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Cotto ends career with loss to Sadam Ali

Miguel Cotto boxing photo and news image

By Sean Jones: Miguel Cotto ended his long 16-year career last Saturday night with a close 12 round unanimous decision loss to Golden Boy Promotions fighter Sadam Ali (26-1, 14 KOs) at Madison Square Garden in New York. It was supposed to be an easy win for Cotto (41-6, 33 KOs) over the 29-year-old underdog Sadam Ali, but it turned out to be a fight tougher than expected.

This was supposed to be a goodbye present from Cotto to his loyal boxing fans at Madison Square Garden. Instead, it was a bitter goodbye from Cotto, as he looked old, tired and not the guy that the fans had known over the years. Cotto’s age showed itself clearly against Ali. Cotto looked old against Ali, and there was nothing he could do about it. The ring IQ was there for Cotto, but not his stamina and energy. That was long gone by the time the fight went into the second half. Ali took over the fight, and used his youth to dominate the last 5 rounds.

The final punch stats seemed to show that Cotto was the better fighter of the two, but unfortunately the stats don’t reflect what took place in the last 6 rounds of the contest. Ali connected on 139 of 647 punches for a 21 percent connect percentage, according to CompuBox. Cotto landed 163 of 536 punches for 30 percent. Ali was in control of the fight from round 8. Cotto had nothing left in the tank. Cotto looked exhausted.

After Cotto fought well in the first 7 rounds, he fell apart completely in the last 5 rounds of the fight. Indeed, Cotto appeared to lose rounds 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Cotto wasn’t throwing enough punches to give himself a chance to win the last five rounds of the fight. Moreover, Cotto stopped coming forward altogether, and spent the last 5 rounds mostly trying to escape Ali’s pressure.

Cotto was still periodically attacking Ali, but he couldn’t sustain his attacks or land his power shots when he did press the action. The fight was there to be won by Cotto if he’d been able to stay active in the last 5 rounds of the contest. Ali looked weak, and didn’t fight smart when he was being pressured. Ali looked scared and uncomfortable when Cotto was showing aggression.

Ali didn’t have the look of a winner. He fought more like a B-side opponent when Cotto was coming forward looking to nail him with shots. However, once Cotto gassed out in round 8, Ali took control of the fight, doing just enough to win the rounds. Even with Cotto exhausted and fighting defensively, Ali still barely won the rounds, as he wasn’t aggressive the way he needed to for him to clearly dominate each round. You can argue that the last 5 rounds were close enough for Cotto to win them if he’d thrown a few more punches.

Ali, 5’9”, had the size and speed advantage, and he was also the more mobile fighter of the two. The foot speed of Ali made it difficult for Cotto to get close enough at times to land his harder shots. That was something Cotto likely didn’t account for when he picked out Ali to fight. Making a pick from the 147lb. division meant that Cotto was going to be dealing with a much faster caliber of a fighter in terms of foot speed compared to the mostly slower guys that he’d been accustomed to fighting.

The judges scored the fight 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113 for Ali. Cotto, 37, fought well enough to win 4 of the first 6 rounds of the fight. The rounds where he had trouble in the first half of the fight were in the 2nd and 4th. Cotto was surprisingly staggered by hard shots from Ali in both of those rounds. In round 2, Ali caught Cotto coming in with a fast-left hook that staggered him briefly. In round 4, Ali nailed Cotto with a right to the top of the head that caused his legs to wobble. Some believed that Cotto had merely slipped on the canvas, but it was clearly a case of him being hurt. Cotto’s legs looked weak even after he backed off completely. He was hurt. Ali didn’t have the punch accuracy, power or the aggressiveness to go after Cotto to finish the job.

Ali came into the fight as a HUGE underdog. It was thought that Ali had next to no chance of beating Cotto, given his recent knockout loss to Jessie Vargas. Ali had the boxing ability and the Olympic credentials, but his chin problems and his lack of power made him a long shot to beat the aging Cotto.

Cotto said he hurt his left bicep in the 7th. Cotto was able to use his left hand in the second half of the contest. What changed was his punch output. Cotto threw far fewer punches in the second half of the fight compared to the first, and the only thing you can say about that is he was tired. Cotto hadn’t shown signs of age and inactivity in his previous fight against Yoshihiro Kamegai in their fight on HBO Boxing on August 26, but he showed it a big way against the 29-year-old Ali. Cotto didn’t stop throwing as many punches in the last 6 rounds due to his left bicep problem. It looked more like the case of Cotto not throwing because he was dog-tired. Cotto tried to force himself to attack Ali at times in the last 5 rounds, but there was no energy or speed there. Ali got the better of Cotto in each of the last 5 rounds from the 8th until the 12th.

In what was uncharacteristic for Cotto, he made this excuse after the fight for why he lost:
“Something happened to my left bicep, seventh round. I don’t want to make excuses,” said Cotto. ”Sadam won the fight. It is my last fight.”

The bicep injury didn’t make Cotto stop throwing punches with his right hand. That was clearly a stamina issue. Cotto could have kept throwing punches with his right hand, but he looked too tired, which isn’t surprising given how few fights he’s had in the last 4 years of his career since 2013. During that time, Cotto has fought just 6 times. In the last 3 years, Cotto has fought only 5 times. It’s not nearly enough for a fighter to stay sharp, especially an aging guy like Cotto. When a fighter gets older like Cotto, it’s important to stay busy by fighting at least 2 times a year. There are exceptions of course like Floyd Mayweather Jr., but the most part, it’s important for fighters to stay busy. Cotto hasn’t done that, and he paid the price last Saturday night in losing to Sadam Ali. Besides not being busy with his career, the other mistake that Cotto that hurt his chances of beating Ali was coming into the fight so light. Cotto weighed just 151.6 lbs. at Friday’s weigh-in. Cotto didn’t rehydrate very much overnight. He looked small inside the ring, and not the same guy that had beaten Yoshihiro Kamegai, Daniel Geale and Sergio Martinez. Cotto would have been better off having more muscle weight last night. Cotto just looked atrophied, as if he hadn’t been working out during his time out of the ring.

As bad as Cotto looked against a light hitting Ali last night, it’s a good thing that he didn’t wait around to fight the winner of the Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin vs. Saul Canelo Alvarez fight. Against either of those fighters, Cotto would have been totally over-matched and likely stopped.

The loss for Cotto ruined his going away celebration for his boxing fans. It’s not that surprising that he came up empty. If you look closely at Cotto’s resume, he hadn’t beaten a solid fighter in many years. Yes, Cotto has beaten name guys in the last 3 years of his career like Sergio Martinez and Daniel Geale, but those fighters were old at the time that he fought them. Martinez was 40-years-old, and he had a bad right knee that had required 2 surgeries in the 12 months leading up to the Cotto fight. Geale had recently been knocked out in 3 rounds by Golovkin at the time he fought Cotto. You have to go back many years to see the last good win on Cotto’s resume over a fighter in his prime. Cotto’s wins in the last 7 years of his career were against guys that were depleted in some way due to age or injury. Cotto’s success since 2010 has been largely smoke and mirrors with him being matched against the right guy at the right time. When Cotto fought fighters that weren’t old, injured and depleted, he lost. We saw that in Cotto’s defeats against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Austin Trout and Saul Canelo Alvarez.

Cotto is expected to be a sure thing Hall of Famer, but there’s a good argument that can be made that he doesn’t deserve that status. Cotto failed when fighting the best, and he only avenged one of those losses in beating Antonio Margarito after his eye surgery. Would Cotto have beaten Margarito if he was 100 percent? I doubt it.




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