Cotto Escapes With Split Decision Victory Over Clottey

June 14, 2009

Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto retained his WBO welterweight title via a narrow and controversial split decision in a hard-fought welterweight title fight at New York City's famed Madison Square Garden Saturday night.

The fight was closely contested with several bizarre and dramatic moments, right down to the inexplicably long time spent tallying the scorecards and announcing the results.

It began in an opening round in which Clottey dominated Cotto for the first 2 minutes and 55 seconds, only to be caught and dropped by a stiff Cotto jab with five seconds remaining in the round. The strange happenings continued in the third round when Cotto sustained a bad cut following an accidental clash of heads, and then culminated with an unprovoked and illegal body slam of Clottey by Cotto in Round 5.

With the win, Cotto sent the thousands of cheering Puerto Rican fans in attendance home happy, and assured himself that his next fight will be a big-money title bout. Possibile future opponents range from the obvious (a Sugar Shane Mosley rematch), to the uncertain (a rematch with currently-suspended Antonio Margarito), to the ridiculously lucrative (Pound-for-Pound king Manny Pacquiao).

However, for Cotto, the win most importantly gave him some form of redemption following his crushing TKO defeat against Margarito. After sustaining a deep cut from an inadvertant head butt in Round 3, Cotto had to dig down deep and find the resolve to continue to fight a tough and determined challenger while blood freely flowed into his eye.

The official scores for the fight were 116-111 and 115-112 for Cotto, and 114-113 for Clottey. Official scorer Don Trella had the fight scored 116-111, meaning he inexplicably saw Cotto winning 8 out of the 12 rounds (with an extra point for Cotto due to the first round knockdown). A draw was probably the most accurate and fair result. The final punch statistics favored Clottey, 222-179.

Trella's inexcusable score was dubious even for boxing, and here's hoping that following such an incompetent performance by an official scorer, Trella is never allowed to score a big-time title fight again, whether in New York or elsewhere.

Regardless of the scoring, this fight was a closely contested thriller in which both men displayed a great deal of courage, determination, and fighting spirit in a variety of adverse conditions.

Here's a look at how scored the action, round-by-round:

Round 1

Clottey boxes well behind a solid jab and tight defense, nullifying Cotto's aggression and completely controlling the round. However, with about 5 seconds remaining in the frame, Clottey is caught off-balance and dropped by a thudding left jab from Cotto for a knockdown. Absent that knockdown, Clottey was clearly the better fighter.

9-9 (10-9, Clottey less one point for the knockdown)

Round 2

Clottey begins the second round showing no ill effects from the knockdown, and rips Cotto on the inside with a series of left hook/left uppercut combinations. Cotto fires a flurry of hooks to the body, which Clottey blocks effectively with his arms.

Surprisingly enough, Clottey enjoys an advantage in the center of the ring, where most of the action had occurred thus far in the fight.

10-9, Clottey

Round 3

Both fighters maintain a steady pace, although they still appear to be figuring out each other's style. Cotto commits more to ripping hooks to the body, but Clottey is unfazed by the attack and just walks through Cotto's shots.

Cotto is definitely the busier man, but Clottey seems unaffected by his power. Clottey appears to be the more accurate puncher. With just under 20 seconds to go, the fighters clinch, and Cotto suffers a deep cut on his left eyebrow from an accidental clash of heads. Between rounds, Cotto displays a calm demeanor, as cutman Joe Chavez and the ringside doctor assess the damage.

10-9, Clottey

Round 4

After extra time is given in for the physician to evaluate the laceration, Mercante cautions both combatants on leading with their heads, and the fourth round begins.

Thirty-five seconds into the round, Clottey lands a left uppercut-right hand-left hook combination that buzzes Cotto, and backs him up momentarily. Cotto's fighting spirit kicks in however, as he responds with a nice three-punch combo of his own. Clottey returns the favor with a nice hook to the body and a hard uppercut.

Despite giving as good as he gets in this round, Cotto really appears to be bothered by the blood which is freely flowing down his face.

10-9, Cotto

Round 5

Clottey looks to re-establish the jab in the fifth, even flashing a good short left hook off of his jab (a difficult punch for even the most skilled boxers). Clottey snaps Cotto's head back with a succession of jab, straight right combos. Cotto is really getting hit hard with the one-two, and looks to be an easy target for Clottey at this point.

Cotto then avoids a hard-charging Clottey, pivots and proceeds to body slam Clottey hard on the canvas. The move, which is illegal in the boxing ring, results in a bizarre scene, as Clottey remains prone for several moments, appearing to have sustained an injury to his ankle or knee. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. gives him time to recover, and the round resumes and concludes without incident.

Clottey wins the round, but looks to have some doubt in his mind as to his fitness and ability to continue at full strength.

10-9, Clottey

Round 6

Cotto seizes his opportunity to inflict further damage on his opponent, as Clottey looks significantly less mobile, and therefore much more vulnerable to Cotto. Now assuming the role of predator hungrily stalking his prey, Cotto pours it on, backing Clottey against the ropes with hard hooks to the body and head.

Despite being trapped in the corner for the better part of half the round, Clottey gamely fights back, flurrying with his back against the ropes. Undeterred, Cotto refuses to let the game Ghanaian challenger out of the corner. If it weren't for his offensive outbursts, it would appear that Cotto is on the verge of stopping his man, as Cotto rains down vicious shot after shot on Clottey. Clottey ends the round with another quick flurry.

10-9, Cotto

Round 7

They begin Round 7 boxing in the middle of the ring, with each man taking turns in the lead. Cotto once again appears to be experiencing some discomfort in dealing with the cut, as he is constantly pawing away with his left glove at his eye region.

