SAN DIEGO, Calif., May 12, 2018 – New York native Sadam Ali rewrote the script for Miguel Cotto’s farewell performance in December with a unanimous decision over Cotto to become the new WBO junior middleweight champion.
Ali (26-1, 14 KOs), also a two-time New York Golden Gloves champion, defends his title for the first time in his home state of New York at the Turning Stone Casino. The first airs on HBO Boxing starting at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m PT. The late start time accommodates the other major card of the night at Madison Square Garden; with luck, fans can watch them both back to back.
Munguia an unexpected opponent for Ali
Ali originally expected to face former junior middleweight titleholder Liam Smith of Great Britain, but Smith bowed out just two weeks ago due to a skin illness. Ali, who is an observant Muslim, didn’t want to postpone the fight due to the start of Ramadan next week. Rashidi Ellis and Liam Williams were floated as possible opponents. Instead, exciting young Mexican prospect Jaime Munguia (28-0, 24 KOs) will step up to take advantage of the opportunity.
Munguia was originally training for another bout the same night. He was also considered as a late replacement against Gennady Golovkin last weekend in place of Canelo Alvarez, but the Nevada State Athletic Commission would not approve the bout due to the weight difference and the relative lack of experience against top-tier talent.
But when Munguia was offered Ali, he didn’t hesitate. It’s a smart move for the 21-year-old, who has nothing to lose and everything to gain from the experience, the exposure to a national American television audience, and the chance to win a title.
“I want to thank everyone involved, but above all I thank Sadam Ali for the opportunity,” said Munguia. Alluding to being disallowed as Golovkin’s opponent the prior week, Munguia said “Though all the criticisms made about me have motivated me to be where I am, I will show that they were all wrong. I will crown myself as world champion on May 12.”
The 29-year-old champion and 2008 U.S. Olympic team member isn’t rattled by the last minute change. “I’m determined to defend my title for the first time on May 12,” said Ali. “It doesn’t matter who, and it doesn’t matter how. Jaime Munguia will have the opportunity of a lifetime when he fights me, but I’m walking away with my hand up in victory and the belt around my waist.”
New champion faces a young, hungry prospect
The fans are getting a far more entertaining fight with an aggressive young opponent. Ali might regret facing Munguia over Smith. It’s a dangerous fight for the new champion with many unknowns. Munguia is four inches taller at 6-foot-1, and eight years younger than the 29-year-old Ali. It is only the second fight in the United States for Munguia. He has fought nothing but Mexican opponents and has blown through most of them in a few rounds. He’s only been past six rounds once, a 10 round shutout unanimous decision.
Munguia is fighting on Ali’s turf in New York. Ali learned in his fight against Cotto to make every minute count, and not to let rounds slip away. He needs to do the same in this bout, and lean on his experience against many types of opponents. Munguia has power and he will be dangerous, but he may also be one-dimensional in the ring. If Ali can fight smart and at distance, he can take Munguia deep into unfamiliar territory. Ali can also lean on trainer Andre Rozier to keep him focused as he did against Cotto.
Opening bout on HBO should produce fireworks
The opening televised fight should produce real fireworks. WBC World Super Bantamweight Champion Rey Vargas (31-0, 22 KOs) of Mexico faces Azat “Crazy A” (14-2, 11 KOs) Hovhannisyan of Yerevan, Armenia, now living in Los Angeles, in a scheduled 12-round title fight.
Vargas, an unusually tall bantamweight at 5-foot-7.5, is making his third title defense against Hovhannisyan. Both have solid knockout percentages; 71 percent for Vargas and 70 percent for Hovhannisyan. So don’t count on this one going the distance.
Hovhannisyan is riding an eight-bout winning streak, most recently a sixth-round knockout of Ronny Rios on March 9. The Armenian comes in highly motivated with a go-for-broke sort of personality. Vargas would be smart to take advantage of his height and steer clear of Hovhannisyan’s power, but it’s not likely. Fans should get to enjoy a wild scrap.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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