Photo: Will Hart
By Nat Gottlieb
You can’t get a title fight unless you’re in contention for one. That pretty much sums up what’s at stake in the Sadam Ali-Luis Carlos Abregu fight on the undercard of the bout between Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev at Boardwalk Hall on Nov. 8, 10:45 PM on HBO World Championship Boxing.
The unbeaten Ali (20-0, 12 KOs) is taking a big step up against Abregu, hoping to position himself for fights next year against the best boxers in the loaded welterweight division. The hard-hitting Abregu (36-1, 29 KOs) will be trying to avoid taking a step back.
Neither can afford to stumble.
A former Olympian who fights out of Brooklyn, Ali is well aware of the problems the power- punching Argentine presents. “Abregu is a seasoned veteran,” Ali says. “He hits hard and he comes to fight. It’s the type of win that will put me in the title picture.”
Due to differing styles, whoever is able to establish the way this fight goes down will have something of an edge. Ali is a well-schooled, slick boxer who likes to keep his opponent at a distance. Abregu prefers to engage so he’s in range to unleash his heavy hands. There’s little doubt the Argentine will be the aggressor.
In order to keep the 31-year-old Abregu off him and earn points on the scorecards, Ali needs to utilize his exceptional hand speed, superior foot movement and boxing skills. The Brooklyn fighter will also have to deal with the pressure of boxing on the undercard of what could be the fight of year.
Ali is well aware that he could win the first six rounds, then catch a bomb in the next one and get knocked out. The 26-year-old Ali will have to fight smart, be focused every second of every round, and above all, keep his defense up. For a young boxer in the biggest fight of his career, that’s no easy task.
Abregu, in addition to having a lot more experience than Ali against better fighters, has defeated unbeaten prospects before, most notably Thomas Dulorme in 2012 and Antonin Decarie last year. Ali’s style will be familiar to Abregu due to its similarity to Dulorme's, who tries to box from a distance and pile up rounds with his slick boxing skills. Ali, however, will want to avoid the same fate as the Puerto Rican fighter, who got knocked out in the 7th when trailing by just a point, 57-56, on all three scorecards.
Because he has turned away unbeaten prospects before, this will a “been there, done that moment” for Abregu. It surely amuses him that they keep throwing touted prospects at him, and he keeps beating them down.
Since suffering his only loss to Timothy Bradley in 2010, Abregu has reeled off seven straight victories, six by knockout. His last three fights were against boxers with a combined record of 73-1-1. But due to a hand injury, he could face Ali with a little ring rust. After beating Dulorme in November of 2012, he fought just once in 2013, and then was out of the ring for a year before he knocked out unbeaten Jean Carlos Prada (30-0) last April.
The two boxers aren’t strangers. In 2010, they sparred about 50 rounds together in Brooklyn at Gleason’s Gym, when Abregu was preparing to fight Bradley, and Ali was in training for just his eighth bout.
Now both are prepping for the same thing: a title fight in 2015.