Sadam Ali to defend 154-pound title against Liam Smith on May 12 on HBO
Sadam Ali shocked the boxing world when he defeated Miguel Cotto in December in the future hall of famer’s farewell bout.
The Brooklynite moved up to 154 pounds for the opportunity, and now he has a title to defend at his new weight.
He’ll put his WBO junior middleweight title on the line against former beltholder Liam Smith on May 12 at Turning Stone in Verona, New York, Golden Boy Promotions announced Monday.
“It felt great to accomplish my dream of becoming world champion,” said Ali (26-1, 14 knockouts), rated No. 4 by THE RING. “I’m excited to defend my title and to demonstrate that it is not up for grabs. Liam Smith is a great fighter and I’m sure he’ll be ready, but so will I.”
Ali’s first title defense is on the same night as the highly anticipated Jorge Linares-Vasyl Lomachenko lightweight championship bout on ESPN, but the shows won’t conflict.
Golden Boy promotes both Ali and Linares, and as part of the pact with Top Rank to complete the fight with Lomachenko, the ESPN start time was moved to 8 p.m. ET. The HBO telecast of Ali-Smith begins at 10 p.m. ET.
For Ali, it will be his third time fighting on the network. The 29-year-old was knocked out by Jessie Vargas in 2016, but rebounded with the Cotto win and is now out to establish that he’s for real. Of course, questions remain about just where Ali stands in the sport.
Cotto, after all, was at the end of his career and announced earlier in 2017 he would retire at year’s end. The 37-year-old Puerto Rican suffered a torn left biceps in Round 7, but still, Ali looked good.
The 2008 U.S. Olympian showed off an impressive jab, and he was quick on his feet moving backward. Ali also was able to connect on plenty of power shots, a few of which wobbled Cotto.
Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) earned the opportunity to regain his title with a second consecutive victory over countryman Liam Williams last year.
Smith, 29, won a title with a stoppage of John Thompson in 2015, and after two successful defenses against obscure opponents, Canelo Alvarez laid a nine-round beating on the Brit.
“I’m very happy that we’ve got this fight,” said Smith. “I’m looking forward to pitting myself against a good fighter in Sadam Ali, a former Olympian and now world champion who is coming off the back of a good win against Miguel Cotto.
“I’m confident going into this fight. I know I’m naturally the bigger man, and that will come into play, especially in the type of fight that I think it will be.”
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger