By Keith Idec
The most magnificent night of Sadam Ali’s boxing life took place right where any New York kid would’ve dreamed it would happen.
The Brooklyn native upset Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden, the famed arena where Ali always wanted to fight from the time he took up boxing at 8 years old. The Garden has been Cotto’s home away from home throughout the Puerto Rican icon’s career, which made Ali feel like the visitor, despite that they fought in his hometown December 2.
Nothing, however, could take away from the incredible feeling Ali experienced after knocking off the heavily favored Cotto by unanimous decision to win the WBO super welterweight title. The 2008 Olympian hoped he would make his first title defense right back at The Garden.
There’s another card scheduled for May 12 at Madison Square Garden, though. Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) will attempt to become a three-division champion when he challenges WBA lightweight champ Jorge Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) in the main event that night (ESPN).
That’ll leave Ali (26-1, 14 KOs) to make his mandatory title defense against England’s Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. Turning Stone is more than a four-hour car ride from Brooklyn.
“I would say it is a little disappointing,” Ali told BoxingScene.com. “I was hoping that I would fight in my hometown, and hopefully at MSG again. That would’ve been beautiful. But everything can’t go my way, I guess. And honestly, for me, if I prepare myself the way I’m supposed to, it doesn’t matter where I fight. I could fight in his hometown and I’ll still win. I’ve just gotta be ready. That’s it.”
Ali would feel like he has more of an advantage over Smith if they were scheduled to fight at Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center. He still senses he’ll have an edge when he meets Smith, who’ll travel from his native Liverpool, England, for a 12-round, 154-pound title fight HBO will televise.
“If it were in Madison Square Garden or the Barclays, yes, for sure,” Ali said. “But it being upstate, it’s still nice. It’s still closer to home for me than him, of course. But I’m the one with the world title, so I’m supposed to have that advantage.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.