Sadam Ali (25-1, 14 KO) isn’t exactly who fight fans were hoping to see across the ring from Miguel Cotto (41-5, 33 KO) on December 2 at Madison Square Garden, when Cotto returns for what he says will be his final fight.
But Ali, 29, does have the fight, and he’s got the chance to retire a living legend, who at 37 isn’t in his prime anymore, but showed in August that he can still fight with a dominant defeat of Yoshihiro Kamegai.
“It's a huge challenge, a big step up. The biggest opponent in my career, and I'm also moving up to another weight class. But I love the challenge, and I'm ready to do whatever I have to do,” Ali said in a conference call with media.
Ali added that he won’t let the moment get the best of him.
“I've been fighting since I was eight years old, and I've been in big arenas. Of course, it's going to be a little bit more in this one,” he said. “But this is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I took the challenge against a legend.
“I dare to be great, like Oscar says. I fear nothing, and I don't hold back. This is the opportunity of a lifetime in Madison Square Garden. It's going to be amazing. I feel like we're going to put on a great show, and I'm excited, and I'm ready.”
Ali admits that, like many of us, he’s been a fan of Cotto over the years.
“I followed his career, and I've also been to a few fights. I always liked his style and what he did,” he said. “He's fought the best. He's had some great fights. So if you love boxing, you're going to grow up watching Miguel Cotto.”
As for the matchup itself, Ali says he’s prepared, and that he’s not taking Cotto remotely lightly as the surefire Hall of Famer looks to step away from the ring.
“It's a great challenge. He has a lot of great things in his fight arsenal,” Ali said. “He has great power. He has a great jab. He can come forward, and he's also learned how to move a little bit too. So it's a mix of everything, and I have to be prepared and ready for all that. I have to be at my best. I have to be in the greatest shape if I want to perform like I need to.
“Of course I've got to be more careful. He has tremendous power. I'm always careful in my fights, but this fight, of course, I should be a little more careful, and I'll have my eyes open a lot more and stay focused throughout the whole fight. He is the bigger guy. Like I said, I'm moving up a weight class. This is a huge challenge for me, but I'm up for it.”