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Ruthless Cotto stops Margarito in his tracks

The Puerto Rican was awarded a controversial victory after his prolonged assault on Margarito’s weakened right eye induced a tenth-round stoppage.

Image: ASSOCIATED PRESSAP

MIGUEL COTTO BATTERED a one-eyed Antonio Margarito over nine lopsided rounds then won a TKO decision amid confusion in the corner before they came out for the 10th on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Cotto (37-2-0) earned a punishing measure of payback for his loss to Margarito three years ago. With the New York crowd going wild for the Puerto Rican Cotto, he was never seriously threatened and retained his 154-pound title, shuttering Maragarito’s right eye to cause the stoppage.

Margarito beat Cotto in July 2008, only to later have his career and reputation tarnished when he used illegal hand wraps before a loss to Shane Mosley. Margarito didn’t box again for more than a year.

He needed surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone following a loss to Manny Pacquiao last year and considered retirement. The New York State Athletic Commission didn’t license Margarito until Nov. 22 after ordering another examination of his eye. Cotto took quick aim on the eye and it was swollen shut in the seventh round.

Cotto believed Margarito also used illegal hand wraps in their first fight and claimed he had the photos to prove it.

Cotto stared down Margarito in his corner after the bout was stopped.

“Just to look at him and taste my victory on him,” Cotto said. “He means nothing to me. I’m here with all my crowd and all my people. He means nothing to me.”

The Tijuana Tornado stopped Cotto in the 11th round in Las Vegas in their first meeting. Cotto said he long resisted a rematch because he didn’t want money going to an opponent who didn’t fight fair.

Cotto took any issues of legality out of this one from the opening round. The sellout crowd at MSG honked horns, waved the Puerto Rico flag and absolutely went wild for all things Cotto — starting with his entrance to the opening strains of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”

Nothing could hold Cotto back.

Margarito laughed, smiled and even taunted Cotto after suffering several big blows. His demeanor didn’t help him at the end of the seventh round, when he sat on his corner stool, his right eye shut. The crowd gasped then roared as the stomach-churning scene flashed on the big screen.

With one eye, Margarito gamely fought on, hoping for that one brutal blow that could change the fight. Half blind, he never had a chance. Ring doctor Anthony Curreri stopped the fight because of the eye even though 3 seconds ticked off in the 10th round. The fighters never met in the center of the ring.

“It came to the point there was no vision at all from the eye,” Curreri said. “I think it would have been dangerous for him to go out there without any visual field. He did go quite a bit with the eye impaired.”

Referee Steve Smoger did not know what the doctor wanted, causing confusion at the end.

Margarito insisted he could continue, though he was way behind on the scorecards.

“I told them how many numbers I had up,” he said. “I knew from now on they were out to protect him because I was building (momentum).”

Elsewhere on the evening’s card, Manchester’s John Murray failed in his bid to overturn Brandon Ríos and, in doing so, earn the WBA lightweight title.

Ríos, who had already forfeited his title after failing Friday’s weigh-in, looked to have recovered his dynamism after days of preparatory dehydration and fasting. Never threatened on the scorecard, he was awarded the victory by unanimous decision.

– additional reporting by the AP

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