Miguel Cotto was everything he could be Saturday night. He was fast. He was powerful. He was precise. He was dynamic.
Cotto thrashed long-reigning middleweight king Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden in New York by way of Round 10 technical knockout.
It was an astounding performance.
This Cotto was better than ever, and that’s something quite intriguing for the boxing world going forward.
“The most beautiful training camp in my career,” Cotto told HBO’s Max Kellerman after the fight, and it certainly appeared that way from the way he fought.
For Cotto’s efforts, he earned the lineal middleweight championship of the world.
It was a wildly one-sided fight right from the opening bell.
It seemed absurd to think Cotto could look this good against Martinez beforehand. That’s not a knock against Cotto. The 33-year-old Puerto Rican is an all-time great champion and was coming into the bout having won titles in three different weight classes.
But Cotto had never fought at 160 pounds, and he’d arguably never faced anyone as dangerous and as physically imposing as Martinez.
But he thrashed him nonetheless.
Cotto took charge from the opening bell. He landed his left hook upstairs at will and put Martinez to the canvas three times to show he was the faster and stronger man.
Martinez appeared constantly out of position, and he was unable to land anything of consequence of his own.
While Cotto came into the bout known as the better technician, the gap between the two men seemed much larger once they were standing in front of each other and trading punches.
In Round 2, Cotto was again the stalker. Martinez, the prey, circled to his left so he could try to avoid Cotto’s devastating left hook. But Martinez just couldn’t seem to stay away from Cotto’s punching range.
Martinez’s previously injured knee seemed unstable and wobbly in the fight. He went down on a slip with about a minute left in the round. Cotto landed hard shots to the body to keep Martinez shaky and in danger.
In Round 3, Martinez valiantly tried to land straight lefts, while Cotto roared toward him like an avalanche, but Cotto’s footwork was too good, and he always got the better of the exchanges.
Martinez bloodied Cotto’s mouth with a sharp jab in the round, though, to keep hope alive.
Martinez was able to land jabs and crosses in Round 4 until Cotto strafed him hard with several lightning-fast left hooks to wobble him. Both men concentrated on power punches to end the round.
For Martinez, it was a looping left hand. For Cotto, his lead left hook.
Cotto kept the left hooks coming in Round 5. He also landed straight rights. Martinez stayed behind a jab but couldn’t land many meaningful power punches until he focused on Cotto’s body during the last 30 seconds of the round.
Still, they had little effect on Cotto, and those watching at ringside and at home started to wonder if Martinez would even muster a round against the smaller Cotto.
Martinez honed in on right hooks and left straights in Round 6. He was finally able to look more like a fluid champion and less like an amateur.
He appeared something close to precise. But Cotto still kept moving forward and cut the ring off enough to land hard body shots near the end of the set.
It seemed like Martinez wanted badly to land something with power in Round 7. Perhaps he knew he was running out of rope in his corner, or maybe it was just his fighting spirit. He threw quick jabs followed by hard lefts but didn’t seem to gain any traction.
This was Cotto’s night. He was the technician in the fight, and the faster and more powerful one at that.
Round 8 was all Cotto behind mesmerizing ring generalship and nice combination punching.
By Round 9, Martinez started to look like a zombie. He was slow and appeared achy. His eyes were bruised and bloodied. He was knocked around hard enough again for the referee to give him a count. At that very moment, the 39-year-old Martinez might as well have been 100.
The end was near.
Martinez’s corner had no choice but to stop the fight after Round 9, except that maybe they should have ended it a bit sooner. Cotto dominated the bout from Round 1. It was like watching a bear swat at a lamb or maybe a lion toy with an antelope.
How bad was it?
Not one of the three judges at ringside scored a single round for Martinez.
Judges Guido Cavalleri, Max DeLuca and Tom Schreck all scored the fight 90-77 at the time of the stoppage. The fight was officially waved off by referee Michael Griffin six seconds into Round 10.
The win puts Cotto in the enviable position of being both a lucrative box-office attraction and the lineal champion of one of the most historically important weight classes in the sport.
Cotto has several options for his next fight, including Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Tim Bradley and Gennady Golovkin.
And those guys should probably be second choice.
Because Cotto stated an emphatic case for getting a rematch with undefeated pound-for-pound superstar Floyd Mayweather.
The two met in 2012 with Mayweather winning a unanimous decision.
That version of Cotto gave Mayweather some trouble in the bout. He landed hard jabs and bloodied Mayweather’s nose.
It was a good fight.
This version of Cotto is much better than that one and would be a tough out for anyone. Even Mayweather.
This was the best Cotto ever, and the scary thing is he might be getting better.