by David P. Greisman, live from ringside
NEW YORK CITY — Sadam Ali was made to work hard for 10 rounds against Francisco Santana, taking a unanimous decision that appeared much closer in the ring than it did on the scorecards.
Two judges had it 97-93, or seven rounds to three for Ali, while the third had a ridiculous shutout at 100-90.
Santana came out intent on pressuring Ali. He was aided by the fact that he had rehydrated from 146.4 pounds early on Friday afternoon all the way up to a reported 167 pounds by Saturday night. The ring also appeared to be a little smaller than normal, leaving Ali with less room to move.
But move is what Ali would have to do all night, trying to get space, stem the aggression, score points and avoid punishment. Ali would sometimes use quick flurries, then move, or would lead with a single shot before ducking down and moving away. Santana continued to push forward, letting go more when Ali was trapped temporarily against the ropes or in the corner.
Ali was able to land an extended combination in the second, leaving Santana covering up. Santana continued to come at Ali, who sustained the perceivably heavier blows well. And despite Santana’s sustained body attack, Ali was well able to move throughout the 10-round bout. Santana’s attack was a grinding one, though he did have moments like in the eighth round when he landed a good left hook, was caught with a shot from Ali, then retaliated with another left hook. Ali ruled the 10th round, which seemed important to many of those watching from ringside and on television.
In reality, the outcome had long since been decided.
At the halfway point, judge John Basile had Ali ahead four rounds to one, only giving Santana the fifth round. Don Trella had Ali ahead three rounds to two, giving Santana rounds four and five. Alan Rubinstein had a shutout.
By the end of the fight, Basile had given Ali rounds 1-4, 6, 7 and 10, and had given Santana rounds 5, 8 and 9. Trella had given Ali rounds 1-3, 6-8 and 10, and had given Santana rounds 4, 5 and 9. Rubinstein still had Ali the shutout winner on his card.
CompuBox punch counts from ringside did show Ali as statistically superior, crediting him with going 196 of 588 on the night (33 percent), while Santana was more active but less accurate, going 153 of 720 (21 percent). Ali was 149 of 351 (42 percent) with his power shots, which didn’t seem to have as much steam as Santana’s except for when Ali sat down on them. Santana was 117 of 484 (24 percent). In terms of jabs, Ali was 47 of 237 (20 percent) while Santana was 36 of 236 (15 percent).
Ali, 26, of nearby Brooklyn, New York, moves to 22-0 with 13 KOs. He is a 2008 Olympic alternate who turned pro at the beginning of 2009 and developed at a gradual base, stepping up last November with a ninth-round technical knockout of Luis Carlos Abregu.
Santana, 28, of Santa Barbara, California, falls to 22-4-1 with 11 KOs. Those other defeats came against Karim Mayfield (once by split decision in 2008, once by technical knockout in 2009) and Jermell Charlo (by unanimous decision in 2011). His draw came against rising prospect Julian Williams, also in 2011. He had won 10 in a row before the Ali fight.
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]