By Keith Idec

NEW YORK – Sadam Ali could’ve been difficult.

Once Liam Smith pulled out of their title fight scheduled for Saturday night, Ali could’ve carefully gone about finding a late replacement for the British contender. The Brooklyn native didn’t hesitate, though, when his handlers asked him to make his first title defense against dangerous challenger Jaime Munguia.

The unbeaten but unknown Mexican has faced a low level of opposition, yet has won 86 percent of his professional bouts by knockout since making his pro debut in July 2013 and is consider a bigger puncher than Smith. The 21-year-old Munguia isn’t as skilled as Ali, but he has been highly regarded as a top prospect and has been eager to prove himself against a championship-caliber opponent.

Munguia was willing to replace Canelo Alvarez on short notice when Gennady Golovkin was looking for a substitute late last month. Eric Gomez, Golden Boy Promotions’ president, told that Munguia (28-0, 24 KOs) is “definitely” a more dangerous opponent for the 29-year-old Ali (26-1, 14 KOs) than England’s Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs).

“It’s a guy that’s unknown, a guy that’s undefeated,” Gomez said. “You’re always worried about these undefeated guys because they still haven’t learned how to lose. This can be another Margarito. This can be another Julio Cesar Chavez. And we’re meeting him at the time when he’s starting to rise. You don’t know. You really don’t know. So I think the unknown is a little more dangerous.”

Gomez also commended Ali for his willingness to take a tough fight on such short notice. His promoters sense Ali remains anxious to prove himself because the WBO super welterweight champion hasn’t gotten the credit he feels he deserves for upsetting 37-year-old Puerto Rican icon Miguel Cotto (41-6, 33 KOs) by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder December 2 at Madison Square Garden.

HBO will televise the Ali-Munguia match from Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York (10 p.m. ET/PT).

“It’s difficult at this level when you lose a fight two weeks out,” Gomez said. “And Sadam was great. He could’ve gotten picky. He could’ve said, ‘I’m the champion. I need it to be this type of guy. If not, I’m not fighting.’ But they came to me and said, ‘Just save it. Do whatever you can. I don’t care who it is.’ And we went down the line and made calls, and we came across [Munguia]. And we said, ‘Look, he’s dangerous. But it saves the show. He’s available. He’s been training.’ He’s been training, so I spoke [Ali’s father] and he said, ‘Grab him.’

“There was no hesitation. He wanted to fight. [Ali’s father] said, ‘Sadam’s been training hard. It’s a little unfair, what happened. But we understand boxing. We can’t be picky right now. Get whoever you see fit. We’re ready for anybody.’ It tells me a lot about Sadam’s confidence, his mentality. That Cotto fight really matured him. It made him better. There were a lot of doubters out there. I don’t think anybody gave him a chance to win that fight, and it took him to another level now, mentally. And I Iove that about him, that he was willing to pretty much take on anybody.”

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.