By Scott Shaffer @ Ringside
On the eve of Puerto Rican day in New York City, Miguel Cotto retained the WBO junior welterweight title by ninth-round technical knockout of Muhammad Abdullaev on Saturday. In front of 10,232 fans, the young Puerto Rican landed a punch in the sixth round that caused a steadily worsening swelling over Abdullaev's right eye. By the ninth round, the eye was completely shut, and after consulting with the ringside physician, referee John Callas stopped what had been a competitive bout. At the time of the stoppage, Cotto led comfortably on the scorecards, 79-73 (twice) and 78-74. He also led 132-77 in punches landed according to Punchstats, although that figure seemed a bit distorted in Cotto's favor. Cotto was never in great danger like in his last fight, when Demarcus Corley hurt him badly, but the Cotto skeptics still have room to doubt him, as Cotto spent too much time against the ropes and seemed to be somewhat hurt by Abdullaev's punches on two occasions. Cotto is not yet ready to fill Felix Trinidad's shoes as the next great Puerto Rican superstar, either inside the ring or in drawing power, and his WBO title is not on a par with Ricky Hatton's true world championship at 140 pounds, but Cotto is still only 24 years old, he has already accomplished a tremendous amount as a pro and he will only get better. Saturday's win over Abdullaev avenged his loss at the 2000 Olympics, moved Cotto to 24-0 as a pro and marked the third defense of the WBO belt he won last September. [Editor's note: The bout will be re-broadcast on HBO2 on Sunday at 5.45 p.m. ET/PT and Tuesday at midnight ET/PT].
Both men weighed in at 138.75 but when the bout started, Cotto looked considerably bigger and stronger. Cotto spent much of the first round with his back to the ropes, which didn't give a favorable impression. In the second, Cotto spent more time in the middle of the ring and landed some good hooks to the body that gave him the edge in a competitive round. The pace picked up a notch at the end of the third which was close. Abdullaev appeared to hurt Cotto with a right when Cotto's back was against the ropes, but all three judges gave the round to Cotto. Midway through the fourth, Cotto came alive, stinging Abdullaev with a hard combination that delighted the 10,231 fans in attendance. The fifth round was close, but the sixth belonged to Abdullaev on Boxingtalk's card, as the Uzbeki landed several hooks while Cotto was crouched low. In the eighth, Abdullaev, with his right eye beginning to swell, appeared to hurt Cotto again, this time with a left. But when Abdullaev came out for the ninth, the eye was much worse, virtually shot, and Cotto took full advantage. The referee stopped the action 57 seconds into the round, and after consulting with the doctor, ended the bout by technical knockout in Cotto's favor. The eye was very bad and, a bit disappointingly, Abdullaev did not protest the stoppage.