By John Cudney
Miguel Cotto closed out his hall of fame career with a dispiriting loss, and Sadam Ali’s career gets new life.
In what was billed as a celebration of Miguel Cotto’s career and his swan song in the ring, Sadam Ali overcame big odds and a hostile crowd to win a well deserved decision.
Sadam Ali UD12 Miguel Cotto
Boxing fans were cool on this matchup going in, but it ended up being an unfair assessment. Miguel Cotto and Sadam Ali put on a very entertaining 12 round tussle with numerous pivots in momentum.
As the opening bell rang, Ali neither looked intimidated nor did he seem to suffer from the size disadvantage some had expected. There were no exclamation points in the first round, but Ali landed the best punches.
Both fighters had success in the second, but Ali’s was more emphatic. Cotto tried to cut off the ring while Ali aimed to stick and move, but Ali hurt Cotto with a right hand and that moment won him the round on all three cards.
Cotto continued to press forward in the 3rd and 4th, but Ali stung Cotto 45 seconds into the 4th round and the crowd began to yell “ALI ALI ALI”.
Ali looked confident for the first half of the round 5th, but Cotto was forcing Ali to fight in a style that was consuming a lot of energy. At that specific moment in the fight, this was a worrying thought for a fighter like Ali who has had stamina problems in the past. The second half of the 5th belonged to Cotto as he had some nice success to the body.
Cotto continued to gain momentum in 6th and landed his best punch of the fight, a hard right hand.
Cotto came forward on a mission at the start of the 7th and he seemed to have figured out Ali’s biggest weapons. Neither man dominated the round, but Cotto firmly seemed to have won the momentum. The best punch of the round was a hard left hook to the body by Cotto.
For the first 30 seconds of the 8th it looked like Cotto was really taking over the fight, but Ali then landed a number of effective powershots. The round featured a bunch of good exchange, but headline is that Ali showed that he was still in it. As it turned out, Cotto never regained the momentum after this point. It wasn’t apparent at ringside, but this specific shift appeared to coincide with a bicep injury suffered by Cotto.
In the 9th the mood of the fight shifted to a pure boxing match, and that played right into Ali’s hands.
The 10th looked like the 9th, and that was bad news for Cotto who seemed to have slipped behind without a path back into the fight.
Cotto looked tired and hurt in the 11th. This is not how he wanted to close out his career.
The 12th was Cotto’s last chance to save his finale. He put on a game face, but it was Ali who landed the first big shot 30 seconds in, and then he followed it up with a few more. Credit to Cotto for trying to land something, but Ali boxed circles around him and landed all the big punches. The crowd erupted with huge roars for “ALI ALI!!!” at the 1:30 mark. Cotto landed a shot with about 45 seconds left and the Puerto Rican fans answered back in Cotto’s favor and stayed on their feet cheering up through the final seconds of the bout (and likely the final seconds of his career). At least Cotto will be able to think back on those final moments of adulation when he looks back on his life in boxing.
There was more than a little tension in press row while waiting for the official scores to be read. Everyone around me had Ali winning by margins 8–4 or 9–3, but most thought it was close enough that the judges would give it to Cotto anyway. That tension remained up through the reading of the appropriately close scores, but happily the judges came through and gave it to the right man. The Puerto Rican fans in the house may have booed, but fans of the sport outside that community can be proud of the integrity the judges showed tonight.
Sadam Ali is now the WBO 154lb champion, but it’s not clear where he goes from here. He would be a clear underdog against anyone in the top 5 (or probably even top 10) at 154, but maybe he can leverage the title into a title shot at 147 against the WBO’s champion in that division, who happens to be the equally vulnerable Jeff Horn.
As for Cotto, he he can look back on his hall-of-fame career with pride. There’s a certain irony to the fact that his career will have ended on injury in a manner not dissimilar from the way that Sergio Martinez’s did in his fateful fight against Cotto 3 years ago.
Rey Vargas UD12 Oscar Negrete
Rey Vargas successfully defend his WBC 122lb title against a game but limited Oscar Negrete over the 12 round championship distance. Vargas came in with huge advantages in height and reach, and Negrete clearly knew going in that his success or failure would be determined by his ability to get inside.
Each of the first few rounds played out similarly: Vargas sought to do clean work from the outside, while Negrete sought to do ugly work on the inside. A cut appeared around Vargas’ right eye in round 6, and it worsened over the next couple rounds. Round 6 through 8 were the most action-packed of the fight. In those stanzas the cut over Vargas’ worsened and he picked up a nasty one over his left eye as well. By the end of the 8th it even looked (in spots) like Negrete might be pushing Vargas over the cliff. The 9th signaled a clear shift. Both showed signs of fatigue and Vargas was able to take the round using exaggerated lateral movement to nullify Negrete and to get his shots in. The remaining rounds were largely carbon copies of the 9th and Vargas’ cuts ceased to be an issue once Negrete stopped landed.
After a few exciting rounds in the middle, it ended up being an anticlimactic decision win for Vargas.
Angel Acosta KO10 Juan Alejo — Vacant WBO World Light Flyweight Title
Angel Acosta lost a very competitive title fight to Kosei Tanaka in his last outing, and tonight he got his second chance at that same title owing to Tanaka vacating to move up to 112.
Acosta was curiously the only other Puerto Rican on the card, and the partisan crowd loudly announced their support when he stepped into the ring. Fortunately for them, Acosta gave them many occasions to cheer. Acosta landed scores of powershots throughout the bout en route to a 10th round KO win, with the win finally coming via left hook with 1:40 remaining in the round.
Alejo came in as BoxRec’s #27 ranked fighter at the weight, but he landed enough punches to keep the crowd engaged until he recieved the left hook that ultimately brought him down. Acosta probably deserves to be considered one of the top Junior Flyweights in what is a very shallow division.
Miguel Cotto vs. Sadam Ali – The Judges Got It Right was originally published in sundaypuncher on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.