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Cotto vs Ali: Fight preview and matchup

Miguel Cotto will fight for what he says is the final time, facing Sadam Ali on Saturday.

Miguel Cotto

Miguel Cotto v Yoshihiro Kamegai Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Record: 41-5 (33 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 7-3 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7" / 67" ... Age: 37

Thoughts: For a long, long time, Miguel Cotto has been one of my favorite fighters. That said, I don’t turn a blind eye to the criticisms one can levy against his record, particularly after his thrashing at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in 2009.

Wins: Yuri Foreman, old Ricardo Mayorga, one-eyed Antonio Margarito, Delvin Rodriguez, one-legged Sergio Martinez, Daniel Geale, Yoshihiro Kamegai

Losses: Floyd Mayweather, Austin Trout, Canelo Alvarez

He gave Mayweather a good fight, better than the vast majority of Mayweather opponents who weren’t being carried to presentability in order to not suffer a fan revolt over a $100 pay-per-view. He gave Canelo a terrific fight, a lot of people argued he should have gotten the nod. And Trout, a good fighter, just wound up a stylistic matchup nightmare for Cotto.

Good for Cotto, though, that Sadam Ali on paper belongs to that “wins” group far more than the “losses” group.

Look, this is being billed as a farewell fight. Miguel Cotto is 37, he’s won world titles in four weight classes over his career, and he’s not looking to go out with a loss, or perhaps even a particularly difficult night. He’s been through the wars. He’s put in his time. He’s given a lot to boxing. He wants to say goodbye at Madison Square Garden, which has been a professional home for him since his first fight in the building back in 2005, when he beat Muhammadqodir Abdullaev in a WBO 140-pound title defense.

I’ve greatly enjoyed Miguel Cotto’s career and he’ll always be one of my personal favorite fighters. He’s been involved in some of my favorite nights over the last 11 years running this web site.

But I cannot say that I have any real anticipation for this fight, no.

Sadam Ali

Sadam Ali v Jesus Selig Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Record: 25-1 (14 KO) ... Streak: W3 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'9" / 73" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: “World Kid” Ali is a guy who was once seen as an intriguing prospect, but that bubble was burst — hard — when he stepped up in competition in March 2016 against Jessie Vargas.

Vargas isn’t a big puncher. Vargas isn’t a “dominating” sort of fighter. Vargas beat Ali up, dropping him twice en route to a ninth round stoppage.

It wasn’t like there were never signs of trouble, though. Ali was dropped in the first round of a 2013 fight against Jay Krupp. He’d struggled a fair bit in a split decision win over Jeremy Bryan in 2014. Wins over Luis Carlos Abregu and Francisco “Chia” Santana in 2014-15 were stronger performances, but Vargas was too much for him.

And what’s Ali done since then? Three straight wins, over Saul Corral, Jorge Silva, and Johan Perez.

Does Sadam Ali “deserve” this fight with Miguel Cotto? Well, no. Not if you’re trying to make logical sense of things. Cotto holds a 154-pound title. Ali, for one thing, is not a true world title contender, having done nothing that suggests he is, and for another thing, he’s never even fought at 154 pounds. (OK, once, in 2010.)

But boxing is boxing, as you all know, and title shots and big fights go to the “undeserving” all the time. The best we can hope is that Sadam Ali can make a fight of it, that he can show the talent he was once hyped to possess, that he can at least give Cotto a legitimate challenge. That’s the hope for fans, anyway.

Matchup Grade: D+. It’s a hand-picked fight. Cotto and his team do not expect this to be difficult, and I’d say 99% of the time that’s the case going into a fight on this level, it becomes the reality of the fight. Temper your expectations, and tune in to possibly say goodbye to one of the key fighters of a generation. (Then be ready to tune in on pay-per-view next fall when he’s offered a lot of money to fight Canelo Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin.)

Undercard

  • Rey Vargas vs Oscar Negrete: If you’re looking for a fight on this show, the co-feature might be more up your alley. Vargas (30-0, 22 KO) is the WBC super bantamweight champion, and has emerged as arguably the best fighter in the division not named Guillermo Rigondeaux, a distinction worth making since Rigondeaux is so much better and so clearly avoided by other fighters at 122. Vargas last fought in August, beating Ronny Rios, after winning the vacant belt against Gavin McDonnell in February. Negrete (17-0, 7 KO) is a Colombian fighter based in California, who started his pro career in Mexico back in 2013. He doesn’t have any really big wins yet, flipping between 118 and 122 through his career. Now he’s found a title opportunity. He’ll look to make it count. It’s not a GREAT fight on paper, but is quietly one of the more intriguing matchups HBO has scheduled for their year-end run of fights, which to be honest, maybe isn’t saying a ton. Matchup Grade: B-