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Cotto returns to familiar territory at MSG for final fight against Ali

WBO world super welterweight champion Miguel Cotto and challenger Sadam Ali pose after the news conference announcing their Dec. 2, 2017, fight at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This will be the 47th and final fight of Cotto's boxing career. Ed Mulholland/HBO

NEW YORK -- The hometown kid, Brooklyn-born Sadam Ali, will be the enemy at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 2. A little strange, to be sure, but this is no ordinary fight.

This is a Miguel Cotto fight, and it's his 10th at The World's Most Famous Arena. It's also the last fight of the future Hall of Famer's legendary career.

"It is, it's going to be," Cotto said Tuesday, speaking to a small group of reporters before a news conference at the Garden. "This is [just] another fight, another day of work, but the last one."

Cotto will turn 37 on Oct. 29, and this will be his 47th professional fight. He has gone 41-5, with 33 knockouts, and Cotto is a four-division, six-time world champion -- including his current reign as the WBO junior middleweight champ.

"I'm ready to move on," Cotto said. "I'm ready to start thinking of my family, start thinking of other things less dangerous than boxing."

Cotto has won eight of his nine fights at The Garden, where he has been a huge box-office draw, thanks in part to his Puerto Rican heritage. More than 140,000 tickets were sold for those nine fights, according to MSG executive vice president Joel Fisher, and they are expecting another sellout Dec. 2 (which will also air on HBO at 10 p.m. ET).

"It's always good to be back here in New York," Cotto said. "I'm happy to be back."

The news conference itself lacked fireworks, with little of the trash talk that you'll often hear at this type of event.

Ali's trainer, Andre Rozier, was the boldest of the bunch, declaring, "We will be victorious." But the fighters themselves came off humble, especially Cotto, despite all his achievements.

"I know that he's going to do his best at his camp, I'm going to do my best at my camp," Cotto said. "And we're going to bring a good show here on Dec. 2."

As for Ali, the 29-year-old was a U.S. Olympian in 2008, with a professional record of 25-1 including 14 knockouts. But he lost his one previous world-title fight, when he was knocked out in the ninth round by Jessie Vargas back in March 2016.

"I know I'm the underdog, and I know a lot of the media are throwing bad words on me," Ali said at the news conference. "But if you work hard, you put your mind to it, and you come at your best, you never know what's gonna come."

Speaking to reporters prior to the news conference, Ali said he has attended some of Cotto's previous fights at The Garden, so he knows what to expect.

"It's gonna be crazy, I might get booed here and there," Ali said, chuckling. "But I'm gonna have my people in the building as well. I don't let any of that distract me. I'm on a mission."

Ali is also moving up a weight class to take on Cotto. "It's a challenge, it's different," Ali said. "My weight goes up though -- it's not like I have to put on weight for this fight. I just don't have to drop down as low."

Ali wasn't the first choice of Cotto and Golden Boy Promotions for Cotto's final fight, according to ESPN senior writer Dan Rafael. But Ali was the top opponent available, according to Cotto.

"I'm always looking for the best name on the table, in every opportunity," Cotto said, "and Ali was the best one there."

Cotto was set to depart for Los Angeles on Tuesday night, to begin his formal training camp with legendary trainer Freddie Roach. However, Cotto's family is still in Puerto Rico, which was recently devastated by Hurricane Maria.

"My kids are in school, my wife has to take care of them, and communication between me and them, sometimes it's not so easy because of the antennas ... a lot of them are destroyed," Cotto said. "I hope and I trust that my wife, she's going to do the best for them, and I know she will do good."

And that's what Cotto is aiming for -- to be good in the ring, one more time, before hanging up his gloves and returning to his family once and for all.

"My family is my motivation for everything I have to do in my life," Cotto said. "I know that I did my best in every opportunity."