By Juan C. Ayllon on site
NEW YORK CITY, June 13, 2009 – It rained on and off, but there was nothing that could extinguish the flames that burned brightly in the hearts of Puerto Ricans tonight at Madison Square Garden. The house, packed at roughly 90 percent capacity, was undoubtedly swollen with many who viewed tonight’s fight as the kickoff to the annual Puerto Rican parade being held tomorrow. Thunderous cheers and hundreds of miniature Puerto Rican flags greeted defending World Boxing Organization Welterweight Champion Miguel Cotto’s introduction, and it only grew louder in the waning moments of round one when a compact left hook dropped his adversary hard to the canvas.
His iron-chinned opponent rose moments before the bell terminated the first round, but the proverbial writing was on the wall, or so it would seem.
Maintaining a tight guard and stepping around deftly in the third, his boxing called to mind his bout versus Randall Bailey, a dangerous puncher and former champion whom he’d stopped in six rounds when defending his WBO Light Welterweight Title in December 2004.
But this was not Randall Bailey standing in front of him. This was Emmanuel Clottey, an extremely durable fighter from Ghana with a record of 35 wins and 2 losses with 20 knockouts. He’d almost defeated a common opponent that prior to January was deemed nearly invincible. That was Antonio Margarito, the guy caught with loaded hand wraps just before his nine round pummeling at the hands of Shane Mosley on January 24th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. He’d handed Cotto his only loss – a loss by way of stoppage in the 11th round in July 2008, costing Cotto his World Boxing Association Welterweight title. Had Clottey not injured his right hand when he faced Margarito in December 2006, he’d likely have won the WBO title then instead of challenging for it several years later (Cotto defeated Michael Jennings for the vacant title after Paul Williams, who’d won the title from Margarito by decision, vacated the title).
As Clottey lunged in with a punch, their heads collided late in the third round. Moments later, blood seeped from a sickening gash over Cotto’s left brow. Fans fidgeted and murmured for long moments as a ring doctor examined the wound. Had their man – had they – been denied satisfaction of certain victory?
To everyone’s relief, the fight resumed. Fans cheered, flags waved and orange inflatable “Cotto-Clottey” clappers – distributed by AT& T reps – clomped together in hearty approval.
Cotto banged a crackling left-right combination to the ribs to kick off the fourth round, rousing the crowd – whose rapturous cheers underscored his every big punch like exclamation points: Whap-whap – ROAR! A Cotto right to the head and a left to the ribs drew hearty approval.
However, this was far from one-sided. Clottey dug to the ribs and snapped Cotto’s head back with a right. A right to the wounded brow followed. Backed in a corner with thudding punches buffeting him, Clottey held on. With blood streaming down the left side of his face, Cotto fought with a sense of urgency. His power punches landed with more frequency.
This created more openings for counter blows. A pair of rights landed on Cotto’s head, drawing roars of shock. Shouts of “Let’s go, Cotto!” thundered. Clottey’s right fist slammed into Cotto’s chin with alarming regularity.
Just as Clottey appeared to be taking over, Cotto spun off the ropes and trapped Clottey – who missed with a wild overhand right – in a corner. Carried forward by the wild right, Clottey slammed hard into Cotto and collapsed! Had their heads slammed together? Was he fouled? Did Cotto merely toss him to the ground? Thunderous riot gave way to loud murmuring as Clottey lay grimacing on his back. He lay on the canvas for what seemed like an eternity, and referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. wasn’t counting. He rose. Apparently, he’d injured his knee. After a protracted recovery period, the fight resumed. Cotto swarmed with both fists, only to be driven back at the bell by a counter surge of Clottey’s.
Trapping Clottey in a corner, Cotto unleashed a steady pounding to body and head. Undaunted, Clottey covered and fired back in brief spurts, driving him off near rounds end with a sharp right to the head.
In the midst of a violent swap session, a punch of Cotto’s caused a funny little stutter step in Clottey, who nevertheless backed Cotto off with sharp jabs and crisp rights. Another thudding Cotto left hook to the jaw drew a large “ohhh” from the crowd. However, a smashing counter right to the head buckled Cotto’s knees. Another landed. Cotto pawed at the bleeding cut over his left eye. Now it was Clottey’s turn. Cotto covered, ducked and retreated as Clottey surged with clubbing rights and lefts.
