As unbeaten welterweight Sadam Ali sees it, there's a time for everything in his journey to the top.
Heading into his first title shot on Saturday against Jessie Vargas, Ali's time could very well be right now.
Ali (22-0, 13 KOs), 27, will face off with Vargas (26-1, 9 KOs) for a vacant 147-pound title in the co-main event of a card headlined by heavyweights Luis Ortiz and Tony Thompson at the D.C. Armory in Washington (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT).
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Ali spoke with ESPN.com ahead of the biggest fight of his career.
What are your emotions entering your first title shot?
It means so much to me. This is what every professional fighter waits for -- a world title. I'm super excited for it. I'm just ready to expand and get that world title and move forward.
Where does the timing of this title shot, at age 27, fit in for you in relation to the expectations you had for your career from the beginning?
I never knew when exactly it would come but I knew I would see it one day. Everything happens for a reason. Now is the time and I'm ready.
You became the mandatory challenger for Timothy Bradley Jr.'s title before he dropped the belt, opting instead for a third fight with Manny Pacquiao. How much did the change in opponent to Vargas affect you?
To me, it's an opportunity at a world title. Bigger fights are going to come in my career so it doesn't matter to me who I am fighting really. What matters to me the most is that world title.
Based on your styles, what type of fight are you expecting against Vargas?
I'm not sure because he's a counter puncher, but also he can be aggressive at times. I don't know what's going to happen in that fight. A few things can happen but whatever it is, I'm prepared for it.
Vargas stepped up to the highest level against Bradley last June and had a mixture of good and bad moments. How would you rate his performance?
He did OK. He was in there with a world-class fighter. He caught him with a great shot in the last round so he did pretty good.
You built a relationship going back to your amateur days with Paul Malignaggi, who has helped out in your corner. How important has his influence meant to your career?
Paulie is a former world champion. He has been in there and has been through a lot. He has a lot of knowledge so he's good to have on my team. We have known each other for so long.
Looking back at your recent fights, how close have you come to showcasing the absolute best of what you are capable of?
Pretty close. Not perfect yet but I'm still working my way up there. I believe I can get better and better.
Even though you are more known for your boxing ability, we saw your power on full display against Luis Carlos Abregu in 2014 What's the perfect balance for you between being a boxer and a puncher?
A mix of both, I would say. Maybe 60/40 toward the boxing. I'm not sure if my power [is underrated]. Maybe to some people.
The Vargas fight gives you another prime opportunity to showcase yourself on HBO. What are you hoping to teach any new fans about where you potentially fit within this division?
That I deserve to be on that level and that I am one of the top fighters. I would like to prove that and showcase my skills. I have been improving more and more, and that's the most important thing -- to keep learning. You never want to reach an end point of learning something.
How long have you imagined what that moment might feel like when they place your first world title belt around your waist?
I remember just seeing so many champions win titles and I remember thinking, "I can't wait until it's my turn." I think about it but it's still a little surreal to me that it's here and it's so close. It's amazing. It will mean that all the time and the hard work I have done -- not only in this fight but in my career -- it's paying off. I'm on my way to bigger and better things so it would mean a lot to me and to everybody around me.
You have been on the verge the past few years of really looking like you are ready to break out and become a star. How hard has it been to be patient and wait your turn during this season of your development?
The way I look at it is God has a plan and there's a time for everything. So I don't get impatient and I don't rush. Everything happens for a reason. When it comes, it comes.
You hung tough against a determined opponent in your last bout when you outpointed Francisco Santana in April. How important was the timing of that fight -- in which you were forced to show your chin -- as the final step before your first title shot?
I believe it was important. He had that come-forward style against me and somebody that was about 21 pounds heavier than me. He was definitely the biggest guy I was in there against and it was tough. But I'm a fighter. I have been boxing since I was 8 years old. I have been in there with so many different styles. I just know what to do in the ring, and that's what I did.