Ricar­do May­or­ga want­ed to brawl all night long. Miguel Cot­to saved his big punch­ing for the final round.

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Cot­to fought with dis­ci­pline for 11 rounds before unleash­ing a vicious left hook in the 12th round Sat­ur­day night that put an excla­ma­tion point on his suc­cess­ful defense of his 154-pound title against the wild-swing­ing May­or­ga.

The hook dropped May­or­ga to the can­vas and he quit a few sec­onds lat­er, end­ing an enter­tain­ing bout between two box­ers try­ing to res­ur­rect their careers.

“It was a real­ly good fight with an amaz­ing fin­ish,” Cot­to said.

Cot­to was ahead by five points on all three ring­side score­cards enter­ing the final round and seem­ing­ly head­ed to a win by deci­sion. But he caught May­or­ga in an exchange ear­ly in the round and, though May­or­ga got up, he told ref­er­ee Robert Byrd when action resumed that he could­n’t go on.

May­or­ga said it was­n’t the effects of the left hook that made him quit, but an injury to his thumb dur­ing the exchange.

“I hate the way this fight end­ed,” May­or­ga said. “I tried to fin­ish the final round but the pain in my hand was too much.”

Cot­to made May­or­ga fight on his terms much of the night, frus­trat­ing the Nicaraguan and pil­ing up points. The fight had plen­ty of action, but Cot­to land­ed the clean­er and more effec­tive punch­es as he stuck to his box­ing style despite May­or­ga beg­ging him to brawl on sev­er­al occa­sions.

Cot­to, con­tin­u­ing to rebound from a beat­ing at the hands of Man­ny Pac­quiao, improved his record in title fights to 17–2 in the first defense of the title he won from Yuri Fore­man last June.

“The game plan was not to get caught up in any of his antics,” Cot­to said. “He was very heavy hand­ed, I felt his punch­es the whole fight.”

Cot­to was a big favorite to retain the title, but May­or­ga fought a com­pet­i­tive fight and land­ed well in flur­ries to the head. He took more punch­es than he gave out, though, with Cot­to outscor­ing him 249–176 in total punch­es scored at ring­side.

Before the final round, Cot­to’s train­er, Emanuel Stew­ard, told his fight­er to make sure he kept going for­ward and that he could stop a tir­ing May­or­ga. He did just that, though Cot­to only had to remain on his feet in the final round to win.

“I told myself, keep calm and be myself,” Cot­to said. “He has very strong hands and punch­es that hurt.”

Cot­to, who made $1 mil­lion, improved to 36–2 with 29 knock­outs. May­or­ga, who has now lost five of his last nine fights and may be at the end of his career at the age of 37, fell to 29−8−1.