Last night on HBO's “World Championship Boxing,” WBO Jr. Welterweight champion Miguel Cotto put his title on the line against a world-class opponent in Gianluca Branco. However, what was supposed to be a competitive title fight turned out to be just the opposite as Cotto 26-0 (22 KO's) delivered a world-class beating to Branco 36-2-1 (19 KO's).
The fight opened with a slow start. Branco appeared hesitant while Cotto seemed relaxed, waiting for the opportune moment. Branco began to throw a few jabs only to have Cotto slip them all and start landing some of his own. Cotto then landed his signature punch, a nasty left hook to the body, which sent his home crowd in Puerto Rico into an absolute frenzy. Cotto continued to slip and counter, just picking and choosing his shots. Cotto continued putting on pressure with some excellent body work while also making Branco, who only landed one out of 38 thrown punches in the round, miss. Round one, all Cotto.
The second started with Branco beginning to establish his extremely fast jab. However, Branco’s great speed proved a liability in the power department seeing as Cotto walked straight through the jabs and proceeded to land a barrage of hooks. Branco attempted to throw back, only to have Cotto pick off all of his shots. Cotto continued to put on the pressure with a saga of articulate combinations. As Cotto continued to land at will he caught Branco with a sweet left hook, flush on the jaw to end the round. Round two, Cotto.
Round three opened with Cotto landing his hard, crisp jab. Branco then began to land some jabs and a few nice right hands. However, Branco shots were again not enough to stop the relentless Cotto as he came right back with some nice combinations. Cotto continued battering Branco with a series of nice hooks to the body, followed by another nice body/head combination. Cotto continued to land with vicious combinations and punctuated the round with another beautiful left hook to the head of Branco.
The fourth began with some more of the same, nice combinations by Cotto. Branco unleashed a nice little flurry but was then warned for hitting below the belt a couple of times. That seemed to motivate Cotto even more as he began putting on the pressure again with devastating combos. Cotto continued the onslaught all the way through another shut out round.
Round five started with Cotto doing some nice body work behind that fast jab. Branco began to come back a bit in the round, throwing much more and even landing a few punches here and there. The round came to a close with some even exchanges. The round was close, but more work was done by Cotto for the first two minutes. The fight through five, Cotto all the way.
In round six, Cotto still appeared very relaxed and confident, slowing down the pace of the fight. That didn't last very long and Cotto unleashed a nasty combination. The tough Italian, Branco, still would not stop though, answering with a nice combo of his own. However, it seemed as though every time Branco did something good, Cotto came back and did it 200 times better as he answered with more sickening combos.
Cotto continued to work his jab early in the seventh leading into some more combinations. Branco backed into the ropes and became a red, white and green Italian punching bag as Cotto continued to land hard shots basically at will. Toward the end of the round there was some serious swelling on the right side of Branco’s face. Many began to wonder aloud if his jaw was indeed broken.
Cotto's corner told him after the round to finish off Branco because he was hurt.
Apparently, Cotto is a very good listener and does what he is told. Cotto unleashed two more blistering combinations, and just as fast as the round has started, it was over. Referee Luis Pabon called a halt to the bout just 49 seconds into the round. The Sweet Science had the fight scored 70-63 for Cotto at the time of stoppage.
Cotto continued to establish himself as a world-class champion and a big name in many households last night. Next up on Cotto’s list is a June 10 bout with New York's own Paul “Magic Man” Malignaggi.