The 37-year-old had announced before the fight that his defence of his WBO light-middleweight title would be the last time he would enter the ring. He read off the judges' scores: 115-113, 116-112, 115-113. And when Ali wobbled the guest of honor with a lead right hand in the second round, suspicion began to spread that the script that most had expected to be followed was undergoing a rewrite. The 3rd brought back and forth action from both fighters leading to intelligent exchanges and a more dominant Cotto round. Age and attrition, the twin thieves of any magnificent fighter's special gifts, do not always show up as obviously as they did the night when the remnants of Muhammad Ali were embarrassed by an opponent who could never have come close to defeating him in his prime. Ali was more then content to allow Cotto come to him and utilise his speed and accuracy against the industrial Cotto. The 12th round saw a reemergence for Cotto which may have saved the day given how close some of the rounds had been. "But this is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I took the challenge against a legend", Ali said.
"I am feeling good with the performance", the always classy Cotto, as dignified in disappointment as he always had been gracious in victory, said in reaffirming his intention to enter retirement and enjoy the remainder of his life with his handsome wife Melissa and the couple's two children. Ali won the final four rounds on all three scorecards to lock up the decision.
"I dare to be great, like Oscar De La Hoya says". I took advantage of this fight, and I made sure to make it count.
The sixth round shifted the momentum into Cotto's favor for the first time in the fight, but he didn't get to enjoy it for long.
Sadam Ali, the new WBA title holder, had this to say about his illustrious opponent.
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"I've been fighting since I was eight years old, and I've been in big arenas".
"Thank you for all the fans, I am proud to call MSG my second home".
Unless Cotto yields to some unforeseen urge to withdraw his pledge to stay retired, his legacy shall forever remain beyond reproach or cause for sympathetic tsk-tsks. He left this fight a world champion. Yet, it was Vargas who looked the worse when they left the ring.
Earlier, Angel Acosta dominated Juan Alejo before knocking him out in the 10th round for the WBO junior flyweight crown that Japan's Kosei Tanaka vacated last Friday.
29-year-old Ali is unconcerned about having to move up to super-welterweight for the fight having regularly operated at welterweight and is ready to crash the Cotto party as he looks to make a name for himself.