NEW YORK — Con­cern­ing chal­lenger Miguel Cot­to, there were a num­ber of major ques­tions to be answered enter­ing Sat­ur­day night’s chal­lenge for the WBA junior mid­dleweight (154 pounds) title owned by Yuri Foreman.Among them, how much did the 29-year-old for­mer three-time cham­pi­on have left, giv­en the bloody wars he had dur­ing an 11th-round knock­out loss to Anto­nio Mar­gar­i­to in July 2008, a split-deci­sion vic­to­ry over Joshua Clottey in June 2009 and November’s 12-round stop­page loss to Man­ny Pac­quiao that dethroned him as WBO wel­ter­weight (140 pounds) king?All three bouts left Cot­to with severe cuts and bruis­es, includ­ing one par­tic­u­lar­ly cav­ernous gash over a left eye that rou­tine­ly streamed blood down his left cheek.   There was also the ques­tion of whether or not Man­ny Stew­ard, Cotto’s third train­er in five fights, could ade­quate­ly improve the Puer­to Rican fighter’s abil­i­ty to punch clean­ly and effec­tive­ly from close range as an aggres­sive pur­suer of the elu­sive Fore­man.  There was also the ques­tion of whether or not Cot­to could han­dle the rise in weight, being at the high­est divi­sion of his career, where he weighed a half-pound less than the 154-pound Fore­man.   Cot­to (35−2, 28 knock­outs) answered all of those ques­tions with Sat­ur­day night’s ninth round, tech­ni­cal knock­out vic­to­ry over Fore­man (28−1, eight KOs), before 20,727 in the first-ever box­ing show at the new Yan­kee Sta­di­um.

Cot­to dropped Fore­man with a left hand to the body 42 sec­onds into the ninth round, after which ref­er­ee Arthur Mer­cante Jr. stepped in and waved an end to the bout.   “I came to win the fight, and my goal was to put pres­sure on him all along. After the fourth round, which Fore­man may have won, I went to the cor­ner and Man­ny Stew­ard told me to stay focused,” said Cot­to. “Even when he went down, I thought, ‘I still have to fight.’”   Fore­man had already injured his right leg twice in the eighth round, going down twice in pain after twist­ing and appar­ent­ly re-injur­ing a leg on which he wore a knee brace.   A tow­el from the direc­tion of Foreman’s cor­ner had been thrown into the ring, but Mer­cante over­ruled it, say­ing that it came from a source oth­er than Foreman’s train­er, Joe Gri­er.   “I heard that some­one was yelling, ‘Stop the fight, stop the fight,’ and then, the tow­el was thrown in. At that moment, I didn’t know who threw the tow­el in, although I have a pret­ty good idea who did it now,” said Mer­cante.   “When I resumed the fight, I called time to let both guys rest,” said Mer­cante. “Yuri was always game to fight. Both men showed the mark of cham­pi­ons in a great fight tonight.”   But the tow­el was thrown in by Gri­er, respond­ing to Foreman’s wife, Ley­la Lei­deck­er, who plead­ed for him to stop the fight.

“I saw the replay on the screen, and I saw the tow­el come in,” said Cot­to, who earned $2 mil­lion plus upside to Foreman’s $750,000.   “And I thought, ‘Fight’s over, this is wrong. The fight should be stopped,’” said Cot­to. “But hey, he was hurt, work­ing on one leg, and I still kept on fight­ing. This is a world title fight.   “But as a result, the fight con­tin­ued into the ninth, where Cot­to end­ed things.   “I was sur­prised. I thought that the cor­ner would have stopped the fight, but there were a lot of bad deci­sions going on in there,” said Man­ny Stew­ard, Cotto’s train­er.   “I knew where the tow­el came from, and it came right from their cor­ner. The fight was over, and it was wrong to have con­tin­ued,” said Stew­ard. “But I thought that Miguel Cot­to fought the per­fect fight — good jab, good right hand. I was very pleased with his effort.   “Fore­man said he want­ed to con­tin­ue despite injur­ing his knee.   “I was there the entire fight. The brace is for an old injury. I was mak­ing side-to-side move­ments, how­ev­er, and it just gave out. I felt a sharp pain and that’s why I went down,” said Fore­man.   “Arthur Mer­cante let me try to work it out. I’m a world cham­pi­on, or a for­mer world cham­pi­on,” said Fore­man. “I would have nev­er quit. I did not want the fight to be stopped.

Cot­to also improved to 8–0, with three knock­outs in bouts in New York, includ­ing a mark of 6–0 at Madi­son Square Gar­den, with four of those con­tests tak­ing place on the eve of the Puer­to Rican Day Parade.   At Madi­son Square Gar­den, Cot­to defeat­ed for­mer world cham­pi­ons Clottey, Shane Mosley, Paulie Malig­nag­gi and Zab Judah, the lat­ter, by 11th-round knock­out.   Fore­man-Cot­to brought a fight to a Yan­kee Sta­di­um for the first time since 1976, when Muham­mad Ali defeat­ed Ken Nor­ton at the for­mer venue by 15-round deci­sion.   Cot­to, who stood 5-foot-7 to Foreman’s 5–11, crowd­ed the taller man through­out the fight.   Cot­to will now weigh his options on whether to move up into the high­er weight class and defend his crown, or to return to wel­ter­weight for oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties.   “I have to wait and see,” said Cot­to. “What’s bet­ter, to go back down or to stay here. But I’m always ready to fight the big fights.”