Junior middleweight world titleholder Miguel Cotto, the Puerto Rican legend, has said time and again that 2017 will be his final year as an active boxer.
He has had a date and location set for months for what he says will his career finale — Dec. 2 in an HBO-televised main event at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he has been a popular draw throughout his career — and now he has a deal, though not yet signed, with former welterweight title challenger Sadam Ali.
“The fight has been agreed to verbally,” Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Cotto, told ESPN on Tuesday. “We’re working on the contracts now and we’ll be making official announcement shortly.”
Golden Boy also promotes Ali, but Gomez said the company tried to make a variety of other fights with bigger names, but for various reasons those deals could not be consummated. Gomez named fighters such as welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr., former welterweight titleholders Danny Garcia and Jessie Vargas, former middleweight titleholder David Lemieux and reigning lightweight titleholder Mikey Garcia, who called Cotto out and was willing to move up three weight classes for the bout before he elected not to accept an offer. The offers to Spence and Mikey Garcia, who are not contractually tied to any promoter, included multifight promotional agreements with Golden Boy with purses of at least $2 million to fight Cotto.
Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs), who will turn 37 on Oct. 29, is the only man from Puerto Rico to win world title in four weight classes — junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight — and is a surefire bet to make the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
After he lost recognition as middleweight world champion to Canelo Alvarez by decision in their November 2015 mega fight, Cotto was idle for almost two years. He returned on Aug. 26 and easily outpointed Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai to win a vacant junior middleweight world title to begin his second reign as a 154-pound titleholder.
Most will view the fight with Ali as a mismatch. Ali (25-1, 14 KOs), 29, a 2008 U.S. Olympian from Brooklyn, New York, will be moving up one weight class to challenge Cotto for his title. He’s been a fringe contender in the welterweight division and is coming off a wide decision victory against Johan Perez on July 29 on a “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” card. That victory was Ali’s third in a row since he got knocked out by Vargas in the ninth round of a vacant welterweight world title fight in March 2016 in Washington, D.C.
Cotto’s preferred opponent would have been the winner of the Sept. 16 middleweight world title showdown between Gennady Golovkin and Alvarez, but they fought to a disputed draw and likely will face each other in a rematch on May 5 without any intervening bouts.
Cotto has no plans to wait for either of them or any of the other bigger names who turned down offers to fight him before Ali accepted the bout. “I am leaving the ring Dec. 31,” Cotto told ESPN in September in Las Vegas during Golovkin-Alvarez fight week. “I will have the last fight of my career in December.”