Cotto pounds Foreman into canvas

Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico has stopped Israel's Yuri Foreman in the ninth round to win the junior middleweight title.

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Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico has stopped Israel's Yuri Foreman in the ninth round to win the junior middleweight title, delighting thousands of fans in the first fight at Yankee Stadium in more than three decades. Foreman slipped in the seventh round and badly twisted his right knee, then slipped to the mat again later in the round. He gamely survived to the end but could hardly move around the ring, limping on a right knee that was already covered by a black brace and getting tagged by Cotto at will.

Between rounds, Foreman's wife leaned over the railing and implored his trainer to stop the fight. Someone in Foreman's corner obliged and threw in the towel early in the seventh round, but referee Arthur Mercante Jr angrily tossed the towel right back out. He asked Foreman if he wanted to continue, and the aspiring rabbi with the compelling back story elected to fight on. The ring had filled with people and was cleared before the fight continued.

"I looked at the screen and I saw his trainer throwing the towel in the ring," Cotto said. "The referee said someone from outside the corner threw the towel into the ring." Foreman (28-1) was able to move better in the eighth round and survived to the ninth, when Cotto caught him near the ropes and dropped him to the canvas once more. This time, Mercante stepped in and called off the fight at 42 seconds of the round.

"I was making side to side movement and it gave out," Foreman said of his right knee. "It was a lot of pain, a lot of sharp pain. Couldn't do a lot of moves." It was somewhat of a vindication for Cotto, who had endured a pair of savage beatings at the hands of Antonio Margarito and pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, who watched the fight ringside. Those losses and a few difficult wins had many people wondering whether Cotto still had it.

Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) set the tempo with his left jab from the moment he stepped in the ring, showing that he's perfectly comfortable at 154 pounds. Even before the bizarre middle rounds, when for a few moments it looked like the fight would go to the scorecards, Cotto was always in control. He even had time early on to make sure that Mercante was OK after an errant hook nearly hit the referee during the fifth round. Mercante just smiled as the fight carried on.

"There was no need to stop the fight," Mercante said of his decision after the towel hit the ring, when boos were raining down. "They were in the middle of a great exchange, a great fight. "People came to see a great fight and I felt like I did the right thing." *AP