(Sadam Ali warms up before facing Luis Carlos Abregu; via @hboboxing on Twitter)
ATLANTIC CITY — Sadam Ali fucked up Luis Carlos Abregu Saturday night, stopping him in the 9th, a result foreseen by no one.
The young, unproven ex-Olympian was making a huge step up by taking on the dangerous welterweight puncher, a step perhaps overdue and at the same time too soon.
Early on, Abregu was fighting with a complete lack of danger, taking a very defensive-minded approach. That suited Ali just fine; he didn’t plan to engage with Abregu’s power anyway, and he was able to land just enough shots to win rounds between his obsessive lateral movement.
This didn’t suit the fans, but the second half of the fight, Ali won them over. He put Abregu down with a right hand that he didn’t put everything into, not that he needed to, because Abregu walked right into it. The 7th saw Abregu hurt repeatedly. In the 8th round Ali was showing signs of slowing down, even amid his funky defensive twists and ducks, because he stopped throwing much back that round.
Abregu, surely aware he was down on the cards and maybe sensing Ali’s exhaustion, came out as a serious man in the 9th. Ali, commendably, stood his ground, trading blows with Abregu and getting the better of it. A combination put Abregu down and on queer street, then a flurry of hard shots convinced the referee to save him. Some fans were unhappy. It was the right call, though.
It’s hard to say how impressed we should be about Ali here given Abregu’s shoddy performance; on the other hand, Ali was still better than at least I expected he could be. At minimum, this is a performance that suggests we should take Ali seriously and not dismiss him so thoroughly before his next high-level fight.