By Mike Coppinger
NEW YORK – Miguel Cotto added yet another victory to his legendary career, and if he wasn’t a Hall of Famer before, his ticket to Canastota now is punched.
Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs) moved up to middleweight and handily defeated lineal champion Sergio Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KOs), dropping him four times (three times in Round 1) en route to a 10th-round stoppage before 21,090 on Saturday at the world famous Madison Square Garden in a bout that headlined HBO PPV.
BoxingScene.com scored every round for Cotto at the time of stoppage.
With the victory, Cotto has now earned titles at 140, 147, 154 and 160 pounds and becomes the first Puerto Rican to win titles in four weight classes.
“This is the biggest achievement of my professional career,” Cotto said, basking in the glory of the shocking result. “We had the most beautiful camp of my career and I have Freddie Roach to thank for that.”
Roach, who was working with Cotto for just the second time, couldn’t have been any happier with the result.
“I think we passed the audition,” Roach quipped. “I’m so proud of Miguel, he worked very hard in camp. He deserved this historic victory. He was picture perfect, we won every round.”
Cotto, clad in purple, black and white, was in control from the opening bell to the final toll and there was never any doubt who would win the matchup. It was just a matter of when Martinez would fold.
Cotto, 33, was sharp, displayed precision punching and was able to effectively stalk while landing his patented body blows.
Martinez, on the other hand, looked like a shell of his former self -- a shot fighter. The 39-year-old Argentine had no snap on his punches and was lethargic with his movements, a far cry from the athletic dynamo fans were used to seeing in the squared circle.
The two qualities Martinez did still have were heart and humility, as he offered no excuses following the bout.
“I got hit with the punch and I was cold and I never recovered after that,” Martinez admitted. “I tried to do my best and I want to apologize to the Argentine fans, and I want to thank all of the Puerto Rican fans for coming out.
“You've got to know when to win and you've got to know when to lose and I give all congratulations to Miguel Cotto.”
The fight was almost over before it started.
Cotto came out aggressively and clipped Martinez with a stinging combination, dropping Martinez to the floor. Martinez got up, but went down two more times and barely made it out of the round. After the last knockdown, Martinez touched the floor with outstretched hands, as if to shake the cobwebs.
As Round 2 began, Maravilla was still on shaky legs, but Cotto didn’t capitalize. However, he won the round with a big left hook as Martinez circled and pawed with his jab.
Cotto began to stalk, reminiscent of the junior welterweight killer of the 2000s. He caught Martinez with a number of crisp left hooks in Round 3 and was able to pin him in the corners.
Martinez had his first moments of the bout in Round 4, landing a few of his patented overhand lefts, but Cotto continued to march.
But it was evident by Round 5 that Martinez wasn’t going to get the Hail Mary he needed to win. He was punching at air and Cotto couldn’t miss.
According to CompuBox numbers, Cotto landed an astounding 54 percent of his shots (212 of 395), while Martinez connected on just 31 percent (100 of 322).
Cotto continued to wear the champ down, but Martinez somehow stayed on his feet, as his surgically repaired knee seemed ready to give at any moment.
In Round 9, Cotto hammered Martinez from all angles, and referee Michael Griffin got closer to the action, ready to jump in at any moment. Griffin ruled a knockdown at the end of the frame, but replays appeared to show Martinez’s gloves didn’t touch.
However, it was academic by that point. Moments later Martinez’s corner saved him from any more punishment (or embarrassment), halting the bout at six seconds of Round 10.
Heading into the bout, both fighters were seen as shopworn at best and shot at worst. Martinez had been dropped in his past three bouts, and suffered serious knee injuries that required surgery following his two most recent fights.
In fact, the bout with Cotto was Martinez’s first since April 2013, when he controversially defeated Martin Murray in his hometown of Argentina.
Cotto, on the other hand, jumped up from junior middleweight for the opportunity on the heels of a third-round stoppage of journeyman Delvin Rodriguez in October. Armed with legendary trained Freddie Roach in his corner, many observers felt Cotto was rejuvenated. And they were right.
Roach said: “When he came back to the corner after every round all I could tell him was what I told him the last round: ‘that one was better than the last one.’ “
Prior to the win over Rodriguez, Cotto was riding a two-fight losing streak, with setbacks to Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather.
However, Cotto is now in the driver’s seat in the middleweight division, the man who beat the man, and lucrative fights against Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez await him.
Welcome back, Miguel Cotto.
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger