Miguel Cotto, left, punches Sadam Ali, during the sixth round of a WBO junior middleweight title boxing match Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
BARRY WILNER, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Sadam Ali ruined the Garden party for Miguel Cotto on Saturday night, sending the Puerto Rican star into retirement with 12-round defeat by decision.
The 37-year-old Cotto simply couldn’t handle the quickness of his younger opponent, who took the WBO junior middleweight belt. Ali, from Brooklyn, did it despite being the less-popular fighter only miles from his borough; Cotto has made Madison Square Garden a second home, but fell to 8-2 in the arena.
Cotto finishes 41-6, and clearly this was not how he planned to leave the ring. But he looked his age far too often, and hurt his left biceps in the seventh round in losing by scores of 115-113, 115-113, and 116-112.
“Feeling good with the performance,” Cotto said.
“Something happened to my left bicep … I don’t want to make excuses, Sadam won the fight. It is my last fight. I am good, and I want to be happy in my home with my family.”
Cotto received a thunderous ovation when he entered the ring, and they were chanting his name as he left, proud but defeated.
Many of the 12,391 fans booed the decision and again when Ali spoke in the ring.
“I worked hard for it,” Ali said. “I took advantage of this fight, and I made sure to make it count. I want to thank team Cotto, they could have taken an easier fight if they wanted to. “
The fans soon were cheering as Cotto made his final statements to his legion of fans.
“Thank you to everyone,” Cotto said in English. He usually answers questions in Spanish.
“Thank you for all the fans, I am proud to call MSG my second home. I had the opportunity to provide the best for my family because of the sport.”
Ali, 29, is 26-1. He lost his previous title fight to Jessie Vargas in 2016 when he was stopped in the ninth round in a welterweight match.
Now, he becomes a force in this division. His hand speed and movement around the ring made him formidable Saturday night.
“Good things happen to good people,” Ali said. “I have been training since I was 8 years old, and I am glad I got this win at MSG, in my hometown.”
Cotto, meanwhile, leaves boxing with a legacy that can’t be tarnished by this loss.
Holder of six belts in four weight classes in his distinguished career — and the only boxer from the tradition-rich Caribbean island to own four such titles — he retires with a reputation as one of the classiest and fearless fighters of his era. Sure, he lost a handful of other bouts, but they were against such prime competition as Canelo Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Manny Pacquiao. One thing was certain for the paying customers: Cotto would deliver a good show.
He did so in his farewell, too. Ali just as better.
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