on, caught his breath, then went straight back in.
This may be his first appearance at this level, but he’s earned his No.1 mandatory position, and his few fights have been perfect preparation to take him into his maiden world title shot. His coming of age fight was the six-round brutal, bloody demolition of Isaac Lowe in Wembley Stadium in 2022; then he stopped the far taller, teak-tough Nathaniel Kakololo in the 12th; then he headlined against a Mexican with a first-round annihilation, all within the same year.
He stepped it up a level in 2023 when he defeated former IBO world champion, Ludumo Lamati, in the final round; then he dominated Isaac Dogboe, dropping the former WBO world champion in the fourth to win a very wide unanimous decision.
He’s a resolute, gritty, strong, ambitious young champion, who doesn’t know how to lose. If he doesn’t become a world champion in this fight, then it will be the next one or soon after. It’s hard to bet against this man winning a world title in his boxing career, it’s almost a certainty. And he’s still just 26!
The WBA belt is currently vacant, but there’s three other champions at 126lbs – Luis Lopez (IBF), Rafael Espinoza (WBO), and Hector Andres Sosa (IBO). So this weight class could be one of the most exciting to watch in 2024, especially with Naoya Inoue completing super-bantamweight and potentially moving up to chase even more greatness.
Ferocious challenger Nick Ball to stop the champion in rounds 5-8.