There will be a Miguel Cotto homecoming and a career ending fight at Madison Square Garden on Saturday evening December 2 that will be televised on HBO Championship Boxing. It is fair to say that the Garden is home for Cotto who has delivered at the venue in the ring and at the box office.
So it is appropriate that Cotto, the first four-division and six-time world champion from Puerto Rico, will defend his WBO Junior Welterweight championship in New York City. Boxing, Madison Square Garden and Cotto have always been a perfect match and this will be the finale when he gets in the ring with Sadam Ali.
Ali, also a hometown favorite from Brooklyn, is a formidable opponent and presents a challenge. But from standards of previous Cotto battles in the Garden, this presents an opportunity for Cotto to go out a winner and preserve a legacy for the future Hall of Famer.
It was a matter of time for Cotto who still has the skills to go on. He turns 37-years of age later this month and though there were more viable opponents that could have been a part of this finale, Ali got his respect as the chosen one.
Antonio Margarito wanted a trilogy with his foe, but the disgraced Mexican fighter who beat Cotto once because he wore plaster under his gloves, was not welcome to the homecoming finale. Cotto got his redemption in their second fight, and the New York State Athletic Commission as have other ruling bodies in the country, have quietly banned Margarito from competing under their jurisdiction.
And Cotto has been past those Margarito wars that put an ugly black eye on the sport.
“This is another fight, another day of work, the last one,” Cotto said earlier this week at a press conference that made the finale official. “I’m ready to move on, ready to start thinking of my family, start thinking of other things less dangerous than boxing.”
Thinking about other things has been on the Miguel Cotto agenda, and it was a matter of time. He sees how the sport is producing the young and hungry stars that are following in his footsteps, and there is minimal opportunity that remains at this juncture as those who televise and invest in boxing are thriving for the new faces that can propel the sport.
Cotto made a ton of money with Top Rank, winning nine of ten fights at the Garden under their banner. He established box office records and generated millions of revenue on Pay-Per-View with Top Rank and eventually signed with another promoter to only see that end. Now, he is with Golden Boy Promotions and also a successful promoter in Puerto Rico.
The Garden boxing division is picking up strength with three consecutive Saturday cards. Cotto will follow the top rated Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight fight November 25th. It culminates in the adjacent Theatre on December 9th when Top Rank presents a showdown with two world class champions, Vasyl Lomachenko the junior lightweight champion opposes Guillermo Rigondeaux a junior featherweight title holder in a fight that is sold out.
But for Cotto, who has sold out the Garden more than any other fighter in their illustrious boxing history, this is more about the finale and doing it in his second home. The Cotto followers will be there including the many Puerto Rican natives who make their home in New York.
Ali also has a good following, however this is not one of those Cotto fights that will electrify the Garden in those previous fights, including five that Top Rank promoted a night before the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade.
“I’m always looking for the best name on the table, in every opponent,” Cotto said. “Ali was the best one there.” But for a Cotto fight at the Garden, this was not the marque name fans were looking for.
In the end though, what matters is that Sadam Ali will come to fight and he does have a chance to spoil the homecoming finale. Putting a blemish on the record for a finale has occurred more than once in boxing and Cotto, though losing a unanimous decision to Canelo Alvarez two years ago, still showed flashes of his past in late August.
He won a unanimous decision over Yoshihiro Kamegai that earned the WBO title under the Golden Boy banner and his promotional company. But what really matters now is Miguel Cotto giving his fans in New York that one last fight. And at 41-5, with 33 knockouts, there could be one more defining moment at Madison Square Garden.
Cotto said it is about his family now and will retire with financial security. One last fight and you never know, because fighters have this tendency of leaving the ring and seek again to hear the roar of a crowd as they go for the knockout.
However, Miguel Cotto has it in his eyes, and it can be seen. This will the last fight and Madison Square Garden will have the red carpet ready for this homecoming finale.
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso