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Ali to make title defense against Smith

From ESPN - March 19, 2018

Sadam Ali pulled a major upset in his last fight when he outpointed Miguel Cotto on Dec. 2 to win a junior middleweight world title. But when Ali makes his first defense, the odds figure to be far more even.

Ali will defend his 154-pound belt against former titlist Liam Smith, who will journey from England to the United States to fight for the second time when they meet on May 12 (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, promoters Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions and Frank Warren announced Monday.

"Sadam Ali climbed onto the world championship stage with one of the biggest upsets in boxing history when he snatched the WBO junior middleweight world title from four-division, six-time world champion and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden," De La Hoya said. "Being in the ring with a hungry fighter with a world championship belt on his rsum like Liam Smith will be nothing new to Ali. Sadam will prove yet again he's someone to watch out for in the division."

Ali (26-1, 14 KOs), 29, a 2008 U.S. Olympian from Brooklyn, New York, had a previous shot at a vacant welterweight title but lost by ninth-round knockout to Jessie Vargas in 2016. Since then, Ali has won four fights in a row, culminating with the win over Cotto, which was Ali's first fight as a junior middleweight.

"It felt great to accomplish my dream of becoming world champion," Ali said. "I am excited to defend my title and to demonstrate that it is not up for grabs. Liam Smith is a great fighter and I am sure he will be ready, but so will I."

Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs), 29, is from the fighting Smith family that also includes super middleweight contender Callum Smith and former world title challengers Paul and Stephen Smith. In 2015, Liam Smith stopped John Thompson to win a vacant title and went on to make two successful defenses before he traveled to Arlington, Texas, and lost it by ninth-round knockout to Canelo Alvarez before more than 50,000 at AT&T Stadium in September 2016.

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