Back On Track In The Ring

By Francis Walker
Updated: February 23, 2009

Miguel Cotto pummels Michael Jennings in a corner. Cotto is one again a world champion, as he claimed the vacant WBO welterweight belt once held by Paul Williams Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Miguel Cotto pummels Michael Jennings in a corner. Cotto is one again a world champion, as he claimed the vacant WBO welterweight belt once held by Paul Williams Photo Credit: Francis Walker

NEW YORK — It appears as though two of boxing’s most popular figures have returned to their winning ways.

Fresh off the first professional losses of their careers, Miguel Cotto and Kelly Pavlik headlined a rare split-site doubleheader that was featured on pay-per-view. Neither fighter disappointed.

Cotto (33-1, 27 KOs) claimed the vacant WBO welterweight championship with a resounding fifth round TKO of Michael Jennings (34-2, 16 KOs) in the main event at Madison Square Garden, New York City.

Also, Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) retained the unified WBC/WBO middleweight championships when No. 1-ranked Marco Antonio Rubio (43-5-1, 38 KOs) quit on his stool before the start of the ninth round. That bout was the featured main event at the Chevrolet Center in Youngstown, OH.

Cotto electrifies the Garden

Cotto was destined to prove that he was still the same fighter that steamrolled his way toward two division titles before suffering a bloody bruises, two knockdowns, and an ego-shattering eleventh round TKO loss to Antonio Margarito.

Miguel Cotto
Once Miguel Cotto knew that his relentless body punches were hurting Michael Jennings, it was only a matter of time before the fight ended. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Cotto, 28, Puerto Rico, fought a largely unrecognized foe with a respectable record and high WBO ranking in Jennings, 31, Chorley, England. Cotto boxed effectively, but eventually his power and superior boxing skills proved too great for Jennings. Cotto dropped Jennings twice in the fourth, once in the fifth, and pummeled him in a corner to force a stoppage at 2:36 of round five.

“He was a good fighter,” Cotto said of the widely unknown Jennings. “I tried to win with all his courage I was very proud of him. He moved a lot. I run a lot in the ring. I tried to cut direction. My punches made it work.”

Cotto-Garden note

Miguel Cotto was simply too good for Michael Jennings. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Miguel Cotto was simply too good for Michael Jennings. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

What a better place for a fighter to reconstruct their image than Madison Square Garden. Cotto, who split his time fighting mainly in Las Vegas and Puerto Rico earlier in his career, has become immensely popular figure at the Garden. The move to have Cotto’s first bout in New York following such a devastating loss to Margarito last summer was a smart choice.

Cotto’s biggest and exciting victories against Sugar Shane Mosley (W 12), Zab Judah (TKO 11), and Paulie Malignaggi (W 12) occurred at the Garden.

Overall, Cotto is 5-0, with 3 KOs in “The World’s Most Famous Arena.

Pavlik delights hometown crowd

In another good move, not only did Kelly Pavlik return home following his first pro loss to Bernard Hopkins, but he also defended the world middleweight championship in his native Youngstown.

Pavlik defeated Marco Antonio Rubio, a rough and tough Mexican fighter who earned his WBC No. 1 ranking by outpointing Enrique Ornelas (W 12) in October. Pavlik dismantled Rubio behind stiff left jabs, hard right hands, combination punching, and constant pressure. Rubio retired at the end of the eighth round.

Rubio proved to be target practice for Pavlik, who successfully defended the unified WBC/WBO 160-pound titles for only the second time since knocking out the previous champion Jermain Taylor (KO 7) in September 2007.

Duddy decisions Vanda

The Cotto & Pavlik split-site pay-per-view doubleheader featured undercard fights from Madison Square Garden.

Unbeaten middleweight contender John Duddy attacks Matt Vanda to the bondy with a left hook. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Unbeaten middleweight contender John Duddy attacks Matt Vanda to the bondy with a left hook. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Fighting for the only the second time in one year, Ireland’s John Duddy won a 10-round unanimous decision against Matt Vanda. Duddy was knocked out of action after a contract dispute with his former handlers at Irish Ropes Promotions. Duddy took a measured approach which is a contrast to the straight-away brawling style he usually displays when he steps between the ropes.

The selection of Vanda as an opponent was risky. In July 2008, Vanda lost a disputed 10-round split-decision to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Mexico. Vanda came short again once more in a rematch against Chavez, Jr. last November. Vanda is a tough guy who owns a victory over former world champion Ramon Campas.

John Duddy ducks underneath a Matt Vanda left jab.

John Duddy ducks underneath a Matt Vanda left jab.

Duddy boxed using his left jab and carefully picked his shots. Duddy moved his head and avoided most of Vanda’s punches. Duddy moved and boxed a near perfect fight. It was near perfect because, in the final round Duddy dropped his guard and was stunned by a Vanda right hand. Suddenly, the momentum of the bout shifted, as Vanda attacked Duddy straight away with combinations.

By the time Vanda rallied, Duddy had already secured the victory. All three official scorers at ringside scored the contest 99-91 (twice) and 97-93.

John Duddy and Matt Vanda squares off in the middle of the ring. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

John Duddy and Matt Vanda squares off in the middle of the ring. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

It would be a terrific fight if Duddy were to challenge Pavlik for the middleweight championship at the Garden.

Maureen Shea stopped

In perhaps the upset of the night, Bronx favorite Maureen Shea lost her first professional contest. Shea was stopped by Kina Malpartida in the tenth and final round round.

Malpartida is the new WBA female super featherweight champion.

The loss was shocking, especially since Shea dropped Malpartida in the opening round off a solid right hand. The 5-foot-4 Shea was able to get inside of Malpartida’s 5-foot-8 height and land some good body shots and right hands up top. However, Malpartida successfully established the use of his left jab-straight right combination that threw Shea off her game.

Malpartida kept timing and landing her punches before a right to the chin dropped Shea and led to the eventual stoppage by referee Eddie Cotton.

***image7***Korobov KOs Jones

Russian Olympian at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Matt Korobov (4-0, 4 KOs) knocked out Cory Jones (4-5, 1 KO) at 2:59 seconds of the fourth and final round. The end came unexpectedly, as it appeared as though Korobov would box toward a decision win. Suddenly, a left followed by a right hand planted Jones flat on his face.

Fight’s over!