MIGUEL COTTO will retire on Saturday night, ending his career in Madison Square Garden where New York’s Puerto Rican population have worshipped him.
Not every fan is on board for a farewell fight against Sadam Ali, but he could have picked far worse opponents for his WBO super-welterweight title defense.
As a huge Cotto fan I’d rather him face Ali than a slugging swansong against Gennady Golovkin, a Canelo Alvarez rematch or David Lemieux which were all being mooted by people who should know better.
They would all have been a step too far, and not a fitting way to be remembered.
Cotto isn’t the brutal force he once was, but still has enough to defeat most contenders, and is retiring at the right time after a catalogue filled with tough nights and torturous training camps.
Saturday’s tenth and final appearance at the Mecca of boxing is one that should be celebrated not just for his stunning career, but his longevity.
Cotto has been a professional for 17 years, facing around 20 world champions and has done nothing but good for boxing. He owes us nothing.
Boxing has had low periods since he turned professional in February 2001, but Cotto has always been a turn to fighter to keep the game relevant and fans interested.
Since he first claimed the WBO super-lightweight championship in 2004, 24 of his 25 fights have been World title contests, winning 21 of them.
The only person to beat him heavily was a peak Manny Pacquiao. In points losses against Floyd Mayweather Jr and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez he pushed them all the way.
He did lose to Antonio Margarito in July 2008, but it is possible his Mexican rivals gloves were loaded with plaster given the controversy that followed his career a few months later.
In their MSG return three years later Margarito was battered and rescued after nine rounds, a win that gave him and his nation immense satisfaction given the suspect circumstances of their first contest.
How many of today’s upcoming boxers tipped for greatness will come close to his years as a professional and number of high-end world title fights? Hard to name one.
World titles at super-lightweight, welterweight, super-welterweight and middleweight in what will be a 47 fight career have brought so many highs. BoxNation has been his British home, and we’re in New York again this weekend for the farewell.
Puerto Rican legends such as Wilfredo Benitez, Hector Camacho, Wilfredo Gomez, Felix Trinidad and Wilfredo Vazquez have won world championships at three weights, which shows what a remarkable career Cotto has enjoyed.
Wins over Zab Judah, Paulie Malignaggi, Margarito, Sergio Martinez and Shane Mosley are my personal highs.
Cotto, 37, reckons his favourite fight was when he recovered from a second round knockdown to stop Ricardo Torres in the seventh of a WBO super-lightweight title defence in September 2005.
The Colombian was 28-0 with 26 knockouts, feared by many in the 140lb division and went on to win that belt when Cotto moved up in weight a year later.
“The one that put Miguel Cotto on the map,” says Cotto of that win.
Cotto nights at the Garden are special, electric, bring a tingle to your stomach and make you skip a heart beat a split second later before releasing air from your mouth.
My experience was his five round win over Michael Jennings in WBO welterweight title defense in February 2009.
The atmosphere took jingoism to new levels from the second Jennings emerged from a darkened tunnel with ‘Anarchy in the UK’ blaring over the sound system and the boos rang out until Cotto made his ring walk.
The noise made by fans at a Ricky Hatton fight in Manchester Arena seemed like a gentleman’s dinner club show that evening, and Ali can expect the same this weekend even though he’s a Brooklyn native.
One thing boxing in 2017 will be remembered for is being the year great boxers said goodbye to the sport and meant it.
Tim Bradley, Wladimir Klitschko and Juan Marquez walked away insisting “no more”. Let’s hope wealthy Cotto sticks to it and I think he will.
He doesn’t smile much, doesn’t enjoy media attention but when he says something it isn’t for sound bites - he means it.