The final chapter for Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden Saturday evening showed it was time for the four-division and six time world champion to await his call for enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame. And a fighter from Brooklyn with the last name of Ali, Sadam, spoiled the Cotto finale going home as the new WBO Junior Middleweight Champion.
It was not the Hall of Fame evening and successful finale for Miguel Cotto. It was a fighter well past his prime and unable to handle a barrage of punches. The eighth round, where Cotto had been so successful in disposing nine previous opponents in the Garden main arena, that simply showed it was not the same Miguel Cotto.
Instead, Sadam Ali, the Olympian and a huge underdog took care of business. He assured the 12,391 fans, and mostly Cotto Puerto Rican supporters, that it was time for that change in the junior middleweight division,. It was also time for Miguel Cotto to go home and spend those valuable moments with his family after taking numerous punches in a career that spanned more than a decade.
Cotto was a defeated fighter at Madison Square Garden, and not only in the ring with a seventh round that caused him to hurt his left bicep and a post fight visit to the hospital. This was the smallest gathering for a Cotto fight in the Garden where he held a record for most sellouts at his home-away-from-home.
Not the way to go out, and Miguel Cotto was unable to address the media after his retirement loss. But he did say in the ring, after completing a career 41-6- 33 KO mark, “Feeling good, Feeling good with the performance. I don’t want to make excuses. Sadam won the fight. It’s 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.”
And Miguel Cotto over the years provided what was best for the sport of boxing. As with any defeat of a professional fighter, there is room to make excuses,and certainly this excuse was a valid one because it showed in 12-rounds that it was definitely time to go home.
There were moments with the right. And it was vintage Miguel Cotto that came to life with similarities of a 2001 pro debut and second round TKO over Jacob Godinez. And there were times where Cotto and his right worked to perfection, same as it was in a loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. five years ago and in a 12-round championship bout loss in 2015 against Canelo Alvarez.
It was father time as they say. Sadam Ali was younger, quicker, and was destined to be the champion as he moved up in weight. He also had a left punch that was not seen in his previous 26 fights, including one loss with 14 KO’s. Perhaps a younger and quicker Miguel Cotto would have countered that punch but time was definitely not on his side.
Ali said, “ I had him (Cotto) hurt in the first couple of rounds” That continued as the final punch stats showed the new champion landing 139 of 647 punches and Cotto connecting with 163 punches of 536. The unanimous decision for Sadam Ali ,and two judges at ringside scoring 115-113, another 116-112 as this columnist also had it.
And as the Madison Square Garden video board paid a final tribute to Miguel Cotto, the defeated champion and eventual first ballot Hall of Famer quickly exited the ring. There was no room for Sadam Ali to talk about his huge win, and not when all of those Cotto supporters continued to chant.
What is next for Sadam Ali is in the hands of Oscar De La Hoya. His promoter of Golden Boy Promotions has many options. In the meantime, Miguel Cotto can reflect on a career of dignity and the respect that was gained by millions of fans here and on the Island of Puerto Rico.
Miguel Cotto made Madison Square Garden his second home. But on this night it wasn’t and as they say in sports, the torch has been passed.
Undercard: Zachary Ochoa the 25-year old welterweight from Brooklyn made an impression with his six-round unanimous decision over Erick Martinez 14-10-1, 8 KO’’s of Tijuana, Mexico. Ochoa was effective from the opening bell and was able to land some good shots to the body and improved to 18-1, 7 KO’s.
The significance was Ochoa getting another win and attempting to move up the ladder in a competitive welterweight division.
“This puts me in a great spot in my career,” he said. “I was able to shake off a lot of dust since I have not been able to fight consistently but this proves to me that I’m still worthy of the sport. I still have work to do but when I was able to land my shots I was able to land them crisp and effectively.
He added, “ I hope that I’ll be able to fight a lot more this year.”