Sadam Ali…and now what?

By Paul Magno on December 4, 2017
Sadam Ali…and now what?
Selling off the defending world champ for chum is not a smart business move. (Getty)

Who can Ali be matched against so as to ensure that he not only builds his star power, but also stays champion? That’s a tough one…

Now that Sadam Ali has registered the unlikeliest of upsets over retiring legend Miguel Cotto, the following question has to be addressed—What the hell do you do with Sadam Ali?

Ali’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya might’ve been better suited to the task of planning his fighter’s future had his guy lost last Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. After all, De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions has been in the business of feeding their fighters (not named Canelo Alvarez) to bigger names as quality B-sides for quite a while now. Actually, aside from the Canelo business, their production of B-side opponents has been the most profitable part of their operation. A-side fighters such as Floyd Mayweather, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, and, of course, Miguel Cotto have all benefitted from Golden Boy’s ability to wrangle up a salable (and beatable) opponent for a moderate financial score.

Had Ali turned in a spirited, but losing effort against Cotto, Oscar could’ve been on the phone the very next day with one of the bigger players at 147 or 154, someone looking for an opponent with a “name” who can be sold as a tough opponent, but not be so tough as to actually be able to win.

And, yeah, they can still do that with the 29-year-old “World Kid” from Brooklyn. The reality is that, even with the heavy weight of Cotto’s name on his résumé, Ali is still the same fighter he was before the Cotto fight—talented, but flawed and utterly beatable when fighting above the second tier of contenders. Ali’s upset win deserves big applause, but it also demands perspective. It’s not like he mowed down a prime Cotto with a stellar game plan and gritty resistance; He barely edged past a 37-year-old Cotto whose torn left bicep made him essentially a one-armed fighter for the second half of the fight and whose head seemed more focused on his retirement afterparty than the task at hand.

But the Sadam Ali dynamic has changed completely by winning Cotto’s WBO junior middleweight belt.

One simply does not piss away a quality bargaining chip like a world title belt, especially one taken off the waist of a retiring Hall of Famer. Boxing nerds may bristle at the idea that alphabet soup belts matter in boxing, but they DO. The WBO belt adds value to Ali’s status as a fighter and, ultimately, to his marketability. It also makes it harder to simply send him off as an opponent to a bigger, better fighter outside the promotional stable. Unless big money is on the table for the Ali/WBO belt bundle, selling off the defending world champ for chum is not a smart business move.

Golden Boy, if they’re smart (and that’s a huge “if” when looking over their track record), will look to keep that belt around Ali’s waist for as long as it takes to find a bigger star, under contract, who can come along and take him down.

So, then, the question becomes: Who can Ali be matched against so as to ensure that he not only builds his star power, but also stays champion?

That’s a tough one because it’s hard to see Ali beating too many of the legitimate top 15 or 20 junior middleweights in the world. If he sticks to fighting top 10 contenders from the godawful WBO rankings, he may make it to the point where Golden Boy has fattened him up enough to serve him up as some other fighter’s Thanksgiving turkey.

An especially cynical pairing of Ali with Antonio Margarito, who recently got a ranking from the WBO for his gift of a win over Carson Jones, could actually make some money somewhere and would serve to beef up Ali’s résumé  a bit.

They could also find a way to bring in usual fall guys Yoshihiro Kamegai, recently retired Jesus Soto Karass, and maybe Pablo Cesar Cano as filler opponents for an Ali who is somewhere between salvageable fringe champion and future sacrificial offering.

There’s also the chance that Ali could grow into the role of true champion—some fighters DO become better with a belt.

In any possible scenario involving Sadam Ali, though, the best strategy seems to be: “Hold on, cross your fingers, and figure out the best option later on.”

Until then, Golden Boy will have to tweak the championship matchmaking process like hell to get their fighter to where he needs to be without getting him beat beforehand.

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  1. Sabu Dastagib 02:03pm, 12/04/2017

    “Salvageable fringe champion and future sacrificial offering”?! Christ! That doesn’t even qualify as a back handed compliment! Don’t know who the dipshit was that picked Ali for Cotto’s swan song but any Goddamned fool could see that this guy could turn out to be the turd in Cotto’s retirement party punchbowl!

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