Cotto’s Farewell: Nostalgia in the Garden
By Derek Smith
New York, New York, the name evokes recognition of well-known landmarks in an out-of-towner's imagination: Broadway, Times Square, Uptown, Downtown, the Westside and The Garden.
The name Madison Square Garden rings the timekeeper's bell with most fight fan's memories, and although the location has changed, the name is still a brand.
Miguel Cotto chose to defend his junior middleweight title, his last fight before retiring, at The Garden. His opponent, Sadam Ali, was chosen after possible pay-per-view fighters like Canelo Alvarez, and Gennady Golovkin rejected the proposal.
Brooklyn born Ali (24-1 14 KOs) moved up from welterweight to take the bout. The lightly regarded Ali had only one blemish on his record, a knockout loss to Jessie Vargas. A KO loss to the light-hitting Vargas, while not raising the proverbial red flag, did influence the odds makers and the promoters.
Ali, a former Olympian, went into the bout as decided underdog. The promoters hyped the nostalgia aspect and most fans in the pro-Cotto crowd came to bid Cotto, long a crowd favorite, a triumphant farewell.
Sadam Ali had other ideas.
The lightly regarded spoiler came out of his corner at the bell displaying fast hands and stylish footwork. Fighting at a welterweight's pace he made Cotto look as if he hadn't warmed up. He won the first round easily.
Ali hurt Cotto on several occasions during the fight, but was reluctant to capitalize on the opportunity. He later explained this by saying, "I didn't want to blow it by getting all excited, and messing up all we worked for."
The respect became mutual when Cotto realized that the guy from Brooklyn, could really fight, and came to fight.
Cotto seemed to get it in gear by the sixth, and had several good moments. Ali slowed down a bit, and Cotto was able to corner him along the ropes, and land effective punches. The seventh began with Cotto, a converted southpaw, chasing Ali, and throwing his left , In an almost exclusive manner with the right as an afterthought. Ali took a breather and readied himself for the battle ahead.
Cotto didn't punch much in the eighth, and when he did he was confronted with Ali's fast hands. On one occasion, as both fighters flurried, Cotto was hit with a short, sharp left uppercut, right on the button that left him momentary in a state of foggy indecision … as to what to do next.
The fight entered the so-called championship rounds, and the champion was holding his left arm in an awkward manner, like a broken wing. Cotto offered a logical explanation after the fight, "I tore my left bicep … in the seventh round." A common ring injury, it is nevertheless a debilitating injury that grew progressively worse in the last four rounds.
At fight's end Cotto had a gruesome lump in his upper bicep. A painful injury that tested Cotto's championship mettle and had his pride and courage on display. Ali came forward throwing bombs, oftentimes connecting as Cotto went into survival mode.
A fight with many close rounds, Ali was in control early, and Cotto seemed to rally at the halfway point, at least until the injury. The judges had it 115-113, 116-112 and 115-113 in favor of the new champion at 154 lbs., Sadam Ali, from Brooklyn.
Ali said after the fight, "I worked hard for it and I want to thank Camp Cotto, and Golden Boy for giving me a chance."
A true champion, Cotto gracious in defeat as well as victory, was adamant about retiring and staying retired. In a career that spanned almost two decades, Cotto, with the exception of Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya, fought the best fighters from 140 lbs. to 160 lbs. The list, a list of future hall of fame candidates including Shane Moseley, Zab Judah, Floyd Mayweather, Sergio Martinez, Canelo Alvarez, Paulie Malinaggi, and Manny Pacquiao is long indeed.
Cotto leaves the ring with a record of 47-5 with 33 KOs and a net worth of $34 million dollars. For Cotto it was the 10th and final appearance at the Garden in a career that began in 2000 following the Olympics in Australia. The Puerto Rican is now 37 years old.