Miguel Cotto is the epitome of what every boxer should strive to be

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Miguel Cotto’s fabulous career ends on Saturday in a super welterweight title bout at Madison Square Garden on Saturday against Sadam Ali (Getty)

There was never a fight in which Miguel Cotto entered the ring unprepared. There was never one in which Cotto didn’t fight as hard as he possibly could. There wasn’t an opponent he could have fought that he did not.

The Puerto Rican’s fabulous career ends on Saturday in what he says will be his final fight in a super welterweight title bout at Madison Square Garden televised by HBO against Sadam Ali, and it’s sad because you don’t get the likes of Cotto very often.

Cotto was beloved, not because of a warm and fuzzy personality or a quick wit or even a charitable streak which drew people to him. No, this was a guy who was beloved because for 17 years as a pro, he was the dictionary definition of what a fighter ought to be.

He wasn’t the slickest boxer of his era, but he beat several very slick ones. He wasn’t the most powerful, either, but he doled out significant punishment. But there were few in his era who had the all-around game that Cotto did.

He could punch and take a punch. He could box. He was savvy in the ring and could adjust strategy on the fly, if necessary, and had the courage to face the harshest fire.

Cotto enters Saturday’s bout with a 41-5 record and 33 knockouts.

His losses say much about the fighter he has been: A loss by TKO in the 11th to Antonio Margarito on July 26, 2008; a loss by TKO in the 12th to Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 14, 2009; a unanimous decision loss to Floyd Mayweather on May 5, 2012; a unanimous decision loss to Austin Trout on Dec. 1, 2012; and a unanimous decision loss to Canelo Alvarez on Nov. 21, 2015.

Those came against several of the greatest fighters of all-time, and certainly against the best fighters of his era.

But Cotto points to a lesser known bout as the one that put him on the path to greatness.

“I think the fight with [Ricardo] Torres in Atlantic City is the one that put Miguel Cotto on the map,” Cotto said of the Sept. 24, 2005, bout that he won by seventh-round knockout. “It was the way the fight was happening that night and the way I woke up from the canvas, and it was the fight that put Miguel Cotto on the map.”

Torres entered the fight with a 28-0 record and 26 knockouts, but he was something of an unknown commodity at the world-class level. Prior to the bout with Cotto, he’d fought 27 of his 28 fights at home in his native Colombia against largely unknown opposition.

Torres fought 12 winless opponents in his 28 fights prior to facing Cotto and his opponents had a combined record of 100-158-6, so there were legitimate questions about whether his power was real or a product of facing overmatched opposition.

The answer came early. Cotto was hurt badly in Round 1, and was knocked down in Round 2 for the first time in his career. He was badly hurt in rounds five, six and seven, as well.

If you want to know the type of fighter Cotto has been throughout his career, watch a replay of that bout. He floored Torres four times, standing up in the face of a hellacious beating and coming out on top.

He did much the same three years later in the most controversial bout of his career and one of the most controversial in boxing history.

Margarito and Cotto put on a savage show in their July 26, 2008, bout in Las Vegas before referee Kenny Bayless stopped it in the 11th as Margarito was overwhelming Cotto.

Boxer Miguel Cotto poses for a portrait, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in New York. Cotto faces Sadam Ali in a junior middleweight bout on Dec. 2 at Madison Square Garden. (AP)

The sheer violence in the ring was breathtaking, but when Margarito was discovered to have had plaster of paris in his hand wraps in his next fight, when facing Shane Mosley, suspicions arose about what he may have done while fighting Cotto.

Cotto believed in his heart – as did many who witnessed their fight – that Margarito’s gloves were loaded when they fought. Margarito has vehemently denied that, and continues to deny it to this day.

He prefers not to discuss it, saying only, “Everybody knows what happened in the first fight.” But when they rematched in 2011 at Madison Square Garden, it was a one-sided bout in Cotto’s favor.

He stopped Margarito in the ninth and delivered a brutal beating in a fight in which there was no doubt that Margarito’s hands were wrapped legally.

“[I] was just showing people what happened in the first fight, that was over,” Cotto said of the rematch.

He didn’t dwell on it, just like he never gloated in victory or moped in defeat. It was all part of the job. He tried fiercely to win, but on those few occasions he did not, he moved on. Even though there was tremendous bitterness toward Margarito, when the rematch occurred, he won it and went on to face Mayweather.

He’s among the greatest fighters of the 21st century and arguably to greatest to come from Puerto Rico.

There have been few like him and boxing will undoubtedly feel his loss.

His courage, his tenacity, his professionalism and his spirit will never be forgotten. He didn’t wow his with his words, but oh did he ever wow us with his fists.

Miguel Cotto is the epitome of what every professional boxer should strive to be. It can’t get much better than that.