Sadam Ali has waited all of his life for this moment. He was an amateur champion, a National Golden Glove Champion, and an Olympian. But since turning professional in 2009 he has had only one goal in mind: to become a champion.
That goal can come to fruition this Saturday night at 10:00 PM (ET) on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark”, as Ali (22-0, 13 wins by KO) gets his long-awaited first shot at a championship, taking on Jessie Vargas (26-1, 9 wins by KO) for the vacant WBO Welterweight Title.
Ali fighting for the Welterweight Championship has been in the works for about a year, since defeating Francisco Santana last April. The holdup, however, was whom Ali would be facing for the title, as Jessie Vargas wasn’t originally supposed to be the opponent. Initially, Ali was scheduled to fight Timothy Bradley. Bradley turned down the fight with Vargas and gave up his championship in order to step up to fight Manny Pacquiao in Pac-Man’s final fight. Although Ali doesn’t blame Bradley, he was clearly disappointed.
“(Bradley) was a good champion, it would have been great to fight him. Me and him would have proven so much to me,” Ali told SportsGrid. “I understand Bradley’s situation and his decision. There are bigger fights, more money, and I understand why he made the decision he made.”
Instead, Ali now fights Jessie Vargas; the fighter many believe could have beaten Timothy Bradley last year. Their fight was abruptly stopped with ten seconds to go by the referee, who mistakenly thought the 10-second warning was actually the final bell. At the time the referee stopped the fight, Bradley was stumbling and in a tie-up with Vargas. Vargas celebrated thinking he had the fight won, but instead the decision went to the judges’ scorecards. Bradley was determined the winner by unanimous decision on points and Vargas felt screwed over. Once Bradley decided to step up to fight Pacquiao, it was determined that Vargas would get another shot at the Welterweight Championship and replace Bradley in the fight against Ali.
Fighting Jessie Vargas is not nearly the big time fight that boxing against Timothy Bradley would be for Sadam Ali. In fact, Ali believes the Bradley fight would have been both more exciting and much more challenging. He doesn’t believe Vargas presents much of an obstacle.
“I’m a better fighter than Jessie Vargas. I’ve been in there with so many better guys,” Ali said.
The styles of Vargas and Bradley also don’t compare for Ali.
“Jessie Vargas is a little bit more of a counter puncher, although he could be aggressive if he wants to. He’s more of a counter puncher though and doesn’t engage much, while Bradley does. He’s a little slicker at the same time,” Ali told us.
Another one of the reasons the fight with Vargas and Ali took so long to materialize is due to the location of the fight. Ali wanted to fight near his hometown of Brooklyn, while Vargas wanted to fight closer to his home in Los Angeles. Due to Ali’s record and his previous title shot guarantee, Ali feels that he should have been given this consolation.
“He just fought for a world title and now he has another opportunity,” Ali explained. “I want to fight in my hometown. He wants to fight in his hometown. I am the undefeated fighter, so if anyone’s a little bit ahead it’s me. It should be favored toward me, but we made it work out.”
If Ali does get past Vargas with the Welterweight Championship in hand, he’s not concerned with who his first challenger will be.
“I’ll just celebrate my win and I’ll be back at my gym. I’ll let Golden Boy handle my career like they always do. I don’t have a finger to point. I just want whatever fight comes to me” stated Ali.
The fights will definitely be coming for Ali should he beat Vargas on Saturday night. It’s one thing to be the undefeated challenger —— it’s another thing to be the undisputed champion.
Sadam Ali takes on Jessie Vargas Saturday, March 5, at 10:00 p.m. (Eastern) live on HBO.