The War Report: Tools of the Trade (Week 48, 2017)
“I’d just like to say, when we were entering into this fight, all the naysayers who thought that Sadam couldn’t win, are probably gonna be the same guys that Sadam won by whatever — Cotto was an older man, or maybe even washed up — I don’t want to hear it. He came into the fight an underdog, he left this fight a world champion — give him the credit that he’s due.”
Trainer Andre Rozier concluded Saturday night’s post-fight press conference by getting in front of the inevitable nitpicks of Sadam Ali’s biggest win, but in the unanimous decision upset over Miguel Cotto, the championing of his fighter went far deeper than that on the HBO telecast that night.
“Listen to me nephew — look at me! You’re making it harder than it’s gotta be. Really, you are,” said Rozier to Ali in the corner after the fourth round. “Use your jab and walk him, be smart. And don’t pull up in the air — get low — don’t pull up in the air. Double that jab and start hitting him here. You hurt hum again and you’re not looking at what you’re doing. Let’s walk him then come up the middle with the uppercut.”
After the first quarter of the fight had passed, Ali not only showed that he belonged in there with Cotto in his debut at 154-pounds, but also proved his ability to hurt the Puerto Rican star as he did in the second round with a straight right hand.
“Don’t wait for him! You’re waiting for him!,” Rozier calmly, yet boldy stated after the fifth. “Let’s get that jab poppin’ and control the action. Let’s go!”
Ali, 29, clearly had the advantage of youth and speed against the 37-year old, but his lack of experience showed a few times throughout the fight — especially in the instances where Cotto’s legs wobbled, and seemingly the only one in the Madison Square Garden was the man that caused them to. The fight was competitive from the jump, but Cotto started to make Ali look like the 8–1 underdog he was drawn up to be in the sixth round. Cotto’s jab and left hooks to the body made him even more careful during the entire seventh, and just when the unraveling process started to take shape, Ali scored a left hand that stunned his counterpart once again in the eighth.
“Nice and relaxed,” Rozier said before the ninth. “Sadam, take a deep breath. Reset yourself. Do you want to win this fight? Keep your hands up and use your jab! It’s not that diffic — he’s getting tired Sadam! You hurt him, and you always fall back. Follow-up your attack!”
Cotto (41–6, 33 KOs), who could also be seen with his trainer Freddie Roach between rounds, was his usual self in the heat of a close fight. Emotionless is an apt word, but not panicked would be a better description. The disposition of his family sitting ringside, however, was unnerving to say the least, and in the opposite corner after a bounce back round in the ninth — one that Cotto seemingly let him have — was a lively Rozier.
“We can win this baby,” he said with excitement. “We can win this if you turn it up, but don’t be lazy and don’t be careless!”
Ali (26–1, 14 KOs) answered back with a very good tenth, and going into the championship rounds of an extremely close fight, Rozier jockeyed his horse into position.
“Sit down and relax. Listen to me God dammit — Listen to me!,” Rozier yelled. “You’re two rounds way from being the WBO junior middleweight champion of the world, do you understand me? Hone up. Stop letting him get away when you hurt him — do you hear me? — don’t let him get away when you hurt him. Go to the body then got to the head from here. Stop opening up the punch!”
Of course, Ali certainly did enough to earn a unanimous decision win with trustworthy scores of 115–113, 115–113 and 116–112. Not only winning the WBO junior middleweight title, but earning respect to those who didn’t give him all that much of a chance in the first place. Ali even got to do it at home, but playing the role of spoiler for this occasion, he was still booed during the HBO post-fight interview. Ali took it in stride and understood the situation, but as he exited the arena, he was carried out on the shoulders of his team to the chants of “ALI” and in a moment he will surely never forget, there was the man that helped will him through it.
What goes on in the corner in-between rounds has become somewhat of a lost art in the televising of boxing nowadays, and the jockeying of Ali by Rozier on this night was a primed example as to how this available insight isn’t utilized enough. Rozier’s great instruction wasn’t an anomaly either, as last March you could hear him spur on Daniel Jacobs when he fought Gennady Golovkin to a razor thin decision. On a night where Rozier’s words could be heard loud and clear during and after the fight, the credit he couldn’t bestow was on himself, and maybe that should be done for him by becoming 2017’s Trainer of the Year.
Fight of the Week
Sadam Ali UD12 Miguel Cotto (WBO 154) | December 2 — New York, New York
KOs of the Week
Aleksei Papin KO1 Ismayl Sillah (200) | November 27 — Moscow, Russia
Eduard Troyanovsky KO1 Carlos Portillo (147) | November 27 — Moscow, Russia
Fighter of the Week
Sadam Ali (26–1, 14 KOs)
From this past week and in order of weight
World title bouts
WBO 154 | Sadam Ali UD12 Miguel Cotto (115–113 x2, 116–112) | Ali the new WBO junior middleweight title holder
WBC 122 | Rey Vargas UD12 Oscar Negrete (119–109 x2, 120–108) | Vargas defends the WBC junior featherweight title for the 2nd time
vacant WBO 108 | Angel Acosta TKO10 Juan Alejo | Acosta wins the vacant WBO junior flyweight title (Moving up inweight, Kosei Tanaka vacated the belt earlier in the week)
200+ — Sergey Kuzmin TDRAW3 Amir Mansour — Joey Dawejko UD8 Kelvin Nunez — Darmani Rock TKO1 Carlos Cotto
200 — Arsen Goulamirian KO3 Hamilton Ventura — Fabio Turchi TKO4 Demetrius Banks — Luke Watkins TKO8 Mike Stafford — Aleksei Papin KO1 Ismayl Sillah
175 — Igor Mikhalkin UD12 Doudou Ngumbu (117–111, 116–112 x2)
160 — Ramon Alvarez UD10 Johnny Navarrete
154 — Michel Soro KO3 Ivan Montero —Tyrone Brunson TKO8 Manny Woods — Khuseyn Baysangurov KO1 Nick Klappert — Ashley Theophane RTD7 Paata Varduashvili — Jaron Ennis KO2 George Sosa
140 — Eduard Troyanovsky KO1 Carlos Portillo — Georgi Chelokhsaev TKO10 Evgeny Pavko
130 —Lamont Roach Jr. UD10 Rey Perez (99–91 x3) — Avery Sparrow UD10 Jose Lopez (96–94 x2, 97–93)
126 — Toka Kahn Clary TKO7 John Moralde — Ronny Rios UD10 Deivi Julio (100–90, 99–91, 97–93) — Irvin Gonzalez TKO6 Marlon Olea — Manuel Avila UD8 Diuhl Olguin (78–74 x2, 77–75)