Miguel Cotto (41-5, 33 KOs), one of the best fighters of his generation, is potentially ending his career on his own terms Saturday night.
The 37-year-old Puerto Rican, who has won six world titles in four different weight classes over a 16-year pro career, has set up a final bout against Sadam Ali (25-1, 14 KOs) for the WBO world super welterweight title at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Boxing fans would be wise to clear time in their schedules to see him off, although it sometimes takes multiple farewells before a fighter finally hangs the gloves up.
Cotto vs. Ali Fight Info
When: Saturday, Dec. 2 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden in New York City
TV: HBO, BoxNation (UK, subscription required)
Live Stream: BoxNation (UK, subscription required)
Cotto has fought some of the biggest names in the sport during his career, faltering against the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather but taking down others such as Shane Mosley and Sergio Martinez. A fan favorite due to his willingness to take on boxing's best and his entertaining style, Cotto will go down as one of the more respected fighters of the past couple of decades.
CBSSports.com's Brian Campbell called him "the most honest fighter of his generation" for taking on so many challenges throughout career and handling them with transparency:
"Cotto will be remembered for the honest effort he gave in his biggest fights and the consistency of the entertainment in which he regularly provided. A noted family man outside the ring, he was as human and real of a fighter inside it as his generation had to offer and a refreshing boxer-businessman who went a long way in making sure, along with securing big paydays for himself, that the fans still received what they wanted most."
Ali, his opponent Saturday night, isn't anywhere near the level of those illustrious names, and that could be why Cotto ends up un-retiring at some point.
Cotto wanted to face the winner of the Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez bout, but a draw in that blockbuster matchup scrapped those plans. The desire to cap his career with against a high-profile opponent could draw him back to the ring, even as he approaches 40 years old.
Judging by the odds, Cotto's final bow doesn't figure to be the kind of kinetic, competitive contest fans have grown accustomed to seeing him in. According to OddsShark.com (as of Thursday, Nov. 29), Cotto is a -1000 favorite (bet $1,000 to win $100), Ali a +600 underdog. Cotto comes into the contest having won four of his last five bouts, the lone defeat coming against Alvarez in November 2015.
In his most recent bout in August, Cotto pummeled Yoshihiro Kamegai for 12 rounds on the way to a decision victory. The clean, powerful combinations Cotto was landing in that bout would have destroyed just about any other fighter, but Kamegai appears to have an indestructible chin.
Ali will have to be much more careful than Kamegai was if he is to have any chance in this bout. The 29-year-old from Brooklyn should feel comfortable fighting in his hometown, but Cotto presents a far greater challenge than any he has faced in his career.
This is the second world-title fight for Ali. He lost by ninth-round TKO to Jessie Vargas in a WBO world welterweight bout early last year, which is the only defeat of his career so far. Ali has won his last three contests since that defeat.
While Cotto has the star power, pedigree and proven skill set, Ali is confident he can upset the man eight years his senior.
"I'm really excited to be fighting at MSG against a legend," Ali said, per Bad Left Hook's Scott Christ. "I know what's in front on me, and I know what I'm stepping up to. I'm different, I'm a bit of a boxer, I can brawl if I need to, and I have my little tricks."
The opportunity in front of Ali is massive, but he's facing a fighter who has seemingly made up his mind on his career. While Cotto may come back if the right opportunity presents itself, there's no boxer lurking on the horizon. Cotto won't be taking Ali lightly or looking past him toward a bigger bout. Instead, he seems ready to put his career behind him and focus on family, not fighting.
"I have been doing this for 26 years of my life," Cotto said, per SportingNews.com's Steven Muehlhausen. "My kids are growing up. [I] want to be with them, spend more time with them. To be a family man, to be a husband and to be a father. I want to be more than a boxer in my life, and being an important part in my family's life is my goal."
Cotto has done plenty in his career to secure a ticket to the boxing Hall of Fame, and can be proud of the legacy he will leave behind if Saturday night is his swansong. The likable star will do everything he can to make sure he goes out on a high note.