A big right bounced off Cotto’s head in the eighth. Cotto countered with an impressive left-right-left combination, drawing a thunderous “Ohhh!” Momentum shifted back and forth in this violent game of chess. Cheering the house favorite, cries of “Cotto, Cotto, Cotto!” exhorted him on. Clottey ate big lefts and rights in a corner, but shook his head, “no” in defiance as he emerged from the ropes to take his turn at bat while Cotto recharged.
The ninth was a war of attrition, with both swapping roles of pitcher and catcher, battering each other about the ring.
Clottey was clearly the aggressor in the tenth round. He threw rights and lefts with malevolence and authority, while Cotto circled, ducked, jabbed, covered and countered in spots. It appeared that Cotto – who finished the round with a wicked pair of hooks to the head and drew explosive cheers at the bell – was taking the round off.
Clottey also dominated the 11th round, pressuring and driving back Cotto for the first two minutes of the round. Cotto exploded with a combination, got countered and fired back hard in the final 30 seconds.
The twelfth and final round saw Cotto circling backwards and firing back hard lefts and rights while Clottey pursued, jabbing and crossing hard. Cotto ducked under a wild lunging right by Clottey – who sailed past him onto the ropes. Pouncing, Cotto dropped him to his knees with an illegal hook to the back of the head. A grimacing Clottey grabbed the back of his skull in protest. Referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. intervened. Confused murmurs, then boos – once again, their preordained victory was in jeopardy.
A collective sigh gave way to cheers as, resuming, a left hook stopped Clottey in his tracks. Then Clottey roared back, fists blazing. An intense firefight ensued. Like the final bursts of a fireworks display, they unloaded on one another, missing with most, but rousing the crowd to deafening proportions. The final bell rang.
Cheers turned to boos as Clottey jumped up onto a turnbuckle, his arms raised triumphantly. Then, moments later, guttural cheers greeted Cotto when he did likewise. Back on the canvas, the two warriors embraced.
High fives, hugs and the clunking of plastic beer cups everywhere accompanied raucous cheering when the final tally was announced: 116-115 Cotto, 114-113 for Clottey, 115-112 for Cotto. Cotto had won by a narrow split decision, bringing his overall record to 34-1 with 27 knockouts.
So loud was the clamor that it was nearly impossible to hear the follow-up interviews over the house system. Cheers drowned out Cotto’s remarks and what little could be heard of Clottey attested to his contention that he just knew he wouldn’t get a fair shake from a decision rendered in New York City.
It was raining once more. The swollen and jubilant crowd snaked its way slowly down the clogged corridors of Madison Square Garden. Near the main entrance, a throng of a hundred Africans, some waving the flag from Ghana, celebrated with song and dance. Their flames burned bright in their hearts, too, and nothing – not a thing – could dampen their conviction that despite the official tally, their man had prevailed.
It didn’t take Orotukan, Russia’s Matt Korobov (162 lbs., 5-0, 5 KO’s) long to get untracked, as he rocked Fresno, California’s Loren Myers (160 lbs., 7-2, 2 KO’s) with crisp rights and lefts. However, unlike his previous bouts, this one didn’t end in a knockout win. As would be characteristic throughout the bout, Myers fought back hard, unleashing heavy lefts and rights in the first and second.
In the fourth, Korobov jabbed, retreated and peppered Myers, who took to mauling his way in. A jolting uppercut stopped Myers in his tracks for a moment.
Myers landed another sharp uppercut, while Myers elected to wade in and whack away with clubbing blows. Still, Korobov landed the more effective and greater preponderance of blows, as reflected in the scoring. Judges scored the bout 40-36 thrice for Matt Korobov, who remains undefeated now at 6-0 with 5 knockouts.
The applause was thunderous for the introductions of Byamon, Puerto Rico’s Ivan Caldoron (32-0, 6 KO’s) versus Mandaue City, Philippines’ Rodel Mayol (25-3, 19KO’s). However, Calderon was extremely fortunate he didn’t see his 0 go this time out.
The crowd buzzed and scattered whistles rained down on the two as they jousted back and forth in the first.
Mayol appeared to stun Calderon with a right to the head in the second round, knocking him several feet back to the ropes, and sought to press his advantage. However, the faster Calderon circled, boxed carefully, and threw two and three punch combinations to make it a close round.
When they engaged in the third, both landed, but it was Mayol’s blows that were backing Calderon up.
A right staggered Mayol early in the fourth, but did little to change the complexion of the bout; Mayol kept pressing. A straight left snapped Mayol’s head back, drawing a loud “ooh” from the crowd.
