By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Peter Nelson sees the Miguel Cotto-Sadam Ali fight different than odds makers and many who’ve criticized it.
HBO Sports’ executive vice president touted it during a press conference Thursday at Madison Square Garden as the type of fight “that legends get made from.” That opportunity applies to Brooklyn’s Ali, who could completely change the course of his career by upsetting Cotto on Saturday night in what is supposed to be the final fight of the Puerto Rican icon’s career.
The 37-year-old Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) is a 10-1 favorite over Ali (25-1, 14 KOs), a natural welterweight, in their 12-round fight for Cotto’s WBO super welterweight title. It’ll mark Cotto’s 24th appearance on HBO.
“What we decided when we wanted to put this fight on, and we talked with Golden Boy and Miguel and his team about this, is that we wanted the best fight possible,” Nelson said. “Miguel has never walked away from any challenge. He has always stepped in the ring against any opponent imaginable. The toughest fights of his career, rematches, any challenge that presented itself, that fans wanted to see, Miguel Cotto wanted to rise to that occasion. And this Saturday night is gonna be no different.
“You [have] a Hall of Fame fighter who wants to cement his legacy against a young, hungry fighter that wants to establish his. And these are the kinds of matchups that legends get made from. You have one of the great trainers in Andre Rozier [Ali], who more than anything else, would love to get a win over the greatest trainer of all time in Freddie Roach [Cotto]. You’ve got two world championship fights, you’ve got a great night of fights on the undercard. So if you can get a ticket, please do. Set your DVR and we’ll see you on Saturday night.”
Several fighters, most notably IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. (22-0, 19 KOs) and WBC lightweight champ Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs), turned down the opportunity to move up in weight for a shot at Cotto because they didn’t want to sign long-term contracts with Golden Boy Promotions, Cotto’s promoter. Ali admits he was beyond surprised when the Cotto fight was offered to him, but the 2008 Olympian considers it “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
HBO’s broadcast is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday night with a 12-round bout between Mexico’s Rey Vargas (30-0, 22 KOs), the WBC super bantamweight champion, and Colombia’s Oscar Negrete (17-0, 7 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.