by Andreas Hale
After sixteen years, world titles in four weight classes and some memorable wars with some of boxing’s best, Miguel Cotto will call it a career on December 2nd when he faces Sadam Ali at Madison Square Garden in New York. It’s not quite the big name opponent that some expected – and let’s be real, Cotto was never going to fight Gennady Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez – but it will be a worthy sendoff for arguably one of the most underappreciated boxers of this era.
Cotto may not have a pristine record like Floyd Mayweather or rumbled through weight classes like Manny Pacquiao, but he’s one of the most important fighters in the last two decades who never backed down from an opponent, no matter their age, size or strength.
You’ll be hard pressed to find another fighter who faced peak level opposition like Cotto did. He never waited for the “right time” to take on an opponent because anytime was the right time. Take a look at his resume for proof: Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Sergio Martinez and Canelo Alvarez are just a few of the names that he faced. Not to mention the likes of Paulie Malignaggi, Ricardo Torres, DeMarcus Corley, Randall Bailey, Carlos Quintana, Austin Trout, Joshua Clottey and Carlos Maussa. If you wanted to fight Miguel Cotto, Miguel Cotto wanted to fight you. And it was very rare that you’d ever find him in a boring fight.
No, he’s not fighting Canelo or GGG, but why should he? He was always too small for the middleweight division and really had no business ever fighting a monster like Canelo. He’s been through enough wars and a fight with Ali still presents a challenge for the 36-year-old.
Cotto is one of those interesting cases where you’ll always wonder “what if?” Like, what if Cotto didn’t fight Antonio Margarito on that fateful July night in 2008. We may never know if Margarito cheated that night, but the beating he put on Cotto as the fight progressed certainly took some years off of the Puerto Rican legend’s career. Margarito was a guy that nobody really wanted to fight and after losing to Paul Williams, it appeared that the Mexican found Thor’s Hammer in his gloves as he tormented the physical beings of Sebastian Lujan, Kermit Cintron and Jaime Manuel Gomez before rumbling to a decision over the exceptionally durable Joshua Clottey.
The Cotto-Margarito fight is one of those forgotten greats. Cotto set a torrid pace early and cleanly outboxed Margarito in the early rounds but The Tijuana Tornado’s length and strength played a major role as he clawed his way back into the fight. It was a brutal fight that saw the pendulum swing dramatically as the fight wore on. Cotto may have lost by 11th round TKO, but it was one hell of a fight.
Rather than beat up on lesser opposition to pad his record, Cotto rolled right into a fight with Clottey after starching Michael Jennings. It was a dangerous fight, but Cotto didn’t shy away and narrowly escaped with a split decision. He made the decision to face Manny Pacquiao next. And this wasn’t the Manny Pacquiao that Floyd Mayweather fought. This was the Filipino that was right in the midst of a destructive run through multiple divisions. He ransacked Oscar De La Hoya and savagely knocked out Ricky Hatton before landing the Cotto fight. But Cotto being Cotto, he stepped up to the challenge and engaged in an exciting fight that saw the Puerto Rican stopped in the 12th round. It was yet another performance that he couldn’t be ashamed of as Pacquiao was on a historic run and took no prisoners along the way. Three fights later he was up against Floyd Mayweather and gave him all he could handle before dropping a unanimous decision.
To be completely honest, Miguel Cotto doesn’t get the credit he deserves for fighting the top guys at the time he did. Unfortunately, he was the Charles Barkley to Floyd Mayweather’s Michael Jordan and Manny Pacquiao’s Hakeem Olajuwon. If it weren’t for them, perhaps Cotto would be revered more than he is. This is not to say that he doesn’t have a loyal following because Madison Square Garden should be packed for his going away party. But Cotto’s name gets lost in the mix when talking about boxing’s best. He may not have won every fight, but he never let boxing fans down when he stepped between the ropes.
There’s no doubt that Miguel Cotto is a future hall of famer and it really doesn’t matter how his fight with Ali ends. He’s given fight fans everything he had and then some. Of course, there’s always a possibility that December 2nd isn’t his swan song and we see him again in 2018. But chances are that Miguel Cotto and his expressionless face will be done with boxing regardless of the outcome. His battle worn body has nothing left to prove. He’s the first Puerto Rican to win world titles in four weight classes, has always been a significant attraction and made a lot of money in the squared circle. He’s often talked about spending time with his family and focusing on things outside of boxing. He’s certainly deserved that.
What we cannot do is groan when we hear that Cotto is facing Sadam Ali and not David Lemieux or some other hard-hitting middleweight. We owe him that much. One thing will hold true on December 2nd, Miguel Cotto will put on a show. And we should all tune in to see the last of a living legend.