Another Tomorrow: Miguel Cotto TKO9 Yuri Foreman

NEW YORK - JUNE 05: Yuri Foreman talks to the referee after slipping and twisting his knee during his bout against Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico during the WBA world super welterweight title fight on June 5, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Cotto wins by TKO in the ninth round. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Miguel Cotto returned to the win column and put himself back in the present tense after scoring a strange 9th round TKO over an injured Yuri Foreman in Yankee Stadium last night. Arthur Mercante Jr., perhaps caught in a time warp that sent him back to the 1900s when fighters took more abuse than pack mules in a frontier mining town, refused to acknowledge the white towel of surrender thrown into the ring by the Foreman camp in the 8th round and allowed the fight to continue. He finally called a halt to the bout after Foreman was dropped by a bodyshot in the ninth. Even during the unregulated bareknuckle days, pre-Marquis of Queensberry Rules, the sponge or the towel tossed into the ring was respected, but, for one night at least, progress was suspended in the name of God knows what.

Until Foreman, defending some junior middleweight title or other, suffered a knee injury, the bout was a solid if unspectacular boxing match, with Cotto getting the best of Foreman in every round but the fourth.

An unproven fighter has his flaws magnified when he faces quality competition for the first time, and Foreman, whose best win remains a twelve-round decision over an unfit Daniel Santos, was no different last night when up against the best opponent of his career.

His worst flaw, and one exploited neatly by Cotto, is the boxing equivalent of the poker tell: whenever Foreman stops, he punches, and that split-second transition is enough time for a pro like Cotto to react. Cotto often got off first because Foreman tipped his punches and allowed Cotto time to pre-empt him. Foreman is also completely squared-up when he throws combinations, leaving openings for counter shots during exchanges.

Cotto took charge immediately, landing an accurate jab and wobbling Foreman in the second round with a hard overhand right. After getting hammered around the ring for the first three rounds, Foreman, Brooklyn, New York, via Belarus, decided to stand his ground in the fourth and try to earn some respect. He landed a hard right hand off of a feint with the jab that seemed to surprise Cotto, and landed another right that shook Cotto moments later. Two more rights by Foreman gave him his first round of the fight. Cotto, Caguas, Puerto Rico, bounced back in the 5th and 6th rounds, outlanding Foreman and pressuring from bell to bell, but Foreman tried hard to be competitive throughout.

Then came the fateful seventh.

About a minute into the round, Foreman, on the move, dropped heavily to the canvas. HBO replays showed that his knee, already fitted with a brace, buckled and gave way beneath him. Foreman rose in obvious distress but insisted on fighting. He tried, bravely, to hold off an onrushing Cotto, but by then he was as mobile as Paul Sheldon was in Misery after Annie Wilkes got through with him. His knee gave out again moments later, and Mercante, instead of stopping the fight, was visibly upset that Foreman had collapsed a second time. “Ah, shit!” he yelled. Mercante called twice for the ringside doctor, who, mysteriously, never materialized in the ring.

Roy Jones Jr., commentating for HBO at ringside, immediately said, “I think this is it.” His partner, Jim Lampley, said there was no way Foreman could go on. Foreman, however, wanted to continue, and Mercante, whose actions seemed peculiar at best, allowed a one-legged fighter to take a beating.

Foreman, now 28-1 (8) with one no-contest, fought back as best he could but soon had his mouthpiece knocked out by a ripping uppercut. Near the end of the round, Foreman leaned over from the pain in his knee, and when the bell rang he limped back to his corner. Foreman, it must be said, did not look particularly steady on his feet even before his knee gave out. He stumbled three times during the first two rounds and slipped to the canvas in the fourth.

Halfway through the 8th round, Foreman almost collapsed again from the weak knee, and the corner threw in the towel, not, as Mercante claimed, during an exciting exchange, but with Foreman merely on a gimpy retreat after being worked over by Cotto against the ropes. Even as the vast multitudes that spill into the squared circle these days after a fight began milling, Mercante went to Melvina Latham at ringside and told her, “They threw in the towel; I don’t want the towel,” and, amazingly, he cleared the ring and restarted the fight.

