By Keith Idec
Miguel Cotto isn’t just the biggest figurative challenge of Sadam Ali’s career.
He’ll also literally be the biggest boxer Ali has faced since the Brooklyn-based welterweight turned pro following the 2008 Summer Olympics. The 5-feet-9 Ali is about two inches taller than Cotto, but Ali hasn’t weighed in at more than 148¾ pounds for any of his fights the past six years.
Puerto Rico’s Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) has been at least a full-fledged junior middleweight since 2010 and figures to have a weight advantage over Ali (25-1, 14 KOs) when they step into the ring December 2 at Madison Square Garden. Ali acknowledged during a conference call Wednesday that he must be particularly careful against a bigger, stronger opponent in his first fight at the super welterweight limit of 154 pounds.
“Of course I’ve gotta be more careful,” Ali said. “He has tremendous power. I’m always careful in my fights, but this fight, I should be a little more careful and have my eye open a lot more and stay focused throughout the whole fight. He is the bigger guy. Like I said, I am moving up a weight class. This is a huge challenge for me, but I’m up for it.”
The 29-year-old Ali’s lone loss came against former WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas (27-2, 10 KOs), who beat Ali by ninth-round technical knockout in their fight for the then-vacant WBO 147-pound championship in March 2016 in Washington, D.C. Cotto is 37 and has fought just once since losing a unanimous decision to Canelo Alvarez in November 2015, yet remains a 14-1 favorite over Ali two weeks in advance of their HBO “World Championship Boxing” main event.
“It’s a huge challenge, a big step up, the biggest opponent in my career,” Ali said. “And I’m also stepping up to another weight class. But I love the challenge and I’m ready to do whatever I have to do. I’m not really, really down in weight. I’m where I’m supposed to be, so I’m excited.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.