He went on to win six world titles - most recently a vacant 154-pound belt on August 26 against Yoshihiro Kamegai that Cotto was defending for the first time on Saturday - in four weight divisions: junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight.
Cotto had won four titles in four different weight categories, but struggled against the quick hands of 29-year-old Ali. "I want to be happy in my home and enjoy my family".
This was not the way Miguel Cotto's legendary career was supposed to end.
The surefire first-ballot International Boxing Hall of Famer, however, couldn't quite give them what they wanted and lost 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113, ruining what was supposed to be a celebration of Cotto's superb career, rather than a serious fight.
Cotto said he hurt his left biceps in the seventh round, per the HBO broadcast. I don't want to make excuses, Sadam won the fight. "I'm so glad to call Madison Square Garden my home".
"Thank you for supporting me at every opportunity", Cotto told his fans.
Ali added: "I want to thank team Cotto. They could have taken an easier fight". Ali turned in strong rounds in the ninth, 10th and 11th, looking more aggressive and fresher than Cotto.
"Good things happen to good people", Ali said, meaning himself, but he could have been speaking about Cotto, a fighter he has long admired, as well.
In his 10 bout in the Garden's main arena or the smaller Theater at MSG, and 13 overall at all venues in the Big Apple, Cotto had become something akin to New York City's house fighter.
In the sixth, Ali got knocked back by a Cotto right to the jaw.
BOXING legend Miguel Cotto has vowed to go out with a bang as he enters the ring for the final time this Saturday night (December 2). Cotto looked his 37 years, and Ali, sure of victory from the get go, was just too fresh and determined tonight.
Cotto's trainer, the great Freddie Roach, believes his fighter would have been up for such a challenge against either man but is now ready to deal with what is in front of him.
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.
"I have the humility to say that I made my share of mistakes", Vargas said, "but I feel that Negrete fought very dirty, and was not a very good boxer". Ali beat him and took his WBO junior middleweight belt. "I've learned a lot since my last fight for a world title against Tanaka, and this fight proves that I learned and fixed all I needed to win a world championship".
"It's taken me five years to get here, and I'm cherishing this moment for me and for Puerto Rico", Acosta said.