Throughout his storied, legendary, rollercoaster of a boxing career, the six-time World Champion in four weight divisions has fought nine times in the World’s Most Famous Arena, and 12 times in New York City as a whole.
Cotto, 37, has 11 wins in the city, eight of them coming at MSG where the Puerto Rico native only has one loss; an upset decision defeat to Austin Trout almost five years to the date of his next fight.
Felix Trinidad (42-3, 35 KO’s), the first huge boxing star to emerge from Puerto Rico and make New York City his home, finished 4-2 with 3 KO’s in his career in the Big Apple, all fights at MSG.
Cotto has said for a while that this year will be his last in boxing, and though we’ve seen this movie before, especially in this sport, we haven’t seen it with Cotto, who has had plenty of justified reasons to walk away from the sport but neglected to do so until now.
On December 2, Cotto (41-5, 33 KO’s) will take the Garden stage for the final time in his illustrious career, facing Brooklyn native Sadam Ali (25-1, 14 KO’s) in defense of the WBO World Junior Middleweight Title Cotto won on August 26, the night of the Floyd Mayweather-versus-Conor McGregor circus.
Recently, Cotto has insisted on several occasions that this is it, even during a conference call with the media ahead of the action.
“I just want to start a new life and a better life with my family, just take advantage of every moment with them,” he said. “I’m happy with the way my career is going, and the way my career is going to end on December 2.”
Cotto’s first of 10 fights at the Garden took place on June 11, 2005, one day before New York’s famous Puerto Rican Day Parade. He TKO’d former rival Muhammad Abdullaev, successfully defending his WBO Light Welterweight Championship, and celebrated with the title at the parade less than 24 hours later.
Fighting at the Garden before the parade became a tradition Cotto continued in 2006 and 2007 against Brooklyn-born fighters Paul Malignaggi and Zab Judah, defeating them both, before returning to it in 2009 and beating Joshua Clottey.
Cotto returned to MSG delivering pre-parade punishment on 2014 when he captured his first ever World Middleweight crown the day before the event, becoming the first-ever four-division world champion from the island that has produced the most boxing world champions per capita.
In 2015, Cotto moved to Barclays Center to slug out Daniel Geale on June 6 before the June 14 extravaganza, leaving his record at a perfect 6-0 in New York City before the parade.
In between those memorable moments, Cotto had a legendary 2007 fight with Shane Mosley, a return-to-form beating of Michael Jennings, a vengeance victory over Antonio Margarito, and the aforementioned shocking loss to Trout in the Big City.
“I’ve been blessed,” Cotto continued. “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.”
Every night he entered the arena, with or without a championship, with or without a worthy challenger, and with or without hair, Cotto has had overwhelming support from local audiences.
So it’s only right that December 2 marks the end to the career of a future first-ballot hall-of-famer, the end of one of New York City’s favorite adopted sons in sports, and the end of a man who is declaring it on his own terms, even if it is at the expense of yet another Brooklynite.
Maybe the end won’t be as satisfying as surviving “Sugar Shane.” Maybe the end won’t be as satisfying as holding up his right arm after defeating Margarito in a rematch after controversy surrounded their first duel.
But if it goes the way it should, it will be satisfying and, more importantly, it will be Cotto’s call.