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Monday, June 7, 2010
Updated: June 8, 1:56 PM ET
Cotto proves he's still a force

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com


A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:

Saturday at New York
Junior middleweight
Miguel Cotto TKO9 Yuri Foreman
Wins a junior middleweight title
Records: Cotto, 35-2, 28 KOs; Foreman, 28-1, 8 KOs

Rafael's remark: Cotto is usually a humble man, but he was proud after his win against Foreman, a bizarre one to be sure, but one that gave the Puerto Rican star a title in his third weight class -- junior middleweight, welterweight and junior welterweight. "I proved this night, everybody who said Miguel Cotto was finished, everybody failed," Cotto said. He was right on the money. There were many who had viewed the 29-year-old Cotto as damaged goods following a series of hard fight, especially after the pounding he took over the second half of his last fight, a 12th-round knockout against Manny Pacquiao in November. But Cotto showed that he's still a force, especially when his opponent can't back him up.

Foreman, 29, is a rabbinical student who was born in Belarus, immigrated to Israel and then New York, and became the first orthodox Jew to own a world title in 70-something years. His story got a lot of play leading up to the fight, but it didn't help him in the ring. In his first title defense, he never could back Cotto up. Nor could Foreman keep his legs under him.

Cotto was already in command of the fight in the seventh round when Foreman's right knee simply gave out and he crashed to the canvas twice. He was obviously injured, but showed a great heart by going on as best as he could. Since Foreman never has had any sort of knockout punch, he was in double the trouble because he typically relies on his legs and jab. Now, he couldn't move well or plant down to throw his jab. So it was only a matter of time until Cotto finished the job. The crazy part was that most people thought the fight had ended in the eighth round when, with Foreman hobbling around -- but in no apparent worse shape than he was in the previous round or the first half of that round -- his trainer, Joe Grier, launched a white towel into the ring to call off the fight. All of a sudden, the ring filled with the corners and officials and the fighters even embraced. But the one man charged with stopping the fight did not agree. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. made the decision to continue the fight. It was a gutsy call, but the right one in that moment. Foreman clearly wanted to continue and he was still fighting back, albeit with an injury. But it was no different than if a fighter was fighting through a cut or a hand injury. He's a fighter and he wasn't in any more danger than another fighter who goes on with other injuries. So after a delay of a couple of minutes, the ring was cleared and the fight amazingly resumed. Gotta give Foreman a lot of credit for the heart he showed as he made for the most entertaining fight of his career, one in which he had been slammed by many critics (yes, an ESPN.com writer included) for his boring style. Now, he'll be a bigger star than he ever was before. Foreman made it through the rest of the eighth, but in the ninth, still hobbling, Cotto caught him with a vintage left hook to the body that sent him down and Mercante called it off. Since the crowd of 20,272 was mostly pro-Cotto, there were hundreds of Puerto Rican flags waiving as the crowd cheered Cotto's return triumphant return, one for which new trainer, Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, deserves much credit.

Now, Cotto has options -- stay at 154 or return to 147. There are interesting fights in both divisions. Cotto, a money-generating star attraction, will have a lot of suitors. He could rematch with Pacquiao if Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather isn't made. He could rematch with Antonio Margarito, who handed him his first loss. He could fight Andre Berto, Sergio Martinez, you name it. Cotto has always fought the best and isn't about to stop.

Despite the weird stop and start of the fight in the eighth round, it was overall a glorious return of boxing to Yankee Stadium, which was hosting a fight for the first time since Muhammad Ali outpointed Ken Norton in their heavyweight championship rematch in 1976 at the old stadium across the street. Top Rank's Bob Arum, who promotes Cotto and Foreman, also promoted that fight, so it's a credit to him and his company that he could return boxing to such a hallowed venue. The fight was as much about connecting with the past as it was about trying to help reinvigorate boxing in the stadium setting. Arum brought boxing to new Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas in March, when more than 50,000 watched Pacquiao outpoint Joshua Clottey.

But Yankee Stadium has more history with the sweet science than Dallas, hosting its 47th fight card between the new ballpark and the old one that closed after the 2008 baseball season. Boxing was a staple at the old Yankee Stadium from the 1920 through the 1950s. Before Ali-Norton returned boxing there after an extended break, the roster of legends who fought there includes Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Benny Leonard, Harry Greb, Henry Armstrong, Ezzard Charles, Sandy Sadler, Willie Pep and Carmen Basilio. On this night, it was a return to the past. And what a night it was.

