It was a dominating performance that happened just like that, very fast, even before the Puerto Rican-flag waiving Garden faithful could get their fill. With the five-round TKO win Cotto (33-1) at once recaptured the world welterweight championship and reasserted his place in the ring following last year’s epic, grueling loss to Antonio Margarito.
That bout was Cotto’s first loss as a pro and to watch him fight on Saturday made it clear he was hungry for vengeance. The WBO fed him Jennings. Cotto chased the unlucky Englishman around the ring like prey in the field and devoured him in a bloody fury.
In the first three, slow-moving rounds Cotto seemed to take his time warming up after his long absence, dancing circles around Jennings, landing casual, vicious jabs and power punches whenever he felt like it.
Then, perhaps spurred on by the roaring crowd of 11,120, Cotto finally turned on his trademark intensity in the fourth round. Keeping Jennings on the run and on the ropes Cotto delivered rat-tat-tat combinations, working his opponent’s body and connecting with several hard left hooks. The gritty but heavily overmatched Jennings was knocked down twice in the fourth. In the fifth, after Cotto cornered Jennings and dropped him again, the referee called the fight.
As Cotto, his waist belted, celebrated afterwards, boxing fans already looked forward to his next fight. Reports have surfaced that he could defend the welterweight championship at the Garden in June, on the eve of the annual Puerto Rican day parade. If he is matched with a worthy opponent, it could be the biggest fight of the year- unless John Duddy is finally rewarded with a middleweight title shot.
The Irishman, who has roots in Maspeth, Queens, preceded Cotto on the eight-round pay-per-view card at the Garden. Duddy was cautious in going the distance to earn the unanimous decision against veteran opponent Matt Vanda. With the win Duddy (26-0) remains undefeated and is rumored to be on the short-list of possible middleweight title contenders.
Earlier in the night another New York favorite, Bronx-born Maureen Shea, took a serious pounding from Peruvian fighter Kina Malpartida. With the loss Shea (13-1), who entered the fight undefeated, surrendered the WBA Women’s Super Featherweight Title.