HBO results: Sadam Ali upsets Miguel Cotto
Within the shadow of a boxing legend’s final fight, Sadam “World Kid” Ali pulled off the upset by earning a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto to become the new WBO junior middleweight titleholder on Saturday night. The fight was the main event of a Golden Boy Promotions card held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City, and televised live on HBO.
“Good things happen to good people and I’ve been training since I was eight years old,” proclaimed Ali in the post-fight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman. “This is my dream. I’m so happy to be here on HBO, in Madison Square Garden, in my hometown – even though it didn’t feel like it because of the Cotto fans – but I’m just blessed.”
The Puerto Rican contingent that always filled the big room at The Garden for Cotto’s fights, over the years, tried their best to rally Cotto late in an extremely competitive fight and booed Ali with the same enthusiasm after he ruined the going-away party.
Fighting out of Brooklyn, New York, Ali, 26-1 (14), had a brilliant start, in which he managed to badly wobble Cotto in the second and fourth rounds with straight right hands. With active hands and feet in the first half of his junior middleweight debut, Ali fought with confidence and the 29-year-old’s youth was a glaring advantage when compared to his 37-year-old counterpart.
Cotto, 41-6 (33), started to really find his rhythm in the sixth round, in which, after finally establishing his trademark left hook to the body, a straight right hand down the middle showed Ali could be hurt as well. After a slow start with dire moments, Cotto took all the momentum away from Ali after that sixth, with his sharp counterpunching ability and, with Ali throwing less and less, it seemed to be the going-away fight it was drawn up to be. Unbeknownst to everyone watching, however, something happened to Cotto in the seventh round and it changed the fight.
“Something happened here but I had to continue fighting,” Cotto said post-fight and, once pointing to his left arm, you could see the bicep rolled up in a knot near his shoulder. Cotto certainly did continue to fight and never once complained or winced in pain when throwing the right. In the eighth round, however, Ali managed to stun Cotto once again with a left hand and, as the fight approached the later rounds, there was a sense that this was anyone’s fight.
“I had him hurt, here and there, but I don’t want to get too over myself and get caught with a shot. He has tremendous power, so I just wanted to be smart,” said Ali. “To me, I felt that the fight was close at that point and, at the end, you don’t know if you’re gonna get the decision or not. I knew, those last two rounds, I had to do great.”
According to CompuBox, Ali out-landed Cotto 27-17 in the total punches landed in those championship rounds and finished his performance in such a convincing fashion, that there would’ve been an uproar – outside of those at The Garden – had the decision gone the other way.
Two scores of 115-113 and one card of 116-112 in favor of Ali gave him the well-earned victory.
“Feeling good,” Cotto said afterward. “Good with the performance. Good with the fight. Just happy.”
Cotto affirmed that the bicep injury was no excuse and gave Ali all the credit but he felt that it was important for everyone to know. Having put on an entertaining fight, Cotto, of course, was asked if this was indeed it.
“It is,” Cotto replied without hesitation. “I’m going to enjoy my family. Just be happy. I want to be at my home.”
In his final act, Cotto certainly put on a show, even in a losing effort, and the Puerto Rican recluse showed some emotion in the parting words to his second home.
“To all of you guys, thank you for supporting at every moment, at every opportunity. I’m so glad to call Madison Square Garden my home. Thank you.”
In the HBO co-feature, Rey Vargas, 31-0 (22), capped off a big 2017 by successfully defending the WBC junior featherweight title a second time, earning a wide unanimous decision (119-109 twice, 120-108) over Oscar Negrete, 17-1 (7).