Junior middleweight
Vanes Martirosyan W10 Joe Greene
Scores: 98-91, 96-93 (twice)

Records: Martirosyan, 28-0, 17 KOs; Greene, 22-1, 14 KOs

Rafael's remark: Martirosyan and Greene, both standout amateurs and 24-year-old rising pro contenders, made their HBO debuts on a big card knowing the winner could take a big step forward in their career. As matchmaker Brad "Abdul" Goodman, who is with Martirosyan promoter Top Rank, said before the fight: "You're going to know where both guys stand. You'll know which guy is real or not." Based on their fight, Martirosyan is the one who is "real" after outboxing Greene in a lackluster fight that elicited booing from the Yankee Stadium crowd after it was over. Not much to write home about in this one. Martirosyan, a 2004 U.S. Olympian from Glendale, Calif., by way of Armenia, was the one trying to make the fight. Greene, however, didn't seem to want any part of that. He didn't throw enough punches to make any kind of statement or enough to win more than a couple of early rounds of the sloppy fight. Both guys were warned for low blows and Greene, especially, spent more time complaining to referee Steve Smoger than trying to mix it up with his opponent. Martirosyan, who had faced much better opposition, scored a knockdown in the 10th round when he landed a right hand behind Greene's head. Frankly, Smoger probably shouldn't have called the knockdown because it was not a legal blow, but it hardly mattered. Greene was way behind on points. At least when it was over, Greene admitted that he had lost because he had not been busy enough. Although Martirosyan did not look particularly good, he put himself in position for a bigger fight later this year. He would like to fight for a title or even against Paul Williams. With the muscle of Top Rank and Martirosyan manager Shelly Finkel, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Martirosyan get a significant fight before the end of the year.

Saturday at Neubrandenburg, Germany
Middleweight
Sebastian Sylvester D12 Roman Karmazin
Retains a middleweight title
Scores: 118-111 Sylvester, 117-111 Karmazin, 114-114
Records: Sylvester, 33-3-1, 16 KOs; Karmazin, 40-3-2, 26 KOs

Rafael's remark: Well, how about a little controversy? The dramatic difference in scorecards was pretty surprising. It probably boiled down to the personal preference of the judges. Matthew Podgorski, who voted 117-111 for Karmazin, probably liked the fact that he was busier with his punches. John Lawson, who voted 118-11 for Sylvester, probably saw the German titlist landing heavier blows even though he maybe wasn't landing as many punches as Russia's Karmazin, a former junior middleweight titleholder. Judge Pasquale Procopio called it even. He couldn't make up his mind on which style to favor, but his scorecard seemed like the most realistic. So there you go -- a legitimately close fight with wildly divergent scorecards in a mandatory fight that deserves a sequel. Why not? It's not like middleweight is loaded with major fights the public is interested in.

Sylvester, fighting in front of his hometown fans and making the second defense of the vacant belt he won in September, did close stronger than Karmazin, but those late rounds do not count for anything more than the early ones. Sylvester, who did land many excellent right hands, naturally, thought he had done enough to win, saying afterward, "It was a close, a tough fight. … I think I was up a few rounds." Karmazin, who earned the mandatory shot with a come-for-behind 10th-round knockout of Dionisio Miranda in a January ESPN2 fight, performed well but only wound up with a badly swollen, cut left eye and disappointment. Of course, he also thought he won the fight. "It was a close encounter," he said. "I had problems to find my rhythm in the first round because I got a thumb into my eye early. In Round 6 I had problems with my liver so I really had to hang in there between Round 6 and 10 not to lose my focus. I felt I threw more punches and should have won the fight."

