By Ron Borges
NEW YORK - When Miguel Cotto left the ring at Madison Square Garden, he didn’t look like what he was. He didn’t look like a winner.
Cotto had just been awarded an oddly scored split decision to retain his WBO welterweight title from the challenge of Joshua Clottey, the judges’ scorecards varying as wildly as the opinions at ringside. As he stood there his left eye was split open, his face was scrapped and stained with his own blood.
Yet one judge, Don Trella, had Cotto winning widely, 116-111. Tom Miller saw Clottey eking out a close victory, 114-113. The swing vote was John McKale, who had Cotto up, 115-112. The Herald card also favored Cotto, 114-113, the margin of victory coming over the final two rounds when Clottey slowed down more than Cotto.
When the numbers were announced the crowd of 17,734 exploded and so did Clottey, but for different reasons. They favored the winner. So did Clottey. They just had differing points of view on who won.
“What does a guy have to do to win a fight,” Clottey (32-3) lamented. “They robbed me. He was running and I was chasing. People said I would lose if it went to a decision and I did. I fought my heart out.”
They both did, Clottey recovering from a knockdown at the end of the first round that seemed to spell early doom for him, Cotto battling through a severely cut left eye split open from an inadvertent head butt that bled continuously the rest of the night.
By the end the cut was about three inches long and terribly deep, effecting Cotto’s vision markedly. Yet inexplicably Clottey declined to throw right hands when it seemed most available to him in the final two rounds. His lack of passion with the WBO welterweight title on the line probably cost him.
“The cut made the fight more difficult but I could always see,” Cotto (33-1) said. “I had to box more late in the fight with all the stuff coming out of my eye. I had to keep on fighting. Keep on fighting.”
Cotto caught the attention of both Clottey in the ring and Manny Pacquiao outside it with a short, quick left hand that traveled about six inches, but sent Clottey sprawling onto the seat of his pants in the final seconds of the opening round. Clottey had been doing well enough up to that point, his defense tight and his occasional body shots reaching Cotto as he had predicted.
Clottey scrambled up as the round Cotto continued to control the spacing and terms of the fight until an inadvertent head butt by Clottey split open Cotto’s left eyelid late in Round 3. The cut was deep, wide and in bad a spot and Cotto’s cutman labored over it the rest of the night. By the final few rounds it had opened widely and caused enough blood to run into his eye that his vision was seriously impaired and he was forced to back pedal.
Late in the fifth round, Cotto pushed Clottey to the floor as the two were wrestling near Cotto’s corner and Clottey stayed on the floor complaining of a wrenched right knee. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr., who had stumbled over a photographer’s camera and didn’t see what happened gave Clottey ample time to recover, but that couldn’t save him from a vicious assault by Cotto at the start of Round 6.
Cotto stayed all over him the entire round, with Clottey inexplicably leaning his back against the turnbuckle in his corner, giving the round away as Cotto flurried and fired at him. Late in the round he stunned Clottey with another left hand but the sturdy African refused to buckle.
Clottey rallied significantly in Rounds 7-10, yet just as the fight was slipping away, Cotto began to rally again at the same time Clottey’s attack slowed to a trickle in Rounds 11 and 12. That shift convinced McKale to give Cotto the final three rounds and the fight. Frankly, it was difficult to argue otherwise, even though the visual evidence at the end seemed to.
Source: http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/other_sports/boxing/view.bg?articleid=1178869&srvc=sports&position=recent (June 14, 2009)