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.”