BROOKLYN — The undefeated Canarsie boxer who became the first Arab-American to represent the United States in the Olympics in 2008 is bringing the fight home Saturday night.
Twenty-three-year-old Sadam "Worldkid" Ali, 14-0 (8 KOs), will square off against Franklin Gonzalez, 15-9 (10 KOs), at the Aviator Sports Complex in Bay Ridge for the welterweight World Boxing Union title. The night's undercard will also feature four of New York's five boroughs: Zachary Ochoa of The Bronx, William Shammar Whitt and Melissa St. Vil of Brooklyn, Armin Mrkanovic and Steven Gamache of Queens, and Dinmukhamed Niyazov of Staten Island.
Doors open at 6 p.m., and the first bout takes place at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $50 to $150. For ticket-sale locations, visit Aviator Sports website.
"I'm ready to shine. I'm ready to go," Ali, whose family is Yemeni, said in an interview Friday at his Fifth Avenue gym in Bay Ridge. "It's been a while since my last fight, and I've been training ever since. It's time to put on a show."
Ali last fought in September, more than 4,000 miles from Brooklyn in Wroclaw, Poland. In an undercard to the Vitali Klitschko-Tomasz Adamek, he knocked out Germany's Boris Berg in the sixth round.
The fight was his first international bout as a pro, and it attracted the attention of boxing experts and promoters. But it marked his last with promoter Main Event. In December, following a path popularized by Olympic Hall of Fame boxer Oscar de la Hoya, Ali created his own promotions company, Worldkid Promotions.
"They weren't giving me the right fights," Ali said of Main Event. "I want to fight. I don't want to have to have to depend on nobody."
He allowed that promoting himself is "almost as easy as just working out," but added, "I have a good team behind me, and I have everything under control."
The key member of that team is his father, David. He introduced Ali to boxing at age 8, taking him to the Bed-Stuy Boxing Gym one day after school. He's been in Ali's corner ever since, attending all of Ali’s 200-plus amateur and pro fights.
"He makes every fight," Ali said. "No matter where it is, what country, he makes sure he makes it."
David declined to give himself a role or title on the team. Instead, he said simply, "I'm his father. I just make sure that I do the thing that is the best interest for him, not the best interest of everybody else. I make sure he does the right moves, and I make sure he stays focused, stays in line. I make sure he does the right things."
It may be Lenny Wilson, longtime coach at Bed-Stuy Boxing Gym, who guides Ali through mitt, bag, conditioning and sparring workouts at Worldkid Sports. But it’s David who still wraps Ali’s hands and applies Vaseline to his face to prevent him from being cut.
"Years ago, I was worried when he got hit," David said. "But now, I don't really so much because I see how he fights. I know, through the years, how good he is."
David has also been instrumental in building enthusiasm for Ali’s fight Saturday. “Ali’s poster is in every single business window across Bay Ridge,” said Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab-American Association of New York. “He’s the pride and joy of Brooklyn’s Arab-American community.”
Ali not only works out at the gym, but also trains local kids and amateur boxers. Sarsour’s 13-year-old son, Tamir Judeh, began training there in January, working out with Ali as much as three times a week.
“It's really cool. I know that just because I'm an Arab-American Muslim, I can do something in life, not just stay in the streets,” Judeh said. “He's a Brooklyn-born kid. He's like the hometown hero.” He said he hopes to attend the fight Friday.
Ali said he was proud to represent the community, and to hold the fight where friends, neighbors, and supporters can watch easily. “Now that it’s in Brooklyn, people can come out,” he said. He added, however, that he’s not just fighting for one part of the community.
“I mean, I’m from the United States, so I will always represent America, because that’s where I’m from, where I was born and raised. But also, I’m Arab-American, and I have to represent the Arabs and all the Muslims,” he said. “And represent the world! Why do you think they call me the Worldkid? I want to represent the world. I want to be loved by everybody.”
The next step toward that goal will take place Saturday night.