Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |


Sadam Ali excited to face Santana in Klitschko-Jennings co-feature

Sadam Ali lets out a primal scream after stopping rugged welterweight veteran Luis Abregu in nine rounds in November 2014. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Sadam Ali lets out a primal scream after stopping rugged welterweight veteran Luis Abregu in nine rounds in November 2014. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Sadam Ali will be the hometown favorite when he faces streaking spoiler Francisco Santana in the co-featured bout to the Wladimir Klitschko-Bryant Jennings heavyweight title bout on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The 26-year-old Brooklynite will make his second HBO appearance just one week ahead of the May 2 mega-spectacle of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao showdown.

It’s fitting that the unbeaten welterweight prospect’s highest profile fight to date takes place one week before arguably the biggest boxing event of his lifetime.

Eight years ago – when a teenage Ali was the reigning national Golden Gloves champ at featherweight and a standout on the U.S. amateur squad – the native New Yorker of Yemeni descent was inspired to pursue a pro career after watching what was then considered boxing’s Super Bowl, Oscar De La Hoya vs. Mayweather.

“I think when Mayweather fought De La Hoya in 2007 was when I first felt like I wanted to do big things as a professional boxer,” Ali told “I remember that fight well because it was so hyped up and so big. That’s when I said to myself ‘I can’t wait until I’m in that position.'”

He’s nowhere near that position yet, but he’s headed in the right direction thanks to an impressive performance against once-beaten contender Luis Abregu last November.

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Ali’s ninth-round stoppage against Abregu was his first appearance on HBO, and the network appears to have taken an interest in the flashy but skillful boxer after the way he dismantled the rugged Argentine veteran, who had knocked out Thomas Dulorme and had only lost (via decision) to Tim Bradley.

“It’s a dream come true for me to be fighting on this network,” Ali said. “I’ve grown up dreaming about fighting on HBO, and now I’m doing it. Time flies. I’m very excited. It’s great feeling and I’m ready to continue being on HBO.”

Prior to the Abregu fight Ali (21-0, 13 knockouts) had his share of doubters among boxing writers and hardcore fans. The 2008 U.S. Olympian did not look special, the way touted amateur stars are supposed to appear, in eking out a split 10-round decision over solid-but-ordinary Jeremy Bryan last August and suffering a knockdown against Jay Krupp en route to an eight-round decision over the journeyman in 2013.

Ali says he was well aware of his doubters going into the Abregu fight.

“I knew I was being judged on those two fights,” he said. “I didn’t look as good as I wanted to in those fights, so I didn’t blame anybody who doubted me. I had to fight someone like Abregu in order to get the fans’ respect.

“Being an underdog was big motivation because had more to prove. Again, I don’t even blame fans for thinking he was going to beat me. Look at his record, how many knockouts he had, and the fact that he only lost to Bradley. But proving them wrong and making new fans was my whole plan.”

Ali’s plan played out beautifully, as he appeared to put all the considerable facets of his game together in one fight.

“It’s my best performance yet, but I do see better performances in my future.” Ali said. “I stopped him in the ninth round, which was important for me. A lot of people see my speed and movement and give me credit for that, but I do have power. I do plan on letting it out a little more.”

Fans will see if Ali “lets it out” against Santana on Saturday. The 28-year-old native of Santa Barbara, California has only been stopped once, a fifth-round TKO against awkward puncher Karim Mayfield back in 2009. Since that loss, Santana (22-3-1, 11 KOs) has gone 11-1-1 in his last 13 bouts. The loss was an eight-round decision to Jermell Charlo; the draw was a six-rounder against Julian Williams. Both Charlo and Williams are currently unbeaten RING-rated junior middleweights.

At welterweight, Santana is dangerous, as he proved by outslugging and outpointing hot prospect Eddie Gomez last June.

“He’s a guy who keeps coming and as the rounds go on, he comes harder,” Ali said of Santana. “He’s a very tough fighter. I know that.

“I did not think he would beat Gomez, but it just looked like he wanted it more. For sure, I’m ready for whatever he brings. I’m the type of fighter who adapts. If he comes straight to me, I’m ready for that. If he waits, I’ll take it to him.”

It’s clear that Ali, who trains in Brooklyn and is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, is eager to keep his dream alive and is thrilled to be doing it in front of New York-area fans.

“I’ve fought in the Theater (small room of Madison Square Garden) with the city Golden Gloves, but never in the big stge. I’m excited and ready to go out and put on a performance.”