NEW YORK – In the fight of his life, Miguel Cotto delivered the performance of a lifetime. The Puerto Rican knocked Sergio Martinez down four times, including three times in the first round, en route to capturing the WBC middleweight title in a shockingly one-sided performance.
The victory before 21,090 at Madison Square Garden gives Cotto world championships in four weight classes, making him the first Puerto Rican to accomplish that feat. He also won titles at junior welterweight, welterweight and super welterweight.
"I never went wild after I knocked him down three times," Cotto said. "This was a 12-round fight, not a one-round fight. It's the happiest day of my life. My maturity as a professional fighter showed in the ring today. I told myself not to go wild.
"He keeps his right hand down, which makes it easy for me to land a left hook. My left hook is the punch that beat him tonight. I was boxing on angles and controlling him with my jab while backing him up. This is everything we did at Wild Card."
He was about a 2-1 betting underdog, but he looked like a massive favorite as he bullied and battered Martinez from start to finish. Cotto moved forward patiently, but was able to control the ring as trainer Freddie Roach said he'd do.
Martinez went down the first time from a pair of clubbing left hands and after that, he was never again in the fight. Martinez said he never recovered from the first knockdown.
"No excuses," he said.
His trainer, Pablo Sarmiento, said he didn't want his guy to keep taking so much punishment.
"He was unstable and not responding," Sarmiento said. "That's why I stopped the fight. He was hurt badly in the first round and he never got better. He was unsteady in the fight."
Cotto dropped him twice more in the first, and likely would have stopped Martinez had the round had a few more seconds.
Sarmiento pleaded with him after the round to move to his left.
"You've got to move to the left," Sarmiento shouted at Martinez. "You can't stand there. What are you doing? You've got to move to the left and get out of the way."
Cotto, whose career has turned around in two fights with Roach after back-to-back losses to Floyd Mayweather and Austin Trout, also dropped Martinez near the end of the ninth.
In addition to his offense, he also was excellent defensively as he rarely was hit.
"I think we passed the audition," Roach said. "I'm so proud of Miguel. He worked very hard in camp and deserved this historic victory. He was picture perfect tonight. We won every round. I'll say this about Sergio. He has a lot of balls. He went down three times in the first round and kept getting up.
"Miguel didn't get hit with anything. His defense was beautiful. When he came back to the corner, I kept saying the same thing: 'That was your best round.' He was incredible."
Indeed he was, and it could set up a mega-money fight against Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez if Alvarez defeats Erislandy Lara on July 12 in Las Vegas. Promoter Bob Arum said he wasn't sure whether that'd happen this year or sometime next year.
Arum said he'd like to have Cotto fight either Dec. 5 or Dec. 13 in the Garden again. He said if he fought against a Mexican, Las Vegas might be a possibility.
Arum said he was amazed by Cotto's effort.
"He was sensational," Arum said. "As I was watching, I was thinking, 'What a waste he didn't get with Freddie Roach earlier.' "