Ed Diller for ESPN / Sadam Ali, right, was almost untouchable during his TKO victory over Luis Carlos Abregu

Article by Dan Rafael /ESPN –

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Welterweight Sadam Ali, stepping up to face his first serious test as a professional, scored an impressive ninth-round knockout of contender Luis Carlos Abregu in the co-feature of the light heavyweight title unification fight between Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall.

Ali, 26, of Brooklyn, New York, and a 2008 U.S. Olympian, dropped Abregu in the sixth round and again in the ninth round before referee Harvey Dock called it off at 1 minute, 59 seconds as Ali was punishing Abregu along the ropes.

“Abregu was very strong. I was aware the whole time and I was prepared,” Ali said. “This is what I have always wanted for myself and I knew I had to earn it and today I earned it. I stuck to the plan. Even when he hit me I knew to get out. I was so focused. I have to go home and watch the tape, but I am so proud of what I did.”

The fight got off to a very slow start through the first three rounds. Neither man was throwing a whole lot or landing much. When they circled each other repeatedly in the third round the crowd began to boo loudly.

It picked up slightly after that with Abregu landing a solid right hand in the fifth round as he looked to slow Ali (21-0, 13 KOs), who was moving all over the place. Through the first five rounds Ali had landed only 44 of 196 punches and Abregu only 26 of 196.

In the sixth round the crowd came to life when Ali landed a clean right hand and dropped Abregu (36-2, 29 KOs), 30, of Argentina, to all fours. He got up quickly, and Ali drove him to the ropes with a powerful follow-up left hand.

Ali continued to attack Abregu and wobbled him again in the seventh round. And then early in the eighth round, Ali landed a flush left hook that rocked Abregu as the fight became more one-sided.

Then he stopped him in the ninth round.

Ali landed a brutal left hand that nearly knocked Abregu down, followed by a flush right to his face. Abregu was badly hurt, took a step back and went down on a delayed reaction. He beat the count, but Ali was all over him in the follow-up attack, prompting Dock to step in and stop the fight.

“Ali is a great fighter, but I thought the referee stopped it abruptly,” Abregu said. “I could have continued. His speed is what got to me. He was very fast. I would throw a punch and he would find a way to get out. He was way faster than I thought he would be.”

Abregu, whose only previous defeat was a decision to former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. in 2010, saw a seven-fight winning streak since end. Among those wins: a seventh-round knockout of hot prospect Thomas Dulorme in 2012, and a lopsided 10-round decision against another quality opponent in Antonin Decarie in 2013.