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18 NOVEMBER 2018

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Ali Spoils Cotto's Garden Party

Ali retires Cotto Hoganphotos3
Ali retires Cotto Hoganphotos3

By Derek Bonnett


Given as many times as I’ve called them wrong, I’ll never pass up the opportunity to gloat! As soon as I heard that Miguel Cotto had a planned retirement event and the opponent was a younger and faster Sadam Ali, I instantly recalled Erik Morales versus Zahir Raheem. Now, these two fights did not end up mirroring one another head to head, but, in the end, speed and youth overcame experience and grit in one of the most competitive and accurately scored bouts of 2017. Cotto, true to his own career, did not disappoint and gave an entertaining display on his way out at Madison Square Garden.


The seeds for upset, possible 2017’s Upset of the Year, were sewn early in round one. The round was mostly neutral and won by the Puerto Rican icon on my SecondsOut card, but Ali’s fast hands and boxing acumen were clear. Cotto, 37, pressed to the body mildly and looked to be the fighter dictating the terms. However, Ali, 29, rocked Cotto with a smart right hand. Ali failed to capitalize on the damage done, but he did begin finding a home for his best punch of this fight. Ali slipped to the canvas on a balance snafu later in the round, but early on it was clear. Cotto would have to earn his retirement benefits one more time. Ali used good distance in the third as Cotto mostly chased him down. Ali used good defense, but Cotto landed more accurately. It was a tough round to score and the one I had to think about most after the three minutes concluded. Cotto got back to applying his pressure in the fourth, but was caught with a solid left hook and put on shaky feet for the second time of the bout. Cotto would dig to the body further, but the Brooklyn boxer was again a tad classier in the round. Cotto, ever composed, landed a solid right hand at long range to the chin of Ali. Cotto began cutting distance better with his jab and put together an offensive more reminiscent of the fighter in bouts of several year’s past. The jab continued to pump through round six and the left hook, Cotto’s most salient punch, landed regularly. Ali tried to be first with the jab at times, but took second fiddle to the determined champion. The finished with Ali momentarily staggered. After six rounds, Cotto led 4-2 unofficially at SecondsOut or 58-56.


Ali started the seventh with a nice left hook, but Cotto took it well and pressed forward. Cotto forced Ali to box reactively and lose some composure as he attacked the torso of the younger fighter. Cotto took the round on ring command, but was clearly showing signs of fatigued. Ali’s spirits were brought back to life after a ringside pep-talk from his father, who demanded more punches. The science behind it all paid off as Ali would sweep the next five rounds on my unofficial SecondsOut scorecard. Ali’s hands moved a lot more in the eighth as Cotto tried to dig to the body. Ali’s work was flashier and called up his athletic gifts to get him back in the fight. He again wobbled Cotto, this time with an uppercut. Round nine was a defensive showing for both men, but Ali found his angles and kept busier. A good left hook by Ali landed on Cotto’s face and the younger fighter boxed confidently as Cotto looked pressed to find something more in his tank. A left hook again staggered Cotto, but Ali never jumped on the aged champion to apply finishing touches. Cotto, falling level in the fight, fought casually in the eleventh and allowed Ali to be busier and dictate the terms of the contest. Cotto dropped one gear further in the twelfth, fighting every bit his age and got out-hustled down the stretch. My finally SecondsOut tally was 7-5 in rounds for Ali or a 115-113 margin. Two judges agreed with the 115-113 scoring and the third saw it 116-112.


Ali claimed his first world title with a huge upset victory on the biggest stage of his career. He answered questions he never before showed knowledge of the required information. Sadam "World Kid" Ali moved to 26-1-0 (14). Cotto fell to 41-6-0 (33) and will likely be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame sooner rather than later. Cotto made good on his promise to retire from the sport, which he honored in each and every one of his ring appearances, never shaming the sport with misconduct or poor sportsmanship.


Boxing bids adieu to one of its most modern ring warriors.


Cotto described himself as "happy" after the fight and confirmed some damage to his left bicep occurred in round number seven, but that he "had to fight on." Cotto later added, "I make no excuses. He won the fight."


Further on in his retirement speech Cotto thanked his fans and indicated that Madison Square Garden was a proud "home" for him. One of my wife’s first gifts for me as we dated were tickets to Cotto’s bout with Muhammad Abdullaev in one of Cotto’s earlier career defining fights. I am equally proud to have seen Cotto ply his trade at home in New York.

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