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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Retired: Miguel Cotto - menacing, hard working and adept at unleashing hell

A look back on the career of the six-time world champion Puerto Rican who has called time on his career after defeat to Sadam Ali

Miguel Cotto walks back to his corner after the sixth round against Sadam Ali during a WBO junior middleweight title boxing match. Ali won the fight by unanimous decision. Adam Hunger / AP Photo
Miguel Cotto walks back to his corner after the sixth round against Sadam Ali during a WBO junior middleweight title boxing match. Ali won the fight by unanimous decision. Adam Hunger / AP Photo

Rare is the time we are able to celebrate an illustrious career in defeat just as we might have in triumph. Seeing Sadam Ali's hand raised in victory at Madison Square Garden in the early hours of Sunday morning marked not only the start of his journey as a world champion, but the end of Miguel Cotto's career, one defined by a warrior soul and an indomitable spirit.

There were no tears as the scorecards were read out at the end of the 47th fight of a 17-year career, one defined by bruising encounters, unimaginable highs and crushing lows. Ali got the nod from all three judges by scores of 115-113, 115-113 and 116-112 to take Cotto's WBO Light Middleweight belt he won so impressively against Yoshihiro Kamegai in August. That victory had set up talk of a rematch with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the Mexican knockout artist who can testify that when it comes to chins Cotto's was of the granite variety.

Somehow, though, defeat to Ali seems easier to digest than another to Canelo. A seesaw contest saw both fighters dominate chunks of the fight: Ali the start, Cotto the middle before the pendulum swung back Ali's way. A personal view is that had Cotto won the last round he could have salvaged a draw. Instead, Cotto bows out with 41 wins to six losses with 33 by way of knockout.

But defeat should not detract from celebrating a wonderful career. Cotto was true to his word that, win or lose, this would be the last time we would see him in the squared circle. His popularity transcended borders and flags. You could have been forgiven for thinking it was the 37-year-old Puerto Rican pugilist who was the New York native rather than Ali, such was the support and adoration he received.

MSG fight fans know a warrior when they see one. Cotto has been down to the coal face so many times his teeth are permanently charred black. Shaved head, tattooed arms, permanent snarl - Cotto was the kind of man that wanted to meet ruffians down dark alleys.

Not always pretty to watch but always menacing, hard working and adept at unleashing hell at close quarters. A six-time world champion in four different weight divisions has put away some of the biggest names of his era and fallen to them too. Zab Judah, Paulie Malignaggi, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito and Ricardo Mayorga came, saw and were conquered; Floyd Mayweather, Canelo and Manny Pacquiao were not.

Cotto was involved in an epoch-defining fight as a 12th round TKO in 2009 at the hands of Pacquiao saw the Filipino win a world title in an unprecedented eight weight divisions. The "Pac-Man" sent out a tweet as Cotto said goodbye to fans in the ring that simply said: "Legend."

Cotto went out the same way he came in - swinging and refusing to take a backwards step. And while too many to mention have called time on their careers only to return a shadow of their former selves, you sense that Cotto will stay true to his word.