Mercante should have been looking for excuses to stop the fight. Instead, he ignored the fact that Foreman was injured and that his corner wanted an end to the carnage. (On the other hand, why did the corner let Foreman out for the ninth?) Incredibly, Jim Lampley, who had earlier said there was no way Foreman could go on, lauded Mercante for “taking charge.” About half a minute later, Foreman, who was taking unnecessary shots, nearly saw his knee give way again.

In between rounds, the ringside physician did not even enter the ring to assess the severity of the injury, and Foreman answered the bell for the ninth practically teetering. Luckily for Foreman, he was dropped by a left hook to the body shortly after the round began, otherwise there is no telling how much punishment Mercante would have allowed him to take.

The referee is there to protect the fighters and just because Mercante found the bout to be exciting is no reason for him to vacate his senses. In addition, his self-congratulatory remarks after the fight were disturbing. The referee, in modern boxing, at least, is not there to oblige the crowd or to get caught up in what he thinks is a good fight. He is there, above all, to make sure no one gets seriously hurt. You would think Mercante, who was not on the ball the night Bee Scottland suffered a fatal beating at the hands of George Jones in 2001, would be a little more sensitive about these issues. After all, it was Scottland’s death that led to the overhaul of the New York State Athletic Commission, notorious at the time for its corruption, incompetence and flunkeyism. Obviously it was not overhauled enough.

As for Cotto, he looked sharp from the moment he stepped out of his corner, pushing Foreman back with hard jabs and cutting off the ring intelligently. He did not seem any slower at junior middleweight and put his punches together well, at one point throwing a decoy right to freeze Foreman and following it up with a hard left hook to the body.

With Emanuel Steward in his corner for the first time, Cotto, 35-2 (28), stuck to his gameplan, placed his shots well, and shut Foreman down at every turn. He never let Foreman get the chance to put his nightmare style into effect. It was a nice win for Cotto, who did not show any adverse effects from the punishment he has taken over the last few years. It is a testament to his resilience, skill, and, above all, his professionalism that he is able to put yesterday behind him once he steps into the ring and concentrate on tomorrow.

Topics: Annie Wilkes, Arthur Mercante Jr, HBO, JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS, Miguel Cotto, Yankee Stadium, Yuri Foreman

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  • johnpaulfutbol

    Carlos,

    I don’t know what to make of Mercante Jr. on this one. Foreman was clearly hobbled and even if he wanted to continue the towel was legit.

    Anyway, I think I gave Foreman 2 rounds, somehow. That’s pretty good point regarding Foreman squaring up. That’s a problem I struggle with in my white collar boxing career! However, I was shot before I took up boxing.

    I expected Foreman to be a little quicker on his feet. He seemed out of sorts from the start…maybe it was a problem with the surface for him, not sure. I don’t remember the tale of the tape etc, but when I was watching he seemed to sort of have short arms for his height….not sure if that’s true or not.

    Not sure what this means for Cotto though. He looked pretty sharp, but was clearly fighting a guy who wasn’t on his level. Foreman doesn’t have much pop, in addition to squaring up etc……so, Cotto’s performance could’ve been the equivalent of looking good in the layup line as he wasn’t ever going to be under siege.

    Either way, nice to see Cotto in the win column again. I’m not sold that he’s “back!” But, he’s a great fighter and sportsman….one of the few that can claim that right now.

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi JPF,

      Seriously, don’t even get me started on Mercante.

      The man was overwhelmed by the entire event and was out of control even before the bell rang. I was watching the fight with some buddies and we were all like, “What’s up with this guy tonight?” even before Foreman injured himself!

