By Keith Idec
The night of December 2 was an emotional one for Junior Younan.
The undefeated super middleweight prospect watched with pride from a ringside seat as one of his close friends, Sadam Ali, accomplished his dream by upsetting Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden. Brooklyn’s Ali was a huge underdog before their 12-round, 154-pound title bout, but out-boxed the Puerto Rican legend to win a unanimous decision and the WBO super welterweight title.
The Garden has been Cotto’s home away from home throughout his Hall-of-Fame career, but Younan was a loud, proud Ali supporter that night.
“I was three rows behind Sadam’s corner,” Younan told BoxingScene.com. “I was going crazy. It brought tears to my eyes, man. Sadam’s a great guy. Sadam’s a very good friend of mine. It’s amazing to see somebody close to you achieve what he has achieved. I’m super proud of Sadam.”
The 22-year-old Younan, also a Brooklyn native, has used Ali’s accomplishment as inspiration during training camp for his fight Friday night against another undefeated 168-pound prospect, Ronald Ellis. Younan (13-0, 9 KOs) and Ellis (14-0-1, 10 KOs), of Lynn, Massachusetts, will fight for the vacant USBA super middleweight title in a “ShoBox: The New Generation” main event at WinnaVegas Casino Resort in Sloan, Iowa (10 p.m. ET).
“It’s a lot of motivation,” Younan said of Ali’s victory over Cotto. “He’s from Brooklyn, I’m from Brooklyn, we grew up in the same gym, around the same people. So it just shows you if he could do it, why can’t I do it?”
Andre Rozier, Ali’s head trainer, is an assistant trainer for Younan, alongside his father and head trainer, Sherif Younan Sr. Together they’ve helped him complete by far the best training camp of Younan’s four-year pro career.
Younan admits he hasn’t always prepared properly, but he realizes it’s time to start proving he can make what’s often a trying transition from prospect to legitimate contender.
“This is a big opportunity for me,” Younan said. “I can’t waste it. I know that. It’s just time to buckle down and show everybody what I can really do. I want people to wanna see me again. At the end of the day, it’s show business. I’m gonna put on a show, from my entrance, to my performance, and hopefully everybody wants to see it again. I know for a fact that I’m gonna perform to the best of my ability.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.