NEW YORK — Miguel Cotto retained his WBA junior middleweight title, easily stopping challenger Antonio Margarito who was unable to continue because of a badly swollen right eye.
The 31-year-old Puerto Rican champ Cotto improved to 37-2-0 with a dominating TKO victory at a sold-out Madison Square Garden on Saturday as he avenged a controversial loss to Margarito three years ago.
Cotto savored the victory over his bitter rival by staring down Margarito after the stoppage.
“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.”
Margarito took a pounding from Cotto and fought the last few rounds with his right eye shut, the result of a barrage of strategically aimed left hooks from Cotto.
With Margarito’s surgically-repaired eye getting worse each round, ring doctor Anthony Curreri stepped in to halt the fight in between the ninth and 10th rounds, giving Cotto the TKO win.
“It came to the point where 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.”
It was the same eye that the 33-year-old Mexican fighter needed surgery to fix a fractured orbital bone after a lopsided loss to Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao in November 2010.
Pacquiao took it easy on Margarito in their fight when it became apparent that Margarito’s eye was badly damaged but Cotto showed him no mercy.
Crowd favourite Cotto was never seriously threatened Saturday as he earned a significant measure of payback against Margarito, who taunted Cotto throughout the build up to the fight, calling him a sore loser and questioning his manhood.
Margarito said he wanted to fight on despite being well back on the judges’ 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).”
Saturday’s world title bout was fought at a catch weight of 153 pounds and was a rematch of their 2008 fight when Margarito handed Cotto his first professional loss.
That fight was stopped by Cotto’s corner in the 11th with Margarito ahead on two of the three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage. But the “Tijuana Tornado” later came under suspicion for his use of illegal hand wraps in a later fight against American Shane Mosely.
Cotto accused Margarito of using the illegal hand wraps during their first title fight in July 2008. Margarito has denied the accusation.
In Margarito’s next fight, six months after beating Cotto, he was caught with a plaster-like substance in his wraps before a loss to Mosley in Los Angeles.
Margarito missed more than a year because of the hand-wrapping scandal.
The New York State Athletic Commission didn’t license Margarito until last week after ordering another examination of his eye, leaving boxing experts to wonder if he now faces possible retirement.