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Q&A: Sadam Ali

Interview by Mariano A. Agmi
Photos by Ed Mulholland

On Saturday, August 21, unbeaten Bedford-Stuyvesant prospect Sadam “The World Kid” Ali (8-0, 4 KOs) faces experienced Costa Rican Lenin Arroyo (20-12-1, 4 KOs) as part of “The Big Challenge” pay-per-view telecast featuring Polish sensation Tomasz Adamek against Michael Grant at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

Ali, the first and only Arab-American boxer to represent the United States in the Olympics and the first New Yorker since former heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe to make an Olympic team, spoke to on Tuesday about his upcoming bout, his goals, and the boxer responsible for igniting his love of the fight game.

Sadam, how’s training coming along for your bout against Lenin Arroyo on Saturday?

Training is going well. I was getting ready for a fight at the Aviator Arena on August 7th, but I couldn’t find an opponent and the fight was cancelled, so I’ve been in the gym. I was already focused on this fight though, so it didn’t really bother me. I’ve been training for a couple of months, I’ve worked hard and I’m ready for this fight. This is my first fight on pay-per-view, so I’m excited and ready to go.

You have 8 professional fights and your opponent on Saturday has 33 professional fights. What do you know about Arroyo and does anything about him concern you?

He has more experience and he’s been in the game longer. He has a lot of fights, but I’ve been in there with Martinus Clay that had over 40 fights before, so I just have to stay cautious and just be aware of anything that comes at me. I’ve been working hard and I know what I have to do. I’m not underestimating anyone but I should be victorious on Saturday.

You recently opened a gym in Brooklyn. Are you training out of your own gym?

Yes, I’m working out of my own gym on 5th Avenue and 69th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I just opened the gym on July 10th. A lot of people are joining. I see little kids coming in and it reminds me of me of when I started my boxing and it puts a smile on my face. They look up to me and I get a chance to work with some of them and make them happy, so everything is working out great.

As for the gym, it has two levels. There’s an sporting apparel shop on the ground floor. You can buy anything you want from a boxing perspective there: we have headgear, cups, shirts, and we have lots of Everlast equipment.
Downstairs is the gym. We have two rings, two treadmills and about twelve heavy bags.

Being that you’re of Yemeni descent, I’m assuming that Prince Naseem Hamed had a lot to do with your interest in boxing. Is that correct?

That’s correct! He was a great fighter and a great entertainer, and he’s one of the main reasons why I started boxing when I was 8 years old.

Naseem was a devastating puncher, a southpaw with an unorthodox style. Is there anything about his boxing style that you’ve taken on and added to your arsenal?

When I first started boxing, I fought just like him with my hands down. But as I grew, my style changed and I realized I had to work with my hands up. I do have the slickness that he had, I just don’t always use it. But when I do pull it out, it looks nice. I just know when to use it and when not to.

You’re the first Arab-American to represent the US in the Olympics, which is a major accomplishment, and also the first Olympian from New York City since Riddick Bowe. Tell me about your amateur experience.

I was the first Olympian from New York since Riddick Bowe in 1988, so it’s a great accomplishment. It feels great to tell people that you’re a 2008 Olympian, because it’s not easy to do that. I worked really hard to do that, I had to beat the best in the United States and fight around the world to make it to the Olympics. It was a great experience and I learned a lot. Now I’m ready to take what I learned to the pros, all the way to the top. As I go on, each fighter I face, I feel like I learn something every time out. I watch my fights and see what I’m doing wrong, not just what I’m doing right.

Why do you think that there haven’t been more Arab-American fighters or Muslim fighters coming out of the United States?

I think it’s because they need to see someone doing it. Just like I started boxing after watching Prince Naseem, now there are a lot of Arab-Americans joining my gym just because of me. So I guess they just need gyms around their neighborhood to expose them to the sport. I believe that you’ll see more Arab-Americans in the sport, and you’ll see many of them built out of our gym.

How would you define your style?

I think I’m a boxer-puncher, but it’s hard to describe what my style is. When I get into a fight, I don’t know what style I’m going to come out with. It really depends on what comes at me. Whatever style my opponent brings, I’m going to adapt and find the way to win.

You’re managed by your Father. How was the transition for your team from the amateurs to the pros?

There is a big difference between the pros and the amateurs. Not only is the business part of it different, but also the fights are different without the head gear and smaller gloves.

My Dad is making everything work from a managerial perspective. I’m just listening to him and following along, learning everything step by step. My Dad has been around boxing for many years, and he’s very smart business wise.

You’re currently a welterweight, but you’re only 21 years old. What division do you see yourself in a few years when you’re preparing for a title shot?

I think I will be at 147 unless I get a lot bigger. If I get bigger, then I might have to move up. As of right now, I find 147 a comfortable weight and I see myself winning a title at welterweight.

What are your immediate goals for the rest of the year?

I want to stay busy and keep winning. I feel that I should fight 8 to 10 times a year since I’m at the beginning of my career. I want to be a world champion, I know it will come but I’m not rushing it. I’m taking it fight by fight.

When it’s all said and done, what do you want people to remember about you as a person and a fighter?

That I’m a very respectful person. My nickname is the “World Kid” Ali. I want to entertain the world. I don’t discriminate, I love all types of people, it doesn’t matter what race or where you’re from. That’s just the type of person I am.

As a professional, I just feel that if you work hard and are dedicated, you can do whatever you want to do in life. Boxing is what I want to do, and that’s why I’m doing it.


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