Photo: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
In what started with the slowest of slow burns but wound up being a full-on five-alarm fire of a fight, welterweight prospect Sadam Ali remained undefeated with a ninth-round stoppage of Luis Carlos Abregu.
Despite the zero at the end of Ali’s professional record, there was little in the résumés of his previous 20 victims to suggest that the young Brooklynite had the necessary experience to take on a tough veteran like Abregu, whose only previous loss had been to Timothy Bradley and who two years ago inflicted the first defeat on highly touted Thomas Dulorme.
But in the early rounds, Abregu looked utterly befuddled by Ali’s footwork and lateral movement, showing an apparent inability to cut off the ring that was surprising in a man of 37 professional contests. The crowd grew rapidly restive and made its disapproval loudly known, but although it was well-hidden, there was intrigue developing in the ring, as Abregu progressively sought to impose his authority and keep Ali in front of him.
It felt as if maybe the tide had turned in his favor in the fifth, as he finally succeeded in restricting Ali’s lateral movement; even though he wasn’t quite able to land as cleanly as he wanted, the momentum appeared to have shifted. But in the sixth, Ali, wise to Abregu’s forward motion, began stepping back and firing punches as his foe moved toward him, and landed a straight right hand that dropped the advancing Abregu to his knees. Although he rose to his feet before the count ended, Abregu must have been glad to hear the bell to end that round.
Ali sought to maintain the advantage in the seventh, but although he won the first part of the round, Abregu snapped back his head with a long left and swung the pendulum back in his direction over the course of the second part. He maintained his pressure in the eighth, using jabs and long lefts to keep Ali in position, and uppercuts to find the target as Ali bobbed and weaved.
After hurting Ali with a long left hand early in the ninth, Abregu moved in for the kill, but Ali launched a thunderous left hook that almost took Abregu’s legs out from under him. As the two wounded combatants sized each other up more warily, Ali launched a right hand that, aided by a follow-up left, crumpled Abregu to the ground. He again beat the count, but he was hurt badly this time, and a follow-up barrage, though brief, was sufficient to persuade referee Harvey Dock to stop the contest at 1:54 of the ninth round.
Abregu fell to 36-2, Ali climbed to 21-0 and put himself in position for bigger and better things in 2015. And the crowd was no longer booing.