There was no fairy-tale ending for Miguel Cotto 41 (33 KO’s)- 6 (2 KO’s)-0 yesterday as Saddam Ali 26 (14 KO’s)-1 (1 KO)-0 upset the odds to defeat Cotto at his second home in Madison Square Garden in the final fight of his career to take the WBO Light- Middleweght title. Once the fight was announced Cotto was the clear favourite and it was predicted that Cotto would use his superior stamina and overall boxing experience to put the final touch on a fantastic career.
However it was not meant to be for Cotto, from the outset Cotto seemed to be bothered by the hand speed and overall athletic ability of the younger man, and Ali’s educated footwork and high right hand saw him avoid almost all of Cotto’s powerful left hooks. The apparent difference in speed came to fruition for Ali in the second round as he landed a straight right hand that seemed to wobble Cotto, although Ali seemed hesitant to fully press the action, wary to walking onto something big.
As the fight progressed to the middle rounds Cotto got a a second wind, landing clean straight shots and digging to Ali’s body more with his left hook, but perhaps he should have invested to the body earlier in the fight, slowing Ali’s foot movement down the stretch. Although this is a testament to Ali’s boxing ability that seemed to make Cotto cautious of being caught with a fast combination.
During the last portion of the fight Ali boxed beautifully, making Cotto look every inch of his 37 years of age hurting him with both right hands and left hooks. Prior to the fight it was thought that perhaps Ali could have stamina issues down the stretch, but educated boxing and perhaps a move up in weight meant that it was Cotto who seemed the more obviously fatigued during the championship rounds.
The fight went to the judges’ decision and though Ali seemed to have done enough, many were expecting questionable judges’ decisions in Cotto’s last fight, however the fight went the right way and Ali has now walked away with the belt.
Ali now is in a peculiar situation as a Welterweight holding a Light- Middleweight title, does he move down to what many think is his natural weight to face the likes of Keith Thurman or Errol Spence or does he stay in a very competitive Light- Middleweight division, and test his skill against the much bigger fighters in: Erislandy Lara and Jermell Charlo.
As for Cotto this will be a night to forget when he looks back at his legacy, but not a fight that takes much of the shine of it as a whole, a talented young fighter coming in and upsetting the odds against the old guard, while this hurts for a lot of diehard Cotto fans, if boxing is to move forward sometimes that needs to happen.
Also on the card Rey Vargas 31 (22 KO’s)-0-0 won a lopsided points decision against Oscar Negrete 17 (7 KO’s)- 1 (0 KO)-0 to defend his WBC Super- Bantamweight title.