      He was screaming the final pre-fight instructions; he yelled at Foreman’s cornermen to get out of the ring before the fight started, yelled at Emanuel Steward to stop coaching when he forced Steward to wash Foreman’s mouthpiece (that was funny, Steward said “That’s Yuri Foreman!” and Mercante said “I know who it is!”), whistled at the timekeeper to start the clock, called twice for the doctor and changed his mind, told Foreman he had 5 minutes to recover and then badgered him into continuing, yelled “Ah shit!” when Foreman fell down the second time, told the ring inspector who climbed onto the ring apron to stop the fight to get lost, ignored the white towel from the corner, bumrushed everyone out the ring, cheered on a fighter, and when round seven ended he went to the corner only to ask “Who threw that towel?” and not to check on an injured fighter. Want to see what an out of control, incompetent, maniac referee looks like? Replay the fight.

      Then he starts saying peculiar things after the fight. He caught the towel in midair (implying it came from an undetermined source based on his body position). Nope. They were in a heated exchange. Nope. The dumbest thing he said was that the fight was exciting and “good.” It didn’t get good or exciting until Foreman tore his meniscus and couldn’t fucking move anymore!!!! Until now in NYC, Mercante has had a reputation as a competent ref who let fights go on too long…now he should be looked at as an incompetent referee who lets fights go on too long.

      As usual, the “press” is the most idiotic part of anything idiotic in boxing….The guys who say/write stupid things routinely, back Mercante. Those with gravitas and a little insight into boxing are opposed to his actions. Unlike the fanboy crew, these guys understand that their observation and reporting of a fight does not hinge on it being entertaining…

      Yes, the referee can ignore a towel in the ring (I remember reading about this having to do with the mob days in boxing–but I haven’t been able to track it down, so I could be wrong–when “house” seconds were in cahoots with the opposite corner and would throw in the towel to sabotage their own fighter…this happened to Leon Chevalier when he fought Primo Carnera in California, I recall.), but to ignore a towel with an obviously injured fighter in the ring? That’s jackassery.

      I’m with you on Cotto. He looked good, strong, calm, etc, and it was a nice win. Maybe he is one of those super-resilient guys who can bounce back from punishment better than most. Hopefully, that’s true, because, as you say, he’s a great fighter and a sportsman, and the kind of professional that makes you long for the days when a guy would just in the fucking ring and do what needed to be done. No one “criticized” Cotto as being “”finished,” more third-rate journalism…fighters who endure severe beatings usually find themselves diminished sooner or later, how much or how little is the question.

      Even white collar guys need to make themselves small and face their opponents at an angle, man…otherwise their collars won’t be white much longer…

  • gbonafide

    You’re spot on, Carlos. Mercante was behaving as if he had an interest in the fight going the distance. He was despicable and it’s part of his job to save the fighters from themselves when necessary. He did the opposite and played the macho card with Foreman when everyone who was watching knew he was injured. Bad.

    Yuri had about as much chance of winning at that point as Paulie did in the late rounds against Khan. Actually less because of the injury, never mind his lack of power. Good call on his tell. I didn’t catch that at the time but you’re absolutely right.
    –G–

    • Carlos Acevedo

      Hi gbonafide,

      I’ve seen Mercante ref live before, and he’s always been all right, but in NYC he was best known for the Bee Scottland tragedy and for the night he let Pernell Whitaker almost kill Diosbelys Hurtado…Hurtado was draped horizontally across the ropes, helpless, and Mercante let him take sickening shots. On Saturday he just seemed completely caught up in some kind of brain fever. A real boxing fan isn’t interested in seeing defenseless opponents get beaten down (although there are a lot of folks who do enjoy that kind of stuff and call themselves “fans”), it defies the spirit of competition, and if boxing isn’t tempered with anything other than bloodlust, then I, for one, am not interested. I think his behavior was shameful, and, as you said, Foreman was not going to win the fight and had already lost 5 of the first 6 rounds. A lot of folks outside of the ring are always trying to upstage the fighters, and on Saturday it was Mercante who decided he wanted to be the lead on SportsZone.

      I’m also increasingly disturbed by his motormouth since the fight….he’s said an awful lot of stupid, self-justifying things about his behavior on Saturday night, but “no comment” isn’t a phrase he has mastered yet. He said that fans shouting for the fight to be stopped were in the 10th or 15th row, implying that they could not see the situation as well as he could. Well, where was his incredible “sight” the night Scottland died in the ring?

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