SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 2, 2017 – A boxing legend made his way to the ring in Madison Square Garden Saturday for the final time with only the music of the crowd’s cheers to accompany him. Miguel Cotto’s legacy is undeniable, the only male boxer from Puerto Rico to win titles in four weight divisions. Fans expected Cotto to prevail in the final fight of his career against New York native Sadam Ali. But as with many of the greatest performances of Cotto’s career, they didn’t end in wins.
Ali (26-1, 14 KOs), wins a unanimous decision over Cotto (41-6, 33 KOs) by scores of 116-112 and 115-113 X 2, and becomes the new WBO junior middleweight champion.
At age 37, Cotto is still a formidable opponent, but the 29-year-old former American Olympian had the visible edge from the opening bell in hand and foot speed. In only his second fight above 150 pounds, he showed power and aggression against the respected veteran. Ali got Cotto’s attention and everyone else watching when he rocked him with a straight right hand in the second round. Cotto appeared hurt but his veteran’s skills got him through the round.
Ali and Cotto traded moments through the first five rounds. The judges disagreed on the rounds, with two judges leaning toward Ali three rounds to two; and Mark Marlinski giving Ali the first four rounds, the fifth to Cotto.
But from this point the judges were in agreement. The veteran Cotto turned the tide in the sixth round, landing hard shots to the body. Ali felt the pain, but didn’t go down. Cotto continued to press in rounds seven and eight, hitting Ali hard as the eighth round closed. It seemed Ali would be overrun by Cotto’s experience and determination.
Ali pushes hard in later rounds to seal the victory
But after Ali’s father sitting ringside and Ali’s trainer Andre Rozier urged him to throw more punches and make his stand. Ali boxed his way back in the ninth round, and turned up the heat in the final three rounds, the busier, younger man against the fading but still dangerous Cotto.
Writers and critics are quick to call out judges for what they believe are “bad” scorecards. In this fight, the judges didn’t try to rewrite the script to give Cotto a storybook ending.
“I worked hard for it, I took advantage of a lot of my success in the past. I made sure I made it count,” said Ali, a two-time New York Golden Gloves champion who also considers Madison Square Garden home. ”I thank Team Cotto for giving me the opportunity, they didn’t have to. They could have taken an easier fight.”
Ali said it did sink in as the fight went on he had a good chance of winning. “I had him hurt here and there, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself and give him a shot.”
After Cotto rallied in the middle rounds, Ali said “I knew I had to do something, I could have easily let it slip away. Cotto would have put the pressure on me, and I had to dig in. I had to stay strong mentally and physically. To me I felt the fight was close at that point, at the end you don’t know if you’re going to get the decision or not. I knew those last two rounds I had to do great.”
Cotto was gracious and seemed content even after a narrow defeat. “Feeling good, feeing good with the performance, we didn’t win the fight but I’m just happy.” HBO’s Max Kellerman asked Cotto if he was hurt, apparently noting up close Cotto’s damaged left bicep. Cotto said “You can see it, I hurt something here, something happened” in round seven. “I can’t remember but you can see it, my bicep here is a little torn.
Cotto was transported to a hospital after the fight for a torn tendon in the left bicep, unable to attend the post-fight news conference. If Cotto’s most potent weapon, the left hook to the body, was taken away, he compensated nicely with excellent right hand shots. But it wasn’t enough, and he didn’t use it as an excuse.
Many observers question whether Cotto will truly stay retired. I’m not one of them, even with the loss. Cotto reaffirmed his plan to retire. “I’m going happy to my house and enjoy my family … To all of you guys, thank you for supporting me at every moment, at every opportunity. I’m so glad to call Madison Square Garden my home. Thank you … The pleasure was all mine. I had the opportunity to provide the best way for my family and that’s all that matters to me.”
With the win, Sadam Ali becomes a significant presence in the junior middleweight division. He was willing to fight Cotto when others declined, including Errol Spence Jr. He’s not going to change now. “Whatever Golden Boy has for me, I’m blessed. Good things happen to good people. I’ve been training since I was eight years old, this is my dream.”
As Cotto’s career ends, the scorecards really don’t matter. Fans will remember one final great performance in a line of great performances by a veteran champion who never ducked an opponent, and never gave less than his best. We can’t ask any more as boxing fans.
Vargas wins unanimous decision over Negrete
WBC World Super Bantamweight Champion Rey Vargas (31-0, 22 KOs) of Mexico had little trouble with the determined NABF Bantamweight Champion Oscar “El Jaguar” Negrete (17-1, 7 KOs) of Colombia via Southern California. Two judges scored it 119-110, the third judge a 120-108 shutout for Vargas. Although Negrete came forward and stayed busy, Vargas is the stronger, more accurate fighter.
The nearly three inch height differential between Vargas and Negrete allowed Vargas to fight at distance. As Negrete tried to close, the result were accidental headbutts causing two vicious cuts to Vargas in bad sports above both eyes. Ringside physicians examined Vargas several times, who wasn’t about to quit because of a little blood.
Give Negrete credit for incredible toughness. Vargas landed 64 body shots on Negrete, and several would have stopped anyone else. The Colombian native didn’t even wobble. But he’ll have to improve his speed, power, and output to be competitive at the highest level.
Vargas landed 254 punches of 790 thrown (32 percent) to just 109 of 604 punches for Negrete (18 percent). Vargas landed 205 power punches to 100 for Negrete.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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