If it weren't for his upcoming fight next month on HBO, you'd think that Sadam Ali would hate to see March come to a close.
Less than a week after renewing his contract with Golden Boy Promotions, Ali has been confirmed for the co-feature slot versus Francisco Santana on the April 25 show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The HBO-televised event is topped by the World heavyweight championship showdown between longtime divisional king Wladimir Klitschko and unbeaten challenger Bryant Jennings.
The bout marks the second straight HBO appearance for Ali, this one coming mere miles from his home in Brooklyn, New York.
“I’m excited to fight in my home state of New York and at Madison Square Garden,” said Ali (21-0, 13KOs), who is coming off of an impressive 9th round stoppage of Luis Carlos Abregu last November. “Some of the greatest fighters in the sport have made their mark at this venue; Muhummad Ali, Joe Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and I’m ready to be part of that history.
“Francisco is a tough fighter and I’m ready to take him on and with the help of my promoter Golden Boy Promotions move forward to becoming a world champion.”
Ali's aforementioned knockout win over Abregu served as the televised chief support to Sergey Kovalev's 12-round wipeout of legendary Bernard Hopkins last November in Atlantic City. The upcoming showdown with Santana gives the 2008 U.S. Olympian a premium showcase slot for his second consecutive fight.
“Coming off of an exciting match that saw him knockout a previously undefeated fighter, Sadam is now looking to take a next, crucial step up the welterweight ladder,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Ali's promoter. “With lightning-quick hands, true knockout power and a hunger to be the best in the division, the ‘World Kid’ is a must-see for all fans.”
Naturally, his opponent has designs on upsetting the apple cart.
“I’ve earned my way to the position I’m in because I’ve fought and beat fighters who were undefeated,” said Santana (22-3-1, 11KOs), a California-based spoiler who makes his debut both on HBO and on the East Coast. “Nothing has come easy to me on the way up. Fighting stiff opposition is what prepares a fighter for the next level and I’ll be ready for anything Sadam Ali brings.
“My promoter Gary Shaw told me if I kept winning he would get me a big fight, and here we are getting ready to fight one of the best young contenders in the world. A win against Ali will sky rocket my career and that’s exactly what I plan to do.”
Santana was once a rising prospect before hitting a rough patch in his career. However, he has always been matched tough—his losses have come to Karim Mayfield (twice) and current top junior middleweight contender Jermell Charlo, while also fighting to a draw with tough, unbeaten prospect Julian 'J-Rock' Williams.
The stiff level of competition has turned the 28-year old Santana combat-ready. Among his current 10-fight win streak are wins over previously unbeaten Eddie Gomez and Kendall Mena, the latter coming in his most recent ring performance this past January on ESPN2.
The upcoming bout versus Ali marks Santana's eight career match against an unbeaten fighter, a symbol of aggressive matchmaking that comes with most fighters under the Gary Shaw Productions banner.
“Francisco Santana is a warrior who grinded his way up the rankings and earned this fight against Ali on HBO,” stated Shaw, who also promotes Jennings. “This is a feel good story about a kid who fought his way to the big stage and bright lights of Broadway. Those bright lights are now shining on his career.
“I’ve always said, a fighter who is hungry is very dangerous, and Santana is famished. He wants to win this fight and show the world he’s worthy of a world title shot. I believe Santana is the underdog in the public’s eye, but he will once again fool the public with a great win on April 25.”
The addition of Ali-Santana marks the second significant card in a span of three weeks in which K2 Promotions—Klitschko's promotional company—will serve as lead promoter on an HBO telecast with a co-feature presented by outside promoters.
Unbeaten middleweight Gennady Golovkin headlines on May 16 versus Willie Monroe Jr., a bout that comes with the crowd primer of the HBO debut of World flyweight champion Róman Gonzalez in a defense versus Edgar Sosa.
“We’re happy to add this exciting co-feature to this extraordinary event headlined by the World Heavyweight Championship between Wladimir Klitschko and Bryant Jennings,” said Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions. “The matchup of these two rising stars should provide for a very strong opening fight to the HBO telecast.”