Sadam Ali Finally Gets His Shot

By Robert Ecksel on March 4, 2016
Sadam Ali Finally Gets His Shot
Ali's 2014 bout in Atlantic City against Luis Carlos Abregu is his signature fight to date.

“I’m not one of those fighters who likes to study an opponent so much, because you don’t know what to expect when you’re in that ring…”

On Saturday, March 5, at the DC Armory in Washington, DC, in a fight televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark, Sadam Ali (22-0, 13 KOs), from Brooklyn, New York, fights former super lightweight champion Jessie Vargas (26-1, 9 KOs), from Las Vegas by way of LA, for the vacant WBO World welterweight title.

Ali has neither held nor fought for a world title, unlike Vargas, who wore the WBA World super lightweight belt before moving up in weight to 147. It was at welterweight that Vargas suffered the first loss of his career; a bitter loss to Timothy Bradley in his last fight, which many believe was another gift to Bradley from the omniscient boxing gods.

“It’s hard to deal with it because when it’s not corrected,” said Vargas. “You can’t accept it no matter what. All you can do is look forward.”

Vargas has revamped his team. He replaced his trainer, Erik Morales, after one fight, who had replaced Roy Jones Jr. Jesse’s new trainer, his sixth in eight years, is Dewey Cooper.
“I will be even more powerful,” he said. “You will notice it Saturday. I’m sure [Sadam Ali] is intimidated because he knows what I can do to an iron chin. But I’m sure he prepared the best that he can so he’ll show up and give a good fight the first couple of rounds.”

Ali can be hit, but he also boxes like a dream, especially against dangerous opponents, and can drop and stop a man, as he did in his fight against Luis Carlos Abregu last year.

I spoke with Ali and asked how he got his start.

“I started karate when I was five,” he said, “and I went from karate to boxing when I was eight and just took it step by step.”

Ali didn’t wander into a dōjō of his own accord.

“When I was younger, I was in the house with a lot of females, little girls, big girls, I mean everything. I would play games like paddy-cake and stuff and my dad would look at it sometimes and be like, ‘Wait a minute. Hold on. This is not looking right. I need my son to be in a man’s world.’ So he took me to karate at the age of five. My father has been there from day one—and that’s a blessing, because not everyone has that and that is very important.”

I was curious about how he made the transition from one martial art to another.

“I was actually really good at karate,” Ali said. “I had a whole bunch of trophies. I was always into combat sports. But when I was about six or seven growing up, I was watching Prince Naseem Hamed—and that guy just makes boxing look like fun. It doesn’t even look like people are punching each other in the face. He comes out dancing. He’s having fun. He’s in the ring smiling. He definitely influenced me and inspired me to want to become a boxer. That’s how I started off boxing. I started because of him. I so wanted to be just like him that I matched his style. But as I’ve grown, through the amateurs and turned into a professional, my style has changed.”

The fight with Abregu is Ali’s signature fight to date.

“For that fight I was the underdog,” said Ali. “I had a lot to prove. Abregu is a very, very dangerous fighter, a tremendous puncher. And I was super focused and ready to take a stand and show everybody that I was a special fighter. For that fight I just had to be aware and focused and not get caught with that deadly shot. But that was a big coming out for me. My first time on HBO, I had to prove a point—and I did.”

Sadam Ali is a smart fighter, an intelligent fighter. He is careful but extremely effective. He is also very athletic.

“I want to say that comes from God,” he told me. “I just want to thank God for that, because not everyone has that as a fighter and I’m glad I’m one of those fighters that has that.”

Ali was supposed to fight Timothy Bradley a while back, which would have catapulted him into the upper echelon. But that bout failed to materialize.

“I was supposed to fight Bradley, I believe after he fought Rios, or maybe even before. But that didn’t work out. Bradley had other plans and it sucks sometimes, but you just have to understand which fight makes more sense to them. And in this situation that’s exactly what happened. But at the end of the day, I am fighting for the WBO world title. That’s the most important thing for me.”

In the buildup to Saturday’s fight, Vargas has done his fair share of trash talking.

“I think Jessie Vargas is just trying to get in my head,” said Ali. “He can do his talking. That doesn’t affect me any way at all. He’s supposed to be confident. He’s just a confident fighter that’s decided to talk about it. I decide to show it. It doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t bother me. I’m not mad about it. It’s just boxing. You’re going to run into all kinds. It’s just one going through my career.

“I’m not one of those fighters who likes to study an opponent so much, because you don’t know what to expect when you’re in that ring. I’ve taken a few looks here and there, but not too many. I feel he’s a tough fighter that hates to lose. He comes to fight. And especially in this fight, he’s going to come even harder. You’ve got to be prepared for a fighter like this, and I feel if I’m prepared nothing can stop me.”

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Luis Carlos Abregu vs Sadam Ali 11 2014

Tim Bradley vs. Jessie Vargas: HBO World Championship Boxing Highlights

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