Miguel Cotto, the four-division champion from Caguas, Puerto Rico, has essentially become the house fighter at Madison Square Garden. Over the course of his 46-fight career, he has fought at the Garden nine times and won eight.
That doesn’t sit so well with the kid from Brooklyn, Sadam Ali, who fights Cotto at the Garden on Saturday night. The building is usually close to capacity when Cotto fights, and Ali admits that over the years, he has been among those in attendance. Saturday, he will look at Cotto from the opposite corner.
“I’ve been fighting since I was 8 years old, and I’ve been in big arenas,” Ali said on a conference call last week. “I took the challenge against a legend. I fear nothing, and I don’t hold back. This is the opportunity of a lifetime in Madison Square Garden. It’s going to be amazing. I feel like we’re going to put on a great show and I’m ready.”
After a 17-year career in which he has faced Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley and most of the top fighters of his era, Cotto has said this will be his last professional fight.
“As one star says goodbye, another one looks to try to fill that void,” said Oscar de la Hoya, who is promoting the fight. “Just like he was given a shot for his first world championship many years ago, he is now doing the same for Sadam Ali. By going against a legend, Sadam is daring to be great. That is how you make a real name for yourself in the sport of boxing.”
Ali, 29, has always had the name. But recognition has been somewhat slow to follow. Ali was an amateur star, winning the New York Golden Gloves, the Junior Olympics and national PAL and Golden Glove titles. Ali earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 and lost his opening match. He then won his first 22 pro fights and challenged Jessie Vargas for the WBO welterweight crown in March 2016. Ali was stopped in the ninth round.
Some felt Cotto might end his career with a more financially rewarding fight, perhaps a rematch with Canelo Alvarez or a challenge of Gennady Golovkin. But those two middleweights will fight each other in a rematch of their disputed draw in September.
“The next best guy was the young guy coming up, the next generation,” trainer Freddie Roach said. “We are getting a chance at that, and we’ll see how good he really is . . . We’re right on track right now. If a knockout comes, that will be a bonus, but I expect Cotto to win this fight and go out on top for sure.”
Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) will be defending his WBO super welterweight crown against Ali, marking the Brooklyn fighter’s first bout at 154 pounds.
“Cotto is the biggest opponent in my career,” Ali said. “But I love the challenge, and I’m ready to do whatever I have to do. My weight — I’m not really, really down in weight. My weight is OK. I’m where I’m supposed to be. So I’m excited.”
According to de la Hoya and Cotto, a portion of the ticket sales will be donated to charities helping Puerto Rico with its recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September.
“I’ve been in Puerto Rico my whole life,” said Cotto. “The hurricane was tough for us as Puerto Ricans, but together we are going to overcome this and be grateful for that.”