By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Sadam Ali admitted before facing Miguel Cotto that he was worried he wouldn’t win a decision against the popular Puerto Rican legend at Madison Square Garden, even if he had earned it.
That tension intensified for Ali as he waited for ring announcer Michael Buffer to announce the scores following their 12-round, 154-pound title fight Saturday night. As Buffer read the scores, it was obvious by the look on Ali’s face that he wasn’t certain he would be declared the winner of a fight in which he performed much better than the lopsided odds suggested he would.
“If I’m gonna be honest, I did feel like I pulled it off,” Ali said during a post-fight press conference early Sunday morning. “But at the same time, I wasn’t sure what the decision would be. I did pray at that moment. I said, ‘Please God, let me just get this decision. I hope it goes my way,’ you know? But I did feel like even if I didn’t, I believe I showed who I was in that ring. But I am grateful that I did get the decision, and I’m really happy.”
Each of the three judges indeed credited Ali with the career-changing victory the Brooklyn native deserved. New York’s Julie Lederman (115-113), New York’s Eric Marlinski (116-112) and New Jersey’s Steve Weisfeld (115-113) all scored the competitive 12-round fight for Ali, who hurt Cotto with a right hand in the second round and a left hook in the fourth round.
The 29-year-old Ali was behind on the scorecards of Lederman (77-75) and Weisfeld (77-75) through eight rounds. Marlinski had it even following the eighth round (76-76).
Ali won the final four rounds on each of the three scorecards, though, to pull off one of boxing’s biggest upsets of 2017. Cotto suffered a torn left biceps during the seventh round, yet won the seventh and eighth rounds on all three cards.
According to unofficial CompuBox statistics, Cotto connected on more overall punches than Ali (163-of-536 to 139-of-647). CompuBox credited Ali for landing more power punches (122-of-373 to 108-of-322), but counted more jabs for Cotto (55-of-214 to 17-of-274).
Before a press conference Thursday at The Garden, Ali told a small group of reporters that he was concerned about a pro-Cotto crowd influencing judging, despite that he technically was the fighter performing in his hometown. Cotto made Madison Square Garden his home away from home throughout his Hall-of-Fame career and fought there for the 10th time Saturday night.
“The crowd, the sound, could persuade the judges a little bit,” Ali said. “I do feel that way. But I leave it in God’s hands. And when it comes to the decision, I just hope that everything is fair and, you know, both ways. I don’t go in there thinking negative. I’m thinking positive about it.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.