NEW YORK–Miguel Cotto entered the ring in silence and darkness. He exited it bathed in the limelight and saluted by the roar.
Miguel Cotto knocked Sergio Martinez down four times en route to punishing the champion into a defeat on the stool that enters the fight books as a 10th-round TKO. The underdog’s flawless performance before a raucous Madison Square Garden sellout of 21,090 that included Oscar-winner Denzel Washington, Lakers forward Pau Gasol, comedian Dave Chappelle, and boxing legend Mike Tyson stands as the signature win of a career already boasting victories over Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, and Ricardo Torres.
Cotto kicked off the Puerto Rican Day (hit) Parade early by rocking Sergio Martinez to start round one. He followed up with a left hook that sent his opponent head first into the canvas. Quickly upon the restart, Cotto unrelentingly attacked and sent a wobbly Martinez down with a grazing shot to the top of the head. And then, a third time, Cotto powered Martinez to the floor via a blow to the body. Though none of the shots appeared to hurt Martinez terribly, the collective body of knockdowns prompted a long look from the referee. The punches propelled the champion on his backside, on his face, and on his knee–and ultimately out of the fight as a result of the disastrous 10-6 round.
After a pedestrian second stanza in which Cotto took his foot off the gas, the fighters traded shots in the third. The taller man found his range with the jab and shook off fourteen months of ring rust. Cotto stalked and controlled the center of the ring to start the fourth. After eating more shots, a spirited Martinez implored Cotto to bring his best. Martinez quieted the crowd after landing an awkward left. It looked, for a few minutes at least, as though we finally had a fight.
But the predator from Puerto Rico had too much fight in him. Those early-round moments when Martinez looked to regain composure proved illusory. The fresh-legged challenger pressured Martinez in the fifth, evading several punches as he pushed forward as a man on a mission. A determined, chin-down, Terminator-like Cotto enjoyed the best of exchanges with Martinez in the sixth, incessantly stalking. Martinez characteristically dropped his hands and landed the occasional unaccompanied shot. But Cotto didn’t appear to slow down at all. By every measure–effective aggression, ring generalship, defense, and clean and hard punching–Cotto demonstrated significant advantages.
The fan favorite rocked Martinez midway through the seventh with a right to the temple. The smaller man then employed footwork to dance, feint, and move for the last minute of the round. Cotto has at this point had outbrawled and outboxed the bigger and heretofore better boxer.
In the ninth, Cotto again clobbered the champion with numerous power shots. Every time leather clashed with bone, a packed Madison Square Garden erupted to supply an explanation point. The electric atmosphere appeared to power the ball of energy bouncing about the ring. As the round contained just a few dozen more ticks, Cotto again sends the Argentine to the deck and the fans to their feet. Amazingly, a mere jab provides the force for the knockdown. But it’s the left hooks and right crosses, and not that straight left, which inflict the most damage in a ninth frame every bit as dominant for Cotto as the first.
As the bell sounds for the tenth, a crowd of cornermen refuses to let Martinez out of the corner. Miguel Cotto wins by tenth-round TKO to capture his fourth title in different weight divisions. As a sense of the victory dawned on the euphoric Puerto Rican crowd, a deafening roar lets loose that nearly convexes the concave Garden roof. Miguel Cotto, the former 140-pound titlist, inherits the mantle of Monzon and Robinson and Hagler and Hopkins and wins the lineal middleweight championship of the world.
Martinez, who drops to 52-3, said to HBO pay-per-view announcer Max Kellerman that Cotto caught him coming into the fight “cold” and caught him “hard.” The Argentine made no excuses despite a lingering knee injury that clearly troubled from the disastrous first round forward. A money fight against Canelo Alvarez perhaps looms for the new champion. “I want to rest,” Cotto reflected. “Whatever Freddie [Roach] wants to do, I will do it.”