With about a minute to go in the round, Clottey successfully lands a pair of four-punch combos, continuing to back Cotto up against the ropes. Although he is still pivoting and circling away from the hard-charging Clottey, Cotto looks to be fighting in the same manner which eventually saw him stopped by Margarito - retreating constantly and preferring to back away from his opponent, while throwing punches without much steam behind them.

10-9, Clottey

Round 8

Cotto begins round 8 up on his toes, boxing and circling Clottey. Cotto forges forward behind his pile-driving jab, and Clottey appears content to back off and counter Cotto by firing off hard uppercuts, catching Cotto leaning into a few of them.

With about a minute gone in the round, Clottey fires a beautiful 5 or 6 punch flurry off of the ropes, and Miguel once again paws away at the cut over his left eye, which really appears to be bothering him.

Despite slipping a few times on some in-ring advertisements, Clottey rocks Cotto a few times with some hard straight right hands and ripping uppercuts. Even though he is still fighting back valiantly, Cotto looks to be on the verge of being stopped on more than one occassion this round.

Just when it appears that the fight has been beaten out of him, Cotto fights his way out of a would-be clinch, firing off about 11 or 12 straight punches with about 30 seconds remaining. Although replays showed that Clottey blocked most of them, a few hard straights made their way through his defense and did manage to catch him cleanly.

Clottey's only reaction to this outburst was to grin and shake his head at Cotto after he backed off.

10-9, Clottey

Round 9

Despite dominating the last round and pounding Cotto's cut to the point that the HBO Broadcast team felt a stoppage was imminent, Clottey comes out cautiously in Round 9. At this point in the fight, things are starting to look eerily similar to the Margarito fight for Cotto. Clottey is still stalking, and Cotto is now fullly commited to "his bicycle" in trying to evade Clottey and avoid further damage to his ripped-up left eye.

Although Clottey appears calm and confident, it is Cotto that is flashing the sharper, stiffer jab at this point, as well as bouncing on surprisingly fresh legs. This round was tough to call, as Clottey was certainly the busier and more aggressive fighter, yet Cotto's flurries illicit more of a roar in response from the predictably pro-Puerto Rican crowd.

10-9, Cotto

Round 10

The round begins with Cotto still on his bicycle circling and dodging away from Clottey, who continues to come forward and press the issue. Cotto switches to a southpaw stance a few different times, and the new look seems to cause Clottey to slow down a bit. Cotto definitely shows that his defense is underrated, as he makes Clottey miss badly on a few occassions.

The round is punctuated by Cotto landing a big left hook at the bell. Clottey, for his part seems unfazed by it, smiling and raising his hand while walking back to his corner.

10-9, Cotto

Round 11

Despite the best efforts of the MSG Event staff, both fighters still appear to be unable to secure solid footing, as they each slip on the various in-ring advertisements. Both fighters bounce confidently around the ring - a testament to their outstanding conditioning.

Defensively, Cotto has a good round, making the aggressive Clottey miss on a couple of instances with subtle shoulder rolls and half turns. That being said, Cotto lands absolutely nothing of significance, and Clottey closes the round by landing a pair of nice right hands right before the bell.

10-9, Clottey

Round 12

The twelfth and final round begins with Cotto jabbing and circling away. Clottey backs him into the ropes but wildly misses a big right hand. He pins Cotto against the ropes again, but Cotto fights his way out with a solid jab-straight right combo.

The two exchange left hooks in the middle of the ring. Although Clottey has fought well enough to be ahead on the scorecards to this point, he isn't throwing enough punches in this round to close out the fight convincingly. Considering the closeness of the fight, the adulation for Cotto in New York, and the fact that Cotto is the champ, this isn't the wisest of choices for Clottey at this stage in the bout.

With a minute to go in the round, another controversial moment occurs, as Cotto spins Clottey and then, with Clottey's back turned, Cotto cracks him with a left to the back of the head. The blow prompts Mercante to bring both fighters together to issue a warning. During a two-way flurry shortly thereafter, Cotto lands a left just below the belt. Following another Mercante admonishment, the two exchange briefly along the ropes with about :35 seconds to go, and despite a wild flurry by Clottey right before the bell, Cotto carries the round due to his more effective aggression.

10-9 Cotto

DSH Final Scorecard: 114-113 Clottey

What We Learned From This Fight

Cotto is back. Although all of the questions surrounding his mental health were valid after he twice took a knee and conceded defeat to Margarito, those questions become less important due to the subsequent revelation that Margarito tried to load his handwraps with plaster of paris prior to his Mosley fight.

Still, Cotto needed a solid performance against a credible opponent in order to put his name back into the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquaio sweepstakes. Cotto accomplished that goal by overcoming adversity and fighting an elite-level foe in Clottey. Although the split decision victory rendered by the incompetent judges was questionable, Cotto fought mostly on even terms, and showed himself to still be capable of solid performances on the biggest stage.

Whether his promoter Bob Arum decides to match him next with Pacquiao, or put him in a rematch with either Mosley or Margarito, Cotto certainly has no shortage of lucrative options.

For his part, Clottey proved to be just as tough as advertised. Despite his questionable strategy in the last two rounds, he certainly deserves more big-name, big-money fights. Although Clottey definitely could have done more to solidify his case as the winner on Saturday, he certainly didn't shame himself with his performance. And that should be enough to put him in a position for more fights with the 147-pound elite.

Since it isn't likely that any of the other welterweight champs will be in any hurry to fight an active, tough, determined, and strong fighter such as Clottey, here's hoping that youngster Andre Berto and his camp have the courage to give Clottey another well-deserved shot at a title belt.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more. 116-111 is a pure joke. unfortunately i doubt clottey gets a rematch now that pbf hurt his ribs. pac man will probably jump at a chance to take on cotto


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