Sadam Ali spoils Miguel Cotto’s farewell party, wins junior middle title
NEW YORK — Miguel Cotto walked to the ring without an accompanying music track. Whether that was by design or an error by the audio department, it didn’t matter. Cotto didn’t need any additional music besides the deafening roars of his Puerto Rican fans at Madison Square Garden.
As if Cotto’s Hall of Fame-worthy career so far wasn’t enough reason for such a reception, he and Sadam Ali gave supporters something to cheer – and grimace – about.
When the scores were finally read aloud, it was youth that was served over experience as Ali had his hand rightfully raised in front of an announced attendance of 12,391, with two cards reading 115-113 and the third having it 116-112, all for the Brooklynite and new WBO junior middleweight titleholder.
“I worked hard for it,” said Ali. “I took advantage of this fight, and I made sure to make it count. I want to Thank God, and also thank team Cotto, They could have taken an easier fight if they wanted too.
“I had him hurt here or there in the first couple of rounds. I knew I had to do something, or he would have dug in. By the 11th, I thought the fight was close. Whatever GBP has next, I’ll take it. Good things happen to good people. I have been training since I was 8 years old, and I am glad I got this win at MSG, in my hometown.”
But even before the fight was signed, Cotto’s legacy was long secured. This was just one last thrill ride for his fans after nearly 17 years as the flagbearer for Puerto Rico’s rich boxing tradition.
Any fans concerned that Ali, a former U.S. Olympian but otherwise an uninspiring name on paper, would be a virtual walkover were quickly disabused of that notion as Ali boxed the fight of his life early on, nearly blowing out the candles on Cotto’s retirement cake, and shutting the lights on him for good.
Ali used his speed and movement to keep Cotto off balance, hurting the living legend with a pair of right hands in the second, and again with a left hook in the fourth. But just as Cotto promised fans on fight week, he was a warrior to the end.
Cotto turned the fight in the sixth, landing a straight right hand through the guard which dazed Ali and nearly sent him down. It was all Cotto in the following round again as Ali struggled to keep Cotto off of him like he did in the early rounds.
The fight turned once more, this time for good, as Cotto’s gas tank ran low and Ali, eight years younger at 29, came on strong, hurting Cotto in the tenth and eleventh rounds as the elder fighter struggled to keep pace.
Cotto made one final stand in the twelfth, one last round to cap off a career which saw him compete at the 2000 Olympics representing Puerto Rico before winning titles at 140, 147, 154 and 160 pounds, and fighting all of the greats of his era, including Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Shane Mosley.
“Feeling good with the performance,” said Cotto. “Something happened to my left bicep, seventh round. I don’t want to make excuses, Sadam won the fight. It is my last fight. I am good, and I want to be happy in my home with my family.
“Thank you for all the fans, I am proud to call MSG my second home. I had the opportunity to provide the best for my family because of the sport.”
In defeat it was Cotto who got the cheers, and Ali, who had won Golden Gloves titles in that same arena as a teenager, was booed vociferously. And then, with the arena emptying out and the lights dimmed, finally came the music. “A Gozar Con Mi Combo” by Cachao was played overhead accompanying highlights of his career, a reminder that that there was nothing left for him to do in the game.
While it wasn’t the conclusion that Cotto would have wanted, he reiterated that this was his final trip through the ropes.