Miguel Cotto stepped into the ring late Saturday night and the crowd of 12,391 was on its feet at Madison Square Garden, showering the world’s most famous boxing stage with high-decibel noise.
The 37-year-old Puerto Rican great was here to say goodbye, one last fight for a six-time world champ in four divisions, spread from 140 to 160 pounds. And it came in front of so many fans rooting on one of their own.
The Garden had a familiar ring for Cotto. This marked his 10th fight here. Sadam Ali stood in against him, but the 29-year-old Brooklyn fighter and former U.S. Olympian didn’t come to be Cotto’s last victim. He had some fans chanting his name, too.
At the end of 12 rounds, the crowd was on its feet again, waiting for ring announcer Michael Buffer to announce the decision. He read off the judges’ scores: 115-113, 116-112, 115-113. A unanimous decision.
But there would be no movie-like ending for Cotto. Ali beat him and took his WBO junior middleweight belt.
“Feeling good with the performance,” Cotto said. “Something happened to my left biceps, seventh round. 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.”
Oscar De La Hoya, the head of Golden Boy Promotions, announced at the end of Ali’s news conference that Cotto had suffered a tear in the biceps muscle that will require surgery.
In the second round, Ali appeared to stagger Cotto momentarily with an overhand right.
In the sixth, Ali got knocked back by a Cotto right to the jaw. Ali turned in strong rounds in the ninth, 10th and 11th, looking more aggressive and fresher than Cotto. He won all three of those rounds on all three scorecards. Cotto picked up the pace for the final round of his career, but Ali won that round unanimously, too.
“Good things happen to good people,” said Ali (26-1). “I have been training since I was 8 years old, and I am glad I got this win at MSG, in my hometown.”
Cotto finished a sure Hall of Fame career at 41-6 with 33 KOs. “I am proud to call MSG my second home,” he said. “I had the opportunity to provide the best for my family because of the sport.”
Angel Acosta plowed through his first 16 pro fights, winning by KO or TKO against everyone who dared get in the ring with him. But then he got in a ring in Japan with WBO junior flyweight champ Kosei Tanaka in May and came out on the wrong end of a 12-round decision.
On Saturday night, the 27-year-old from Puerto Rico fought for the first time since his first loss. The WBO junior flyweight title again was at stake as Tanaka gave up the belt to head up to the flyweight division.
After dominating much of the fight against Mexico’s Juan Alejo, Acosta got back to his knockout tradition. A right to the ear. A left to the jaw. Alejo went down. And it was over at 1:33 of the 10th round.
“It’s taken me five years to get here,’’ Acosta said, “and I’m cherishing this moment for me and for Puerto Rico.”