Everyone felt that.
Saturday night at Madison Square Garden was supposed to be Miguel Cotto’s send-off. It was supposed to be a perfect night for the Puerto Rican native who made MSG a home throughout the course of his career, fighting there nine times before facing Sadam Ali in what was his last stand.
Cotto was supposed to have the storybook finish, but with Ali earning the unanimous decision, thus, becoming the new WBO Junior Middleweight Champion, the perfect conclusion to a legendary career was not to be had.
But still, the ending isn’t the story, even though Ali is from Brooklyn and was given little to no chance of winning ahead of the fight.
Even in the shadows, Ali’s resiliency and meddle proved undoubtable, but it will more than likely be a dent on a night of celebration for Cotto, 37, who retires at 41-6 with 33 knockouts.
Like Felix Trinidad before him, Cotto, a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, made MSG his home, and in turn, the arena made him feel like he was at home every moment he stepped in, no matter the challenger.
A sweeping diehard legion of Puerto Rican flags flooded MSG every night Cotto took the stage, and were with him one more time, the final time, on Saturday.
When Cotto was introduced for the first time sitting ringside with his family watching the undercard, the fans showered him with uncontainable joy, followed by chants of “Cotto” thundering throughout the venue.
Cotto, all business, stood up to acknowledge the people and sat back down, barely cracking a smile.
As the night went on, he was shown multiple times on the big screen between rounds of fights preluding the final call, making last-minute preparations, to which he was again given unanimous praise.
It was the Puerto Rican Day Parade inside of MSG.
In the latter portion of his career, Cotto had adopted a silent entrance, making his ring walk music free, a rarity in itself.
It became part of Cotto’s routine, and although he didn’t emerge from the tunnel with a song, the fans made sure he heard the tune of “Cotto! Cotto!” from the moment he was visible within the arena, stopping only when his Brooklyn-born challenger Ali was introduced by Michael Buffer, an introduction swallowed by throbbing boos.
Cotto’s introduction was also unheard, but due to a complete 180 from the Cotto-contingent, over 12,000 in attendance.
The fight itself, like seemingly every Cotto bout, did not disappoint.
After a close round one, Ali, who moved up from welterweight to take the challenge, actually stunned Cotto, and the audience, with a booming right hand, visibly shaking the Puerto Rican legend.
Cotto turned the corner and stormed back to force a competitive round, one of a handful of toss ups throughout the night.
In round four, Cotto was rocked again and noticeably recoiling in response. Cotto answered in the latter portion of round six where, in perhaps his best stint of action of the contest, staggered Ali with just under one minute to go, and kept the young challenger on the ropes, mixing in trademark body shots, and nearly flooring his opponent.
The crowd, of course, backed their man with every shot, every inhale and every exhale.
Both men rocked each other in the seventh, but Cotto appeared to have taken the edge in the middle rounds six through eight, which was much needed in a nailbiter. What ultimately did the job for Ali was his late rally, ending the fight with his best four rounds and looking younger, faster and stronger than his foe, which he was.
All of the final four rounds were given to Ali by each of the three judges, and he earned a unanimous decision, a ballsy move on Cotto’s special night. The scorecards read 115-113 twice, and 116-112.
Ali’s post-fight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman was submerged with boos in the same way that Cotto’s post-fight discussion was indulged by cheers.
Cotto wasn’t even bitter about the loss. Like many of Ali’s punches, he took it on the chin.
“Feeling good with the performance,” Cotto said afterward. “Something happened to my left bicep, seventh round. I don’t want to make excuses, Sadam won the fight. It is my last fight. I am good, and I want to be happy in my home with my family.”
It was later learned that Cotto tore his left bicep in that seventh, which sent him to the hospital, unable to participate in the post-fight press conference.
But the tight-lipped Cotto walked off with his family and a final thank you delivered to the MSG faithful.
“Thank you for all the fans, I am proud to call MSG my second home,” he said, expressing gratitude. “I had the opportunity to provide the best for my family because of the sport.”
HBO then presented a tribute video on the big screen which lasted just over one minute, honoring the legendary career of the future Hall of Famer. Cotto watched with his family before heading to the back, and many fans stuck around to let him have it one last time.
If December 2 indeed marks the end, it was a hell of a career for one of New York’s adopted sons, and frankly, one of the greatest fighters to ever do it.