Cotto Beats Judah, Retains Welterweight Title

By Francis Walker
Updated: June 10, 2007

NEW YORK — Miguel Cotto emerged victorious on the eve of the famed Puerto Rican Day Parade. Fighting at Madison Square Garden for the third consecutive year, Cotto (30-0, 25 KOs) successfully defended the WBA welterweight championship with an 11th-round TKO of former undisputed 147-pound kingpin, Zab Judah (34-5, 25 KOs, 1 No-Contest) in front of 20,658.

“Cotto vs. Judah: X-Plosive,” promoted by Top Rank, Inc., Prize Fight Promotions, and televised on HBO Pay-Per-View, was an action-packed fight that could have been the 2007 “Fight of the Year.”

“I’m happy to be here, it was a tough fight,” Cotto said at the post fight press conference sporting a laceration above his right eye, a bruised nose, and a busted-swollen lip. “I think [our fight] was the best fight of the year.”

The consensus belief entering the fight was that Judah, who fought just one round after serving a one-year suspension, would be very strong and perhaps too fast for Cotto, 26, in the four-five rounds. Many also believed that Cotto would eventually break Judah down and stop him behind a relentless body attack.

The script couldn’t have played out more perfectly. Judah’s southpaw style proved to be very difficult to handle, as Cotto battled vigorously in the toughest fight of his career to date.

“I suck up the wind,” Cotto added. “[Zab] wanted to be a champion again and wanted to win this fight. That was my toughest fight of my career.”

Cotto had difficulty landing his left jabs and right-hand follows. Judah kept his hands in front of his chin, weaved from side to side underneath Cotto’s punches and countered effectively. Judah also countered with straight lefts and right hands that landed square in Cotto’s chin.

Judah stunned Cotto backward with a left uppercut and had him reeling, but moments later Judah sunk to the canvas after Cotto landed a low-blow in the first round.

Judah, who was suspended for more than one-year and fined $250,000 for repeatedly fouling Floyd Mayweather in the 10th round of their fight last spring, was warned not to retaliate by referee Arthur Mercante, Jr.

Judah was floored by a second low-blow by Cotto, who had one point deducted in the third round of what was already developing to be a wild and exciting fight.

“After I went down from the second low blow, the referee told me to get up you can’t win the fight on the ground,” said Judah, wearing shades that covered the cuts and welling around his eyes. “Everybody that knows me knows that I’m not a quitter. I don’t win fights on the ground. I love to fight.”

The low blows did affect Judah. His legs increasing became heavier as the bout progressed. “ It was unintentional,” Cotto said after publicly apologizing to Judah . “It was accidental.”

Cotto, who Judah claimed is a true “warrior” that “weathered the storm,” pressed Judah with left jabs and solid combinations to Judah’s body.

Cotto hit Judah everywhere -in his back, upside his head, elbows, shoulders, biceps, and ribcage with power. Cotto was relentless with is assault, although he endured his share of punishment.

“Cotto’s a tough fighter,” Judah added. “He took good shots. He came back and weathered the storm. I would say he’s a great fighter.”

In the sixth round, an accidental head butt opened a cut on the right side of Cotto’s eye. After a stern warning by Mercante, Cotto embraced Judah and tapped his glove on Judah’s head as if to say ‘don’t worry about it, we’re here to fight.’

It was clear that by the seventh round, Judah seriously hurt Cotto with a straight-left that landed flush on the chin. Judah followed with a flurry of fast and devastating punches that had the champion reeling. Cotto intelligently did not back up and remained in the clinch by tying up his opponent.

As the fight reached the championship rounds, Cotto was clearly pulling away with the fight. Cotto continued to press Judah with a relentless body attack and combinations to his head. A succession of body punches and a short right hand to the side of Judah’s head forced Judah to take a knee in a corner in the eighth round.

“Once my eye got cut [Cotto] stepped to my left and I couldn’t see,” Judah said. “I couldn’t see anymore. He hit me and I was forced to take a knee. He didn’t hurt me from the eight-count. I just couldn’t see.”

In the 10th, a right uppercut stunned Judah . The body punches continued to break Judah down. When Cotto was prepared to finish his opponent, until Judah landed a straight-left to the champion’s chest that stopped him in his tracks.

“I know Zab is a great puncher,” Cotto said. “He hit me pretty good. He put me in trouble twice in the fight, but thanks to God, I can take Zab’s punch.”

The fight ended when Cotto flattened Judah on the mat following a straight-right to his chin. Judah returned to his feet, but Mercante waved the fight off 46 seconds into the eleventh.

Cotto’s Future

It’s up to promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank to decide which direction Cotto will be led. The consensus belief and understanding is that there is a deal in-place for Cotto to fight WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito at The Garden this fall.

First Margarito must defeat unbeaten mandatory challenger, hard-hitting Paul Williams on July 14. Williams, at 6-1, has power in both hands and has an 82-inch reach. Williams throws a lot of punches and is a very exciting fighter, but the biggest win of his career was a fourth-round TKO off a faded Shamba Mitchell, a former WBA 140-pound champion last year.

The Undercard

Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (32-0-1, 25 KOs), 21, Culiacán, Mexico knocked out Grover Wiley (30-10-1, 14 KOs), 32, Omaha , NE , in the third round of a scheduled 10-round welterweight contest.

Wiley was the last person to beat the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. in September 2005. Since the win against Chavez, Wiley has been fed as “an opponent” to young upstarts Dmitry Salita (L 10), Julio Cesar Garcia (TKO 2), and Said Quali (L 10).

Wiley meant nothing more to Chavez, Jr. than just another opponent. Wiley went down in the first round from a body shot. Chavez also scored two additional knockdowns in round three.

In an exciting super featherweight fight, Humberto Soto (42-5-2, 25 KOs), 27, Mexico TKO’d Bobby Pacquiao (27-13-3, 12 KOs), 26, Philippines at 1:48 seconds of the seventh round off a body shot. Soto was hurt on several occasions of a wild slugfest that cut and bloodied Pacquaio’s face. Soto could next face Bobby’s famous brother, Manny Pacquaio.

In a crossroads fight, between two young junior middleweight prospects, Anthony ” The Messenger” Thompson (23-2, 17 KOs), 25, Philadelphia, PA, lost a 10-round split-decision in a very close fight against Yuri Foreman (23-0, 8 KOs), 26, Brooklyn, NY. The scores were 96-94, 97-93 for Foreman and 96-94 for Thompson.

Thompson’s only previous defeat was an upset TKO-loss to Grady Brewer of “The Contender” a few years ago.

Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (13-0, 10 KOs) won an unanimous decision over Jamal Davis (7-2, 6 KOs ) through eight rounds. The scores were 80-72 (twice) and 79-73.

Middleweight Wayne Johnsen (16-1, 9 KOs) defeated Anthony Bartinelli (19-10-2, 12 KOs ) through six rounds (60-53, 59-54, and 58-56).

Jesus Rojas (8-0, 6 KOs) unanimously defeated Torrance Daniels (9-2-1, 4 KOs ) through six rounds of a super bantamweight fight. The scores were 59-55 (twice) and 58-56.

In 1:46 seconds of round one, super lightweight Algenis Mendez (5-0, 4 KOs ) dropped Bobby Campbell (2-3-2) three times en route to a TKO victory.