Andre Rozier jockeys Sadam Ali to the finish line
Of the 12,000-plus within the famed Madison Square Garden, last weekend, just a handful really believed – or wanted to believe that – Sadam Ali would defeat Miguel Cotto in the final fight of the Puerto Rican icon’s illustrious career. This promotion was billed as more of a retirement ceremony than a prizefight.
Coming into this match-up, Ali (a career welterweight, who had been stopped by Jessie Vargas in March of 2016 in an attempt to win the vacant WBO 147-pound title) wasn’t given much of a shot by most pundits (and I was in that category).
But his trainer Andre Rozier certainly believed his younger, fresher charge had what it took to send Cotto off into the sunset with a loss. As the fight played out, it was clear Ali wasn’t there just to be cannon fodder. Every time he returned to his corner, it wasn’t a kind one.
Throughout the fight, Rozier stayed on his boxer with tough love and, like a great jockey, kept going to the whip.
“You live a lie, you die a lie,” Rozier explained this past Monday. “You can’t tell them what’s not happening; you have to tell them what’s actually happening.”
And what was happening was Ali was right in the fight with Cotto and, with his quick hands, was consistently beating him to the punch, shockingly buzzing Cotto in the second round. Even at welterweight, Ali (who has 14 knockouts in 27 professional outings) was never considered a particularly heavy-handed puncher.
But it didn’t completely surprise Rozier, who explained to UCNLive.com, “He has what I call ‘snappy power’ – it’s sneaky. It’s not the type of power like a Curtis Stevens or Danny Jacobs; it’s a sneaky power. It’s quick; you don’t see it. It sorta catches you off-guard and you sorta say, ‘Wait a minute; he hit me with a zinger.'”
What Rozier says has merit. There were a couple of other times when Cotto was staggered with punches he didn’t see coming.
Rozier, who should certainly be in the running for 2017 “Trainer of the Year” honors for his body of work, believed the fight would unfold the way it did but added, “I would have liked to have him utilize his jab a bit more and utilize his angles a bit more. But for the most part, he was trying to do that and I appreciated his effort for that.”
It probably aided their cause that Cotto damaged his left bicep around the seventh round but it takes a bold fighter to capitalize on such a circumstance. And Rozier wouldn’t let his fighter, as the great Angelo Dundee would say, blow it.
Rozier said, “I couldn’t let him because there were moments where I saw him sort of going into a lax state and I had to wind him back up. You could see it in his face, ‘I’m losing the focus right now,’ and I had to reel him back in. And usually if you ever see me work in a corner, I’m not overly vocal. I won’t yell; I won’t scream.
“But sometimes you have to bring them back. It was necessary to elevate my vocal levels,” he stated with a laugh.
You can’t win a fight you don’t take and Ali took the leap of faith in facing Cotto (and maybe he should send a thank you note and a bouquet of flowers to Mikey Garcia and Errol Spence Jr.). It’s the type of victory that will most likely put him in a different tax bracket for at least the next few fights.
Beyond that, he may have found himself as a boxer.
“Without a doubt,” said Rozier, who believes that Ali’s not that guy who was knocked out at the D.C. Armory. “Listen; let me tell you something – Sadam should’ve beat Jessie Vargas. Literally he should’ve beaten him. Sadam had some goings on and his mind wasn’t focused on the task at hand. He saw the errors of his ways. I readily tell everyone, ‘Sadam is my baby. I love him to death.’ There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him because he’s a good kid, just a joy.
“But at that time, he wasn’t listening. He was all over the place,” Rozier continued, “so we had to make some changes and I told him, ‘If you’re going to perform like this – stop boxing. And he came up to the line and he accepted the inevitable stance I was taking and look at what we have now.”
So what’s next for Ali, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions?
“I mean, there’s a lot of things that could happen,” said Rozier, who naturally has been asked about a rematch with the only man to defeat Ali. “A lot of people are telling me, ‘Hey Coach; let’s get Jessie Vargas again.’ That’s not a major priority on my list. Jessie has to do something. Jessie didn’t rise to the occasion (versus Manny Pacquiao). When Sadam fought a legend, he did.
“That’s why (Vargas) has to do something to make himself relevant again. Other than that, there’s a bunch of roads we can travel on. I just want to see the best option available for Sadam and then we’ll talk about it.”
Here’s a full, two-hour edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly.
K2 Promotions Managing Director Tom Loeffler joined Mario Lopez and me, in-studio, to update on the negotiations for the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin rematch, “SuperFly 2” and this week’s HBO broadcast from the Mandalay Bay, on the latest installment of “The 3 Knockdown Rule.”
IBF super flyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas will be boxing on Top Rank shows for the foreseeable future…The Murat Gassiev-Yunier Dorticos bout on February 3 will take place from Sochi, Russia…Vitali Klitschko, Winky Wright and Erik Morales have been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame…Hold on: Zab Judah is now working as a nurse’s assistant? Hey, it’s an honest job…Rey Vargas is a match-up nightmare for anyone at 122 pounds…It should be a Ronald Reagan-Walter Mondale-like landslide for Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma for the Heisman Trophy…Yeah, that Steelers-Bengals game was brutal but, seriously, nothing was more brutal than that cheap shot from Rob Gronkowski…Do most college football coaches just take jobs to take the next one? Talk about some carpetbaggers…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.