Cruiserweight
Steve Cunningham TKO5 Troy Ross
Wins a vacant cruiserweight title
Records: Cunningham, 23-2, 12 KO ;Ross, 23-2, 16 KOs

Rafael's remark: Philadelphia's Cunningham, 33, became a two-time cruiserweight titleholder with the stoppage win against Canada's Ross, a two-time Olympian and the winner of the last season of "The Contender" reality series. After Tomasz Adamek gave up his title, Cunningham was scheduled to fight Matt Godfrey for the vacant belt, but Godfrey pulled out. A few days later Cunningham's contract with promoter Don King expired and he eventually signed with Germany's Sauerland Event, which promotes several quality cruiserweights. Sauerland quickly made a deal to bring Ross, the next leading available contender, to Germany for the fight, an excellent one on paper. It turned out to be a good fight, but with a highly unsatisfying ending.

They fought at a quick pace in a competitive fight, although Ross seemed to get the better of Cunningham, who, by the way, owns victories against the other reigning titleholders (Marco Huck, Guillermo Jones and Krzysztof Wlodarczyk). Midway through the fourth round, Ross fired a straight left hand that caught Cunningham on the chin and dropped him to his backside. When the fight resumed, Cunningham landed a left hand that caught Ross on the left eye. Ross was clearly in pain, but finished the round. It was a close call on the replays, but it appeared as though part of the thumb on Cunningham's glove had caught Ross' eye, opening a nasty cut in the lower corner of his eye. Cunningham certainly didn't use his thumb on purpose, and moments after the bell rang to begin the fifth round, referee Bill Clancy had the ringside doctor examine Ross' swelling and bleeding eye. He recommended that the fight be stopped and when it was, Cunningham, who had just won another title, didn't even look happy about it due to the circumstances.

What a total bummer for Ross, who had scored a clean knockdown moments earlier and was certainly in a good position. According to Sauerland Event, Ross was scheduled to have surgery on the eye. This one begs for a rematch if Ross is able to fight again.

Saturday at Istanbul
Welterweight
Selcuk Aydin W12 Ionut "Jo Jo" Dan
Wins a vacant interim welterweight title
Scores: 114-113 (twice) Aydin, 116-111 Dan
Records: Aydin, 20-0, 15 KOs; Dan, 26-1, 14 KOs

Rafael's remark: All along, Aydin and Luis Collazo were supposed to meet for the WBC's interim title -- now laughably called the silver title -- because full titlist Andre Berto was given permission to face Shane Mosley. As we know now, that fight never came off. We also know that after various deals fell through, Collazo decided he was no longer interested in the fight. So a few weeks ago, Dan, 28, a Romanian living in Canada and fighting primarily as a junior welterweight, got the opportunity and went to Aydin's home country for the bout. He left after losing a controversial decision. Although Aydin was fighting for the first time in 11 months -- a layoff caused by the constant changes in the delay of his mandatory shot against Berto and the on-again, off-again Collazo fight -- he started quickly and scored a first-round knockdown when he connected with a right hand to Dan's head. Dan shook it off and went to work and controlled most of the rounds through the first half of the bout. He was the boxer in this match and busier while Aydin, 26, who was the stronger brawler and heavier puncher. When the result was announced and Aydin was declared the winner of the bogus title, it set of a wild scene in the crowd of about 10,000. Guess they don't care that Aydin's title is as fake as a $3 bill. But whatever. Arena Box promoter Ahmet Íner, who handles Aydin, said the crowd was the biggest ever for a fight in Turkey, so don't be surprised to see Aydin continue to fight there, where the fans don't know the difference between Berto's title and Aydin's.

Saturday at Acapulco, Mexico
Bantamweight
Edgar Sosa KO2 Roberto Leyva
Records: Sosa, 38-6, 22 KOs; Leyva, 27-12-1, 21 KOs

Rafael's remark: In November 2007, Sosa defended his junior flyweight title against former strawweight titlist and Mexican countryman Leyva, stopping him in the fourth round. In the rematch, Sosa, 30, made shorter work of Leyva, 30, who is really on the down side of his career as he dropped to 1-6 in his past seven fights. Sosa, who plans to fight at flyweight, was a career-heavy 116 pounds as he took out Leyva at 1 minute, 12 seconds. Sosa was fighting for the first time since Rodel Mayol relieved him of his junior flyweight title on a second-round TKO. It was a controversial stoppage because the knockout came right after a severe head butt broke Sosa's cheekbone and made him unsteady. Sosa had surgery to repair the injury and showed no ill-effects from it against Leyva. Now, Sosa is targeting a shot against flyweight titlist Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.

