In a few days, Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto will once again go through the same routine he’s done for his previous 46 fights.
He’ll strap on his boxing gear, warm up, and then make the walk to the ring for a prizefight in which he will do battle with the same passion he always has. Cotto, who took up boxing at age 11 to lose weight, has said that it will be business as usual for fight No. 47, even though, to many watching, it really won’t be. The reason is because Cotto, after a glorious 17-year career filled with memorable fights, is saying goodbye to the ring at age 37.
Cotto insists that his junior middleweight title defense against Sadam Ali on Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where he has become a franchise and will fight for the 10th time (all main events), will be the final fight of his career.
Cotto has won six world titles — most recently a vacant 154-pound pound belt on Aug. 26 that he will defend for the first time — in four weight divisions, from junior welterweight to middleweight. He is the only Puerto Rican man to do so despite the island’s rich boxing history.
Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs) became a star with Top Rank promoting most of his career, faced every fighter of note in his era — and he’s a surefire Hall of Famer. Although he is still a very capable fighter, he believes this is the right time to bring the curtain down on his career.
“The fact that it is my last fight has not changed anything,” said Cotto, who was a 2000 Olympian before going pro. “I have always dedicated myself fully and have worked hard, and that’s why I’m here now, finishing my career on my terms. I haven’t really felt nostalgia yet during the final days of my camp. I’m just grateful for what boxing has given me and for the life it has allowed me to give to my children.”
Cotto, finishing his career with Golden Boy Promotions, has earned tens of millions of dollars thanks to his talent and penchant for dramatic fights. His legacy as one of the best fighters of his generation, and one of the best in Puerto Rican history, is secure. That won’t change regardless of what happens against 2012 U.S. Olympian Ali (25-1, 14 KOs), 29, of Brooklyn, New York, who is moving up in weight from welterweight to take a fight several other bigger names turned down.
In the co-feature, junior featherweight world titleholder Rey Vargas (30-0, 22 KOs), 27, of Mexico, will make his second defense on his second straight Cotto undercard, when he takes on Oscar Negrete (17-0, 7 KOs), 30, a Colombia native fighting out of Rosemead, California.
Freddie Roach, the Hall of Fame trainer who began working with Cotto in 2013, is going into his sixth fight with him. Even though Cotto said this is going to be his final fight, Roach said he has worked just as hard in camp as he always has.
“I’m happy he’s going out on top,” said Roach, who was in the opposite corner when his other star pupil, Manny Pacquiao, stopped Cotto in the 12th round to take his welterweight world title in 2009. “The training camp is identical to all our training camps. He works hard. We push each other. And just because this is his last fight, no one’s taking it easy or anything like that.
“We’re working very hard for this fight, and going out on top is the best way to do it, I feel. I’m really happy with his decision. He’s had a great career, and he wants to spend more time with his family, and that’s great. He’s going to have a great opportunity to enjoy that more.”
Cotto said he is firm in his decision to walk away with his faculties and bank account intact. He has nothing left to prove after a career in which he faced every big name of his time, including Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather, Sergio Martinez, Shane Mosley, Zab Judah, Antonio Margarito (twice), Austin Trout, Joshua Clottey, Paulie Malignaggi and Ricardo Mayorga.
“After having the opportunity to provide the best for my family with boxing, all I can say about boxing is I’m thankful for being a boxer. That’s all I can say,” Cotto said.
He said it with little emotion. Cotto simply believes this is just the right time to walk away, with nothing more to prove to himself or anyone else.
“I just want to start a new life and a better life with my family, not being away from them and just take advantage of every moment with them. That’s all I want,” Cotto said. “I enjoyed my whole career, and I can’t point at one fight (as my best), you know? I enjoyed my whole career. Every moment made me be the boxer I am right now, the person I am right now. I would have to say my whole career has been amazing for me.
“I can’t point to one victory. I enjoyed my whole career. Every victory became part of my career, and I’m happy with the way my career is going, the way my career is going to end on [Saturday] and I’m really happy with my whole career. I’m not going to point to one fight. I’m going to look at my whole career.”
When pressed to identify his most important fight, Cotto finally opened up a little bit. He said it was his epic junior welterweight slugfest with Ricardo Torres, a big puncher from Colombia, in 2005. Cotto retained the title by seventh-round knockout in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but not before he overcome several rocky moments in a brutal back-and-forth brawl.
“I think the fight with Torres is the one that put Miguel Cotto on the map,” he said. “It was the way the fight was happening this night and the way I woke up from the canvas (after getting knocked down), and it was the fight that put Miguel Cotto on the map.”
Another fight that Cotto took immense satisfaction in winning was his acrimonious rematch with hated rival Margarito in 2011 to retain a junior middleweight title. In 2008, Margarito stopped Cotto in the 11th round of a bloody fight to take his welterweight belt. But in his next fight, Margarito was caught trying to fight Mosley with loaded hand wraps. Cotto and many others believe Margarito got away with fighting him with illegal hand wraps in their first fight.
So when Cotto dominated Margarito, busted up his surgically-repaired eye and stopped him seconds into the 10th round in the rematch, it was the most satisfying moment of his career.
“Was just showing people what happened in the first fight, that was over,” Cotto said. “Everybody knows what happened in the first fight.”
He will go down as one of Puerto Rico’s all-time greats, in the conversation with such legends as Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfred Benitez, Felix Trinidad, Carlos Ortiz and Hector Camacho. But Cotto isn’t about to rank himself.
“I’m just another,” he said. “I was just a kid who wanted to be a boxer, then became a man. All I did in my life, in my career, was try to do my best. It’s not my job to put myself in any position. I just tried to do my best every day.”
Whether Cotto was knocking out Judah in an electrifying 2007 welterweight title fight, stopping Martinez to win the middleweight title in 2014, losing it to Alvarez in 2015 or losing a decision to Mayweather in 2012 in one of the toughest fights of Mayweather’s career, Cotto said he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I stepped up to every opportunity I had in the ring, as in the fight with Mayweather,” Cotto said. “I had a great career and much satisfaction. That’s my career, and I’m happy with it.
“I’ve been blessed. You know, I had a wonderful career, and all I can say is that every moment in the gym, every moment on the track was — my [fights were] a reflection of every hard moment of training, and I’m really happy and blessed for that.”