Cotto engaged in his final junior welterweight (140 lbs) battle vs. Malignaggi (30-4, 6 KO), a trash-talking Brooklyn native who had an undefeated record of 21-0 to Cotto's 26-0.
The fight would become the first time Cotto met an undefeated fighter in Madison Square Garden.
New York is a city where Cotto would go on to gain a special relationship with the fans. Cotto is 9-0, 5 KO in New York fights and 7-0, 4 KO in fights at Madison Square Garden.
Malignaggi, not known as a powerful puncher, actually abandoned his lightning-quick boxing style to try to brawl with Cotto from the opening bell. Cotto easily countered with left hooks to the body and up top.
Malignaggi made the fight very exciting, winning the respect of countless fans and journalists, but not the fight. He walked away with a swollen face and a bruised ego as Cotto walked through his lighter punches.
Malignaggi broke Cotto's six-fight knockout streak by surviving to lose a unanimous decision that was surprisingly close with scores of 115-112, 116-111, 116-111.
If this fight shows anything, it's that if Mayweather, often accused of having speed with no punch, doesn't get Cotto's respect with his punching power, Cotto will walk him down and make him pay brutally for it.