Suddenly, in the fifth, Calderon suffered a cut over his brow, apparently from a clash of heads. Resuming, Calderon drew loud cheers from the crowd as he stormed forward. Another clash of heads! After being cleared by the doctor, the two took to a spirited exchange. Things got rough in close, as they both sought to wrest control of this bout.
In the sixth, the ring doctor had seen enough. After examining the cut over his left eye, he called it off.
Mayol’s dancing around the ring in gesture of victory drew loud boos from the crowd.
1:15 stopped. Judges scores totaled 58-56 for Calderon, 58-56 for Mayol, and 57-57 for a draw. Calderon had escaped losing by the skin of his teeth.
San Luis Potosi, Mexico by way of Chicago’s Juan Carlos Martinez (128 lbs., 14-9-1, 5 KO’s) demonstrated why he beat former two-division champ Jesus Chavez’s kid brother, Jaime Sandoval twice – the second time not even a month ago – as he repeatedly frustrated the taller (like Sandoval) Rafael Guzman with slicker movement and pot-shots that snapped his head back now and again. However, Guzman did enough to earn a split-decision win via scores of 59-55 and 58-56 for Guzman and 58-56 for Martinez.
Jersey City, New Jersey’s Jorge Diaz (123 ¼ 8-0, 5 KO’s) made his bout look like it was going to end early, dropping Mission, Texas’ Guadalupe DeLeon (123 lbs., 7-6, 4 KO’s) twice in the first round courtesy of thudding left hooks. However, his prey managed to survive this early scare.
In the second, Diaz repeatedly rocked DeLeon but was forced to back off in the second when countered well off the ropes.
He continued dominating in the third, fourth and fifth. And then the sixth –and the crowd – erupted. Both traded toe to toe for the better part of that round, bringing rousing cheers as neither refused to fold. Diaz asserted himself, bobbling DeLeon’s head with a two-fisted surge. But as he was coming on, DeLeon asserted himself, backing Diaz back to the ropes with a thumping two-fisted surge of his own. Slapping orange “Cotto-Clottey” inflatable clappers together and cheering lustily, the crowd let their satisfaction be known.
Diaz won the bout unanimously with scores of 58-54 and 59-53 twice.
Juncos, Puerto Rico’s Jayson Velez (122 ¼ lbs., 8-0, 7 KO’s) stopped feisty Hormigueros, Puerto Rico’s Jesus “Choo-Choo” Bayron (122 ½ lbs., 5-1, 4 KO’s) inside four rounds, but it wasn’t easy.
After being circled and jabbed by the busier Velez for roughly two minutes of the first round, Bayron knocked him back several feet with a jarring left hook to the head in the first and had him circling on the defensive for the latter portion
Velez remained the more consistent of the two in the second, boxing and circling carefully, while Bayron fired back harder single looping counters that bodily moved Velez. The two took to loading up on single shots in the last minute.
Bayron appeared to be coming on in the third, but that changed suddenly. Bayron lurched badly after a left hook landed flush on his chin. He dropped moments later. Rising, Bayron unloaded with renewed vigor, but collapsed a second time under the return fire. A standing eight count ensued. It was choppy waters for the beleaguered Bayron as he swung hard, was staggered and held on to survive the final moments of the round.
33 seconds into the fourth round, it was over. Velez battered Bayron with lefts and rights, forcing his staggering foe to hold on for dear life. Referee Earl Brown had seen enough, waving off the bout. Velez had won by technical knockout.
Canovanas, Puerto Rico’s Alberto Cruz (133 ½ lbs., 4-0, 3 KO’s) proved too much for Calwell, Idaho’s Rudy Valdez, forcing him to quit in three rounds.
Valdez dug to the body well, but was hurt with a series of smashing rights to the head in the first round. The right that appeared to precipitate the troubles for Valdez was a right that landed toward the back of the head.
In the second, a left to the jaw buzzed Valdez in the second round and slipped to the canvas after a follow-up barrage. Referee ruled it a slip. Valdez suffered a delayed knockdown after a right uppercut. Unfortunately, Cruz ripped him with a short right hook to the head while he was down on one knee. A delay followed as the referee gave Valdez time to recover. Resuming, the two traded to the bell.
In between the second and third rounds, Valdez’s corner advised the referee that he was unable to continue. Cruz had won by technical knockout in the third.
Passaic, New Jersey’s Glen Tapia (155 lbs., 2-0, 2 KO’s) won an entertaining four rounder over Nampa, Idaho’s David Lopez (159 lbs., 3-1-1) with scores of 40-36 thrice.
Promoter: Top Rank