Friday at Miami
Junior middleweight
Yudel Jhonson TKO8 Juliano Ramos
Records: Jhonson, 7-0, 5 KOs; Ramos, 16-4, 13 KOs

Rafael's remark: Jhonson won a 2004 Olympic silver medal for Cuba before defecting in February 2009 and turning pro three months later. Already 29 and on the fast track after an extensive amateur career, Jhonson looked very good breaking down Ramos in a lopsided destruction in the ESPN2 "Friday Night Fights" main event. Jhonson, a southpaw fighting his first scheduled 10-rounder, came out fast and battered Ramos throughout the fight. He's a fluid puncher who throws crisp combinations, which he abused Ramos with. He opened a cut over Ramos' left eye in the seventh round and in the eighth round, although there was no specific big punch that landed, referee Telis Assimenios stepped in to stop it after yet another left hand landed flush with 20 seconds left in the round. It was more of a mercy stoppage than anything else and was certainly an appropriate call. Jhonson has a ton of talent and could rise through the ranks quickly. Brazil's Juliano Ramos, 30, has lost three of his past four and doesn't have much left. Each of the losses in the recent run came by knockout to quality opponents: Jhonson, former titlist Kermit Cintron and hot prospect Mike Jones.

Welterweight
Brad Solomon W10 Kenny Galarza
Scores: 100-89 (twice), 99-90
Records: Solomon, 12-0, 4 KOs; Galarza, 13-1, 13 KOs

Rafael's remark: This was an excellent match on paper, because it was between undefeated prospects with different styles. Solomon, 27, of Lafayette, La., was a late starter to boxing at age 18, picking it up while he was incarcerated. The three-time National Golden Gloves winner is a technician with good movement. Galarza, 24, a standout amateur in Puerto Rico, is more of an aggressive fighter who likes to mix it up and use his outstanding power to end fights early. Solomon's style won out and did so rather easily. It was not a shock that he would win the fight, but it was very surprising to see him completely dominate and pitch the near-shutout. He had Galarza frustrated throughout the fight as he boxed, moved and basically drove him crazy. Galarza spent most of the fight just trying to walk to him to punch rather than using a jab to work his way in. It was a recipe for disaster for Galarza, who lost a point in the sixth round when he launched a combination below the belt. Good win for Solomon, his third fight in four months. Tough loss for Galarza, who was in his third fight in six months.

Friday at Tampa
Lightweight
Mercito Gesta TKO4 Oscar Meza
Records: Gesta, 18-0, 8 KOs; Meza, 19-4, 17 KOs

Rafael's remark: Gesta, a 22-year-old prospect from the Philippines, got his first national television exposure in the main event on Telemundo and made the most of it in a good performance. Gesta was in control in the fourth round when he dug a left hand to Meza's body. Meza turned to the side and took several steps toward a corner before he dropped to a knee and took a count for a knockdown with one of the longest delayed reactions you will ever see. Meza made it to his feet, but Gesta nailed him with a left hand right after the fight resumed and he went staggering into a corner, where Gesta teed off on him as the round came to an end. In between rounds, Meza retired on his stool -- probably an excellent decision. Gesta looks like an interesting prospect to keep an eye on. Meza, 23, of Mexico, lost for the second time in three fights, also losing to Top Rank prospect Brandon Rios, who stopped him in the fifth round in May 2009.

Friday at Hattersheim, Germany
Heavyweight
Juan Carlos Gomez W8 Oezcan Cetinkaya
Scores: 80-72 (three times)
Records: Gomez, 47-2, 26 KOs; Cetinkaya, 17-7-1, 11 KOs

Rafael's remark: In March 2009, Gomez was routed by Vitali Klitschko in a heavyweight title challenge. Klitschko won virtually every round and knocked him out in the ninth round. So Gomez, 36, a former cruiserweight titleholder and Cuban defector to Germany, has been on the comeback trail. He's now won three in a row since the loss as he outboxed Cetinkaya, 32, a Turk living in Germany, in a no-frills fight. Cetinkaya dropped to 2-3 in his past five bouts. There is talk of Gomez returning to action quickly with a fight against Brazil's Rafael Zumbano on a card being planned for June 26 in Atlanta.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.