On Saturday, Miguel Cotto faces Sadam Ali in what is billed as his retirement fight. The bout is being held in Madison Square Garden–which is appropriate. Cotto has been the biggest boxing draw of this century at the “Mecca of Boxing.” Pauli Malignaggi famously said fighting Miguel Cotto in Madison Square Garden the night before the Puerto Rico Day Parade was like “fighting the Devil in Hell.”
I do not consider Cotto the greatest Puerto Rican boxer of all time–though you will surely see lazy boxing writers dubbing him that this week. But he is an icon and a first ballot Hall of Famer. These have been his five greatest fights:
UD over Paulie Malignaggi, June 10, 2006: In a battle of rising stars, Malignaggi showed plenty of heart, but Cotto was the more complete fighter, handing the Brooklyn native his first professional loss.
TKO 11 over Zab Judah, June 9, 2007: For the second time in one year, Cotto beat a Brooklyn boxing star in the Garden.
UD over Shane Mosley, November 10, 2007: This might have been Cotto’s finest moment. Mosley was already a legend, and far from finished as a pound-for-pound talent.
TKO 9 over Antonio Margarito, December 3, 2011: One of the greatest thrills of my boxing writing career was covering this fight live in the Garden. Cotto avenged his earlier loss–in which Margarito almost certainly fought with his hands wrapped in plaster. Over twenty thousand fans were on their feet and screaming for almost this entire fight.
TKO 10 over Sergio Martinez, June 7, 2014: Cotto became the lineal middleweight champion with this late-career win. Martinez was a shell of his former self–39 and with multiple surgeries in the previous two years. But Cotto deserves credit for fighting a brilliant fight. He jumped all over Martinez from the opening bell, dropping him three times in Round 1 and battering him until Martinez’s corner threw in the towel.