It wasn't vintage Miguel Cotto, and he probably needs to re-examine his tendency to run so much in the last third of his fights, but the Puerto Rican worked through a nasty gash to take a split decision from Joshua Clottey at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday night. Clottey came on late, when Cotto got on his unicycle, as we'd see him do against Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito, but Cotto's smart boxing, and good-enough defense carried the day.

The scores, after a few minutes worth of nail biting time for Cotto fans, were: 116-111 (Don Trella), 115-112 (Tom Miller), 113-114 (John McKaie). TSS (Woods) saw it 116-111 for Cotto.

Clottey's stock rises with the loss, as he came back from a first round knockdown, cut off the ring on Cotto and gave the fans a solid show. Was Manny Pacquiao quaking in his boots as he watched Cotto do his thing? Not likely, I'd say.

Cotto (age 28; 34-1; from Caguas, PR) weighed 146 ½ pounds on Friday; Clottey (age 32; 35-3; from Ghana, resides in Bronx, NY) weighed 147 pounds. Cotto’s WBO welterweight title was up for grabs.

On about five different occasions I reached for earplugs I didn’t have as Cotto fans blasted my ears with cheers for their boy as we awaited first bell.

In the first, Clottey pumped a jab, while Cotto clanged home a right. Cotto scored a knockdown off a left jab five seconds before the round ended. Was it a balance thing or was he really buzzed? Hard to say. In round two, Clottey was less busy early. Still in feel ‘em out mode, the patient Cotto hit with hooks, while Clottey’s left hook worked a couple times. In round three, Cotto crouched and kept his chin tucked. Clottey wanted his left hook to work, and stuck with it. He shot uppercuts as well, which his trainer said would be big in his arsenal. A butt cut Cotto’s left eye at the close of the round; he winced and swatted at the slice immediately. It was no mere nick…The docs took a few extra seconds to check it out.

In the fourth, Cotto was more intense. He closed the distance, but it didn’t work. Clottey scored with a few combos, as Cotto’s face matched his trunks. But Miguel was busier later in the round, and probably stole it. The cut, on the eyebrow and lid, was worked on by Joe Chavez, not old standby Miguel Diaz. In round five, Clottey scored with two rights, and Cotto pawed at it. “Let’s go Cotto” chants erupted, as his people tried to inject their will into his fists. Clottey went down in Cotto’s corner, as Cotto sort of threw him down on a clinch and the Ghanian favored his right knee. He got up, hobbling, and took a minute break.

The sixth was stellar for Cotto; he had Clottey on the ropes, and in the corner, and basted away. Clottey would eat a few, block some, and then answer occasionally. Would Cotto tire himself out? In the seventh, Cotto again worked the power punch angle. He moved more early, and ate a right. This was a Clottey round, as Miguel took it off, moved, got some air. In the eighth, Cotto wasn’t running. Clottey tried to be first more, and bang, he smacked with a right. The blood poured again at 1:30. Cotto flurried and Clottey pounded his heart when Miguel stepped back to center ring. Clottey dictated pace, and Cotto was too defensive; another Ghana round. In the ninth, Cotto still hand’t gone lefty, as he typically does. Then he did with ten seconds left, but this was after excessive moving. Clottey took his third straight round. Are the late innings just not Cotto time?

In round ten, would Cotto save it for later, or go all out? He was on his unicycle again, sad to say for Cotto fans, in the first half of the round. He did peck with the jab, and Clottey didn’t cut off the ring as well as he did before. “Got to stop running, man,” a Cotto fan yelled. The two traded at the close of the round, a better one for Cotto. In the 11th, Cotto looked tired and he bled from the start. Clottey wasn’t busy though, not often enough. In the final round,  Cotto dropped Clottey with a punch behind the head. The crowd booed, as they thought Clottey played it up. No point was taken. Then Clottey cried low blow. He scored with a right near the end, a round neither man owned, and the fans awaited the judges’ call.

Check back for Ron Borges' report…