Underdog Sadam Ali Defeats Retiring Legend Miguel Cotto
It would not be such a farewell ending for the career for 4-division world champion Miguel Cotto. Arguably among the top boxers ever in the rich tradition of Puerto Rican boxing, Cotto defended his 154-lb WBO title against Sadam Ali for what would be the final fight of his illustrious career. Cotto entered the bout with a career record of 41-5, (33 KOs). Ali came in to the bout with a record of 25-1, making his super welterweight debut.
Ali certainly did not show any hesitance in engaging early on against the veteran Cotto. Ali started round 1 looking to establish combinations off the jab early. That seemed to provide a spark for Cotto who began to unleash to the body of Ali in the latter part of the round. Ali rocked Cotto with a right hand in the middle of round 2. It was Ali who appeared to have the early advantage in timing in the bout. However it was still too early to count out the veteran champion Cotto. Cotto was able to end the round landing successive combinations on Ali while he was backed against the ropes.
In round 3, Ali tried to keep the action close to the center of the ring even though Cotto kept Ali on his back foot. Ali was able to control the pace of the action of the round by countering the more aggressive Cotto who seemed to be flustered in the early rounds of this fight. When Ali was not counter punching, he kept a consistent jab out there. In round 4, Ali opened up on offense and landed a left hook that stunned Cotto briefly. Cotto returned the favor by snapping Ali’s head back with a jab of his own. Relying less on his jab in the round, Ali was able to find some success with the uppercut against the aggressive Cotto.
Cotto, who started the fight sluggish began to gain some ground in round 5. As he rushed in early on in the fight without much use of his jab, round 5 saw him relying on it to find range against the taller Ali. Ali did not throw as many punches in the round. Cotto continued to build off the success he had in the previous round during round 6. Cotto pressed the action against Ali who found himself along the ropes more during the round. Cotto rocked Ali with a straight right late in the round and had Ali against the ropes unloading the body hooks that he has been well-known for throughout his career.
Round 7 was a more even round between the fighters. While Cotto continued to press forward, Ali was able to effectively time Cotto. However it was Cotto who was the more offensive in the round. It was definitely a tough round to score for judges in a fight that was becoming closer. Ali became the aggressor in the next round. He was the one pushing forward for most of the round after rocking Cotto with a left uppercut. Cotto looked to box during the round, which may have curtailed any momentum swing he had in his favor in the previous two rounds.
Cotto looked to put Ali on his back foot again in round 9. He still seemed to be struggling with finding range consistently as the championship rounds approached. Ali was able to find his mark just a bit more than Cotto who was coming up shot on many shots as he closed distance on Ali. The championship rounds saw both fighters looking to keep the action in the center of the ring. Cotto who pressed the action in previous rounds took his foot off the gas and began to use more of the ring. The two had an exchange against the ropes in which Ali got the better of by rocking Cotto with a left hook. Cotto was definitely hurt by the punch because he did not throw many punches throughout the rest of the round, perhaps looking for a brief recovery period.
Ali continued to push the action in round 11 and had Cotto on his back foot now. Ali must have had confidence from the way the previous round ended because he was putting more behind his punches, possibly going for the knockout. He unloaded several combinations against Cotto in the round and hurt him with another left hook in an exchange. Cotto was warned for a low blow in the round, but no points were deducted. Neither fighter appeared to have a sense of urgency with the start of round 12. Ali started the round as the aggressor but Cotto picked up his pace as he tried to match the output of his opponent but with little success. Ali’s timing was impeccable against the veteran Cotto who looked reinvigorated previously in his dominant win against Yoshihiro Kamegai to capture the WBO title. But as we have seen throughout the history of boxing with other great fighters, Cotto looked to age overnight. The judges agreed with that notion as evidenced by the final scorecards of 115-113; 116-112, 115-113, all in favor of Sadam Ali.
As for Ali who was fighting at the divisional weight limit of 154 pounds for the first time in his career, this victory makes him a champion in one of the hottest divisions in the sport. It will be interesting to see how Golden Boy handles the direction of his career as all the other highly-touted belts in the division are held by fighters represented under Al Haymon’s PBC banner. In the final bout of what will ultimately be a first-ballot hall of fame career, Cotto certainly had nothing to feel ashamed of. He and Ali put on a very entertaining fight for the New York fight fans who have made Madison Square Garden a second home for the legendary Puerto Rican fighter. In a sport where the business is taking over the competitive side of things, Cotto can be looked at as one of the last examples of a champion who really did fight everyone.