Cotto tops Margarito in thrilling rematch

By Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports

NEW YORK – Miguel Cotto, who suspected the first loss of his professional means was aided by illegal means, got the revenge he was waiting for since 2008 on Saturday. Before a raucous sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden, Cotto stopped Antonio Margarito at the end of the ninth round in perhaps the finest performance of his career.

Cotto retained his World Boxing Association super welterweight title by pummeling the rival whom he called a criminal during the pre-fight buildup. Cotto’s boxing was magnificent as he used his pressure to keep Margarito off balance and unable to mount an attack. Because the bell had rung to start the 10th round, it goes into the record books as a 10th-round stoppage.

The ringside doctors began to look closely at Margarito’s badly swollen right eye by the sixth round. After the ninth ended, the doctors seemed to be arguing with Margarito’s cornermen, who were asking for one more round. Dr Anthony Curreri recommended the fight be stopped.

In the end, referee Steve Smoger had seen enough and halted it to save Margarito (38-8, 27 KOs) from further damage.

“He’s still a very strong fighter, but I’m way better than he is,” Cotto said. “I’m very happy and very proud of what I did tonight. There was a lot of hard work in this training camp. It showed that the strategy worked.”

All three judges had Cotto (37-2, 30 KOs) up 89-82 at the time of the stoppage. Yahoo! Sports favored Cotto, 90-81. According to CompuBox, Cotto landed 43 percent of his punches, 210 of 493 blows. Margarito landed 157 of 700 shots.

It was a similar fight as the first time in that Cotto raced out to an early lead by boxing and ripping Margarito with clean shots. However, this time, Cotto did not fade down the stretch. In the first bout, the then-unbeaten Cotto wore down due to Margarito’s relentless pressure and lost in the 11th.

But Cotto came to believe that Margarito used illegal hand wraps in the first fight and angrily called Margarito a criminal during the promotion.

This time, though, Cotto blitzed Margarito, using his jab and hook to make a mess of Margarito’s right eye, which had been so badly injured in a 2010 fight against Manny Pacquiao. Margarito had several surgeries to implant a lens, remove a cataract and repair a broken orbital bone.

Margarito never landed a significant punch other than a good hook to the body in the third. He spent most of the time fending off Cotto’s shots and taunting Cotto repeatedly.

“I thought I threw the hardest punches,” Margarito said. “I thought I was doing fine. He was doing a lot of movement. I did need more rounds to beat him.”

In the primary undercard bout, Brandon Rios lost his WBA lightweight title on the scale Friday when he couldn’t make the division’s 135-pound limit, but he got some measure of vengeance on Saturday when he stopped game Brit John Murray in the 11th round.

Rios looked gaunt and drawn all week, as he was struggling to cut weight. On his final attempt on Friday, he weighed 136.6 pounds. But he rehydrated over night and was sharp in a bout fought primarily at close range.

Murray did well, but Rios was the harder puncher and he did plenty of damage. From the fifth round on, blood was flowing from Murray’s nose and mouth and his eyes were closed by the end. Referee Earl Brown jumped in to save him and stop the fight after Rios landed a right uppercut and a left hook along the ropes.

Murray, totally out of gas, sagged back, and Brown stopped it.

“Murray is a great warrior,” Rios said. “He deserves a lot of respect. I’m sorry for the things I said to him.”

After putting on a Fight of the Year candidate in their first bout, Delvin Rodriguez pulled out a hard-fought victory over Pawel Wolak in yet another entertaining match.

Rodriguez won a unanimous decision, taking the rematch by scores of 98-91, 98-92 and 100-90. They fought only about a foot or so apart from each other most of the night, winging punches from all angles. According to CompuBox, Rodriguez landed 257 of 734 punches. Wolak landed 167 of 742 punches in the fight.

Rodriguez punctuated the victory with a brutal 10th round in which he landed an incredible 65 of 101 power shots and nearly put Wolak down.

“I knew I needed to close the show,” Rodriguez said. “This time I wasn’t taking chances. I don’t know what kept him up.”

Wolak was bleeding from the nose and the mouth. He was philosophical about the outcome.

“I thought the scores would be closer,” he said. “He hit me with some really hard shots. I did the best I could do.”

In the pay-per-view opener, Mike Jones rolled to an easy 119-109, 118-110, 119-109 unanimous decision victory over Sebastian Lujan in a welterweight bout.

Jones boxed and fought cautiously most of the night. He flicked a jab, but never really let his right hand go. Lujan kept pressing forward, but couldn’t make up for the reach disadvantage and didn’t get inside.

“There are no easy fights in boxing,” said Jones, who is now 25-0 (18 KOs). “It was a tough fight, because he got off a lot of awkward shots and he never stopped working.”