Cotto and the Garden

hoto: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

For Miguel Cotto, Saturday’s clash with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez will mark his ninth appearance at the storied Madison Square Garden, and he brings to the ring a Garden record of 7-1. That one loss, however, was in his most recent outing in New York, and the proud Puerto Rican will be determined not to let that losing streak run to two in front of a crowd that is likely to be heavily in his favor. Here’s a brief recap of Cotto’s love affair with the "Mecca of Boxing."

June 11, 2005 TKO9 Muhammed Abdullaev

Cotto’s first appearance at the Garden marked the inauguration of something of a tradition: his fighting on the night before the city’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. It was also a chance for revenge, given that Abdullaev had defeated him in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. As a professional, however, Cotto had improved much more rapidly than his one-time conqueror, and he proved it with a largely effortless beatdown and stoppage. It would be Abdullaev’s last fight in the US.

June 06, 2006 W12 Paulie Malignaggi

Malignaggi was 21-0 when he faced Cotto, but was widely perceived as more style than substance, a fast-talking, light-punching, slick-boxing Brooklynite with no chance against the undefeated Cotto, who was cutting a wide swath through the 140-pound division. In the event, the "Magic Man" proved he was made of sterner stuff than critics had given him credit for, fighting aggressively despite a second-round knockdown and an increasingly misshapen face, and winning his fair share of rounds, before having to hold on down the stretch as Cotto secured a unanimous decision win.

June 09, 2007. TKO11 Zab Judah

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

This was Cotto’s annus mirabilis; having moved up to welterweight, where he felt more comfortable, he seemed unstoppable, a force of nature who broke down foe after foe. Former two-weight champion Judah offered a stiff test, though, with hand speed comparable to his fellow New Yorker Malignaggi but with a lot more power behind it. Cotto, though, simply broke Judah down, stopping him in the 11th in front of a packed and deafening crowd.

 

November 10, 2007. W12 Shane Mosley

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

Like Judah, Mosley was another experienced multiple world champion whose best days were maybe in the rear view mirror but who was still a more-than-accomplished foe. In the early going, however, it looked as if Cotto might break him down with his body punching, before Mosley rallied in the middle rounds, forcing Cotto to box and move down the stretch on his way to a unanimous decision.

February 21, 2009 TKO5 Michael Jennings

The Cotto express came off the rails in 2008 at the (in hindsight, suspect) fists of Antonio Margarito. This was his first fight back after suffering that tough stoppage loss, and it was every bit the soft touch it was intended to be. Jennings didn’t really belong in the same ring as the Puerto Rican, and although his fleet footwork managed to keep him out of harm’s way for the first three rounds, it was only a matter of time before Cotto caught up with him. Two knockdowns in the fourth and two more in the fifth – the last on a vicious body shot that dropped Jennings to his knees and had him looking to his corner for help – prompted the referee to step in and bring the contest, such as it was, to a halt.

June 13, 2009. W12 Joshua Clottey

This was the first time that Cotto came perilously close to defeat at the Garden. There were some suspicions that he was still somewhat vulnerable following the brutal Margarito fight, and against the tough Ghanaian, those suspicions appeared to be well-founded. Despite being dropped in the first round, and hurting his knee in the fifth, Clottey pressed the action when he could, taking advantage of Cotto’s discomfort from a bleeding gash caused by an accidental headbutt. Cotto, though, gutted out the hard rounds and when, around the ninth frame, Clottey stopped pressing the action – as Clottey was sometimes wont to do – Cotto was able to take advantage and secure a split decision.

December 3, 2011. TKO9 Antonio Margarito

For three years, Cotto had been burning with anger at the belief that Margarito had cheated him and put him at risk in their first meeting, convinced that there had been something nefarious about Margarito’s handwraps on that violent night in Las Vegas. Now he had the chance to right a perceived wrong, and he took it, punishing Margarito’s damaged left eye for nine rounds in front of a hugely partisan crowd that didn’t just crave victory but wanted Margarito’s head on a platter. When the fight was stopped and Cotto walked over to his nemesis’ corner to stare him down, the result was met with visceral roars in the arena that segued into dancing on the streets of Seventh Avenue.

December 01, 2012. L12 Austin Trout

In his previous outing, Cotto had dropped a decision to Floyd Mayweather in what had been a tough 12 rounds for both men. His comeback bout – against the tall, dangerous Trout – was perhaps too much, too soon. Aside from a few early rounds of successful pressure, Cotto struggled to get past the American’s southpaw jab and he swiftly exited the ring when the decision was announced, a disappointed man suffering his first loss in the arena he calls his own. It’s a feeling he won’t want to experience again against Martinez on Saturday, and if Cotto can replicate his earlier success at MSG, one he won't have to.