It took just under 12 rounds of the fight but Miguel Cotto, 36-2 (29), achieved the knockout he promised to deliver by the end of the final heat, successfully defending his WBA junior middleweight belt and sending former welterweight champion Ricardo Mayorga, 29-8-2 (23), into retirement at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Things started off with both Cotto and Mayorga attempting to land solid shots in order to establish who the bigger puncher was. As Cotto landed some clean bombs, Mayorga replied with strong shots of his own.
Mayorga was blasted with a left hook to the jaw and as a result was backed up into the ropes. Mayorga played off his condition by trying to goad Cotto into a power exchange against the ropes. Cotto took his time as he patiently glided into range and unleashed some strong shots.
The tone of the fight was set as Cotto established his range and connected with power jabs that eventually would swell up Mayorga’s right eye. To Mayorga’s credit, he was game and continued gain an advantage but his free-swinging style allowed Cotto to show off some improved defense and balance as he avoided most of the big shots.
This continued till the end of the fifth round when Mayorga landed his best shots on Cotto as the defending junior middleweight titlist moved straight back to finish the round. Round six was more of the same with Cotto boxing effectively. Round seven was the best round for Mayorga in years, as a flash of the old champion returned, landing a huge right hand over Cotto’s left, momentarily stunning him.
Fully aware of his situation, Cotto returned to boxing and working off the jab, which would be the key to his eventual victory. Cotto worked with combination punching but Mayorga seemed to see most of the shots that he was hit with and was able to handle them for most of the fight.
As both fighters reached the championship rounds, Mayorga continued to go for the knockout, since it was clear Cotto’s skills had him well ahead on the judges’ scorecards. Heated exchanges came in both the tenth and 11th and Mayorga seemed to have some hope with his hard, whipping right hands, whenever they would thud off of Cotto’s high guard or actually land.
As they reached the end of the 11th round, that huge left hook from Cotto’s compact stance spelled the end of not only the fight but the career of Ricardo Mayorga. Trainer Emanuel Steward calmly told Cotto between rounds that Mayorga was all tired out and was a few compact punches from having the fight stopped. Mayorga, well behind on the scorecards, was told that he needed the knockout. Both fighters came out and it was clear that a knockout was on both of their minds. But with hands down, complaining about some sort of hand issue and his back to the corner, Mayorga was spared by referee Robert Byrd, who stopped the fight at the 53-second mark.
Cotto mentioned that he is up for the proposed July 16th rematch with Antonio Margarito or a fight with any of the big names in the sport. Mayorga said that it was time to look for another job as he officially retired from boxing by thanking the public and his promoter Don King.
Pawel Wolak, 29-1 (19), saved his most impressive performance for his highest profile fight to date. For Yuri Foreman, 28-2 (8), who was coming off a ninth-round knockout loss to the man in the main event Miguel Cotto in Yankee Stadium (as well as knee surgery), this was a true comeback fight.
Wolak came out and set the tone of the fight right away in the first round. Foreman tried to circle and establish his jab in order to keep the hard-charging Wolak at bay. Unfortunately for Foreman, Wolak continued to mug him, ripping away at the body and head.
The tone from the opening round continued with Foreman attempting to circle and land right hands with Wolak chasing and ripping hard body shots. As the action picked up in the fourth round, Foreman was trying to continue to circle and smother Wolak’s headshots. As the round neared its end, Wolak’s pressure took over and his power shots started taking a toll on Foreman.
Round five was more of the same with Wolak continuing to attack the body and land his power right hand, the most effective punch upstairs that he would land on Foreman.
Round six was truly the best for Wolak as he started to really wear down his opponent, connecting with harder right hands. Foreman’s face was red and he no longer kept Wolak at bay with his movement and jab. Wolak was all over Foreman and his ripping right hand made everyone watching aware that Wolak was truly taking over the fight.
Before the start of round seven, Foreman decided not to answer the bell. Wolak was declared the winner and Foreman looked as though Wolak’s sheer pressure and constant attack not only broke down Foreman physically but mentally as well.
Wolak now has the opportunity to capitalize on this undercard platform to earn him some well deserved pay dates around the super welterweight division. It was clear that he lived up to his nickname of the “Raging Bull.” It will be interesting to see him in a battle with a fighter mentally and physically strong enough to make Wolak think twice about coming straight forward with no head movement.
* * *
Tommy Zbikowski, 2-0 (2), returned to the boxing ring for the first time since 2006. Zbikowski took off his football helmet and the shoulder pads in place of boxing gloves and it just took one minute and 55 seconds into the first round to restart his fight career successfully.
Richard Bryant, 1-3 (1), who has a future as an accountant and nutritionist, may have an early start to those future careers after trying to land on the obviously more relaxed Zbikowski. In return, one hard left body shot landed to Bryant’s liver and, just like that, the fight was over. To his credit, Bryant rose to his feet but the fight was stopped, sparing him further punishment.
In the opening bout of the show, IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez, 28-3 (12), outpointed Lenny Zappavigna, 25-1 (17) over 12 rounds to retain his belt. Zappavigna came in as highly touted challenger but was simply outclassed by the more technical champion.
Vazquez used solid defense in order to avoid the challenger’s big shots while using accurate counterpunches as the anchor of his offense. The tone of the fight remained the same throughout with the champion using his effective style of hitting without engaging in order to retain his belt. Two judges scored the bout 118-110 and one judge scored it 117-111.