Cotto batters Martinez

Miguel Cotto was the heavy underdog despite attracting most of the partisan crowd at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Saturday – and he did not disappoint his Puerto Rican compatriots.

Cotto became the first Puerto Rican fighter to win world titles in four weight divisions, stopping WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez after nine rounds.

Martinez’s corner wisely pulled him out before the start of the 10th. The proud Argentinian had taken a systematic beating since the disastrous first round when he was knocked down twice and walked groggily to his corner at the end of the round. The round was judged 10-6 for Cotto. Martinez battled bravely to close the deficit, but after four rounds his only real chance was from a knock out.

Martinez had been extremely secretive about the state of his injured right knee leading up to the fight and although he did not use it as an excuse, it clearly hampered his movement and balance.

At times Martinez put shots together well from his southpaw stance that had Cotto backing off but never seriously troubled, assured by the fact that despite being the smaller, lighter fighter on his middleweight debut, he was in total control.

It was an outstanding performance by Cotto, 33, who did not disappoint the ecstatic 20,000 capacity crowd on the weekend of the Puerto Rican Day parade. Martinez was taken to a hospital as a precaution.

“Miguel beat him from pillar to post,” said Martinez’s promoter, Lou DiBella. “Miguel Cotto is a great champion.”Cotto improved to 39-4 and is 8-1 at Madison Square Garden, which he calls “his home.”

This was only the third loss in Martinez’s long career in 56 bouts and at age 39, there are calls for him to retire.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum, Cotto’s promoter, said his return is being planned for early December at the Garden.

Arum said he will soon talk to one-time rival promoter – and now reconciled pal – Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya, about a showdown with former junior middleweight titleholder Canelo Alvarez.

It would be a mega-fight between the most popular active Puerto Rican and Mexican fighters in what is one of boxing’s classic national rivalries.

First Alvarez has to get past Erislandy Lara next month. Arum also said even middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin – who defends his belt on July 26 at Madison Square Garden against Daniel Geale – is a possibility.