MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK — It was a revenge served with cold fists. Before his adopted hometown fans of New York City, Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30 KOs) boxed a disciplined, coolly efficient fight that mixed lateral movement, defense and combination punching to achieve a satisfying rematch TKO of hated rival Antonio Margarito (38-8, 27 KOs).
Cotto came out much like the first fight, hitting Margarito flush with an array of dazzling rights crosses and left hooks. A key difference in these early rounds was Cotto’s tendency to move laterally instead of straight backpedaling, causing Margarito to have to reset his offense. In the third, Cotto opened a cut above Margarito’s right eye. When Margarito pressed, Cotto welcome a short brawl and got the better of the exchanges which thrilled the crowd. In addition, Cotto smothered Margarito’s uppercuts with clinches and walked his larger foe backwards or pushed him off.
Margarito began playing mind games in the fourth by shaking his head disdainfully and launching verbal taunts every time Cotto landed a hard shot. The first moments of promise for the Tijuana Tornado came in the fifth when he landed several hard uppercuts. Cotto wisely clinched to rest and still dominated the round with clean shots, but Margarito was now closing the gap on Cotto’s movement.
By the seventh, Cotto now focused his offense around stiff jabs and left hooks on Margarito’s swelling and bleeding right eye. Margarito opened with uppercuts in the eighth, which Cotto countered with jarring hooks to prevent his rival from gaining momentum. Before the ninth, the extensive damage to Margarito’s eye prompted close inspection from ringside doctors and a check to make sure Margarito could still see.
The spectre of a stoppage loss rejuvenated Margarito, who pressed Cotto and forced several clinches due to his uppercuts and hooks to the body. However, Cotto refused to wilt and stormed back in the last minute with several huge left hooks on Margarito’s now swollen shut right eye.
The ringside doctor and physicians immediately descended on the corner to inspect the eye before the 10th. Referee Steve Smoger was reluctant to stop it as Margarito jumped to his feet to show he could continue. Smoger asked several times for a final verdict before the ringside physician confirmed the bout should be stopped, much to the disgust of Margarito.
“I feel good. I feel they protected him,” said Margarito. “My eye was swelling a little but they stopped it.”
The decisive victory and likely ending to the big fight career of Margarito did little to subside the ill will Cotto has for the man he feels used loaded, illegal hand wraps against him during their 2008 encounter. Instead of shaking hands, Cotto went to Margarito’s corner after the bout and simply stared at him.
“Margarito is a strong boxer, but I know I’m better than him,” said Cotto.
According to promoter Bob Arum, he’ll seek to continue the Puerto Rico-Mexico rivalry by matching Cotto with WBC middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. by spring 2012.
Brandon Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs) overcame weight issues and being stripped of his lightweight title to administer a methodical beating of John Murray (31-2, 18 KOs). Rios, who failed to make the bout’s contracted weight of 135 pounds and was stripped of his WBA belt, relied heavily on uppercuts to break down Murray (whose face was marked by a bloody nose and swelling, discolored eyes by the sixth round). Rios would secure the stoppage in the 11th after a succession of left uppercuts had Murray out on his feet.
Delvin Rodriguez (26-5-2, 14 KOs) scored a dominant unanimous decision win over rival Pawel Wolak (29-2-1, 19 KOs). Having fought Wolak to a draw in a thrilling Fight of the Year candidate in July, Rodriguez improved tactics by smothering Wolak’s inside game with clinches and controlling the exchanges with head-snapping uppercuts and hooks. The performance was punctuated by a vicious 10th round that saw Rodriguez batter Wolak with over a dozen unanswered hooks and uppercuts. Final scorecards read 100-90, 98-92 and 98-91.
Mike Jones (26-0, 19 KOs) opened the card with a unanimous decision win over Sebastian Lujan (38-6-2, 24 KOs). Jones landed several good right hands early, but struggled to later adjust to Lujan’s awkward mix of upper body movement, backfoot fighting and sloppy pressure. Jones’ win makes him the #1 contender for Andre Berto’s IBF welterweight title.