NEW YORK — Miguel Cotto won a 9th-round TKO when a gimpy Yuri Foreman was unable to maintain his footing. The Puerto Rican star captured Foreman’s WBA junior middleweight title in a bizarre fight before 20, 272 at Yankee Stadium Saturday night.

The last fight at a Yankee Stadium had taken place 34 years ago when Arthur Mercante refereed the controversial third fight between Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton. Mercant’s son Arthur Jr. was the third man in the ring last night, and played several important roles. Not only did he take Foreman into custody, but a round earlier he had refused to accept a flag of surrender when Foreman trainer Joe Grier fired a white towel out of the corner.

Foreman was already bleedng from cuts to both eyes when he slipped on the canvas, injuring his right ankle and making the outcome a for-gone conclusion.

Cotto’s record improved to 35-2 with last night’s win, while in suffering his first defeat Foreman slipped – sorry – to 28-1. The courageous perfomance will almost certainly lead to a rematch.

The co-featured bout, an East-vs.-West matchup of previously undefeated, 24 year-old 154-pounders. California-based, Freddie Roach-trained Vanes Martirosyan retained his NABF and NABO titles with a unanimous decision over a frustrated and ultimately not-so-Mean Joe Greene of Queens.

Greene entered the ring trotted out in the pinstripes of the home team, but once the bell rang it shortly became apparent that he was going to need more than the allegiance of the audience. Martirosyan is a shade quicker, and probably a little smarter, too. When he strayed low with a body shot, for instance, Greene took umbrage and retaliated by firing a low blow of his own. While referee Steve Smoger might have missed the original infraction, he certainly didn’t miss Greene’s attempt to even the score, so Greene drew the warning.

CompuBox stats revelaed Martirosyan to be the busier fighter, as well as the more accurate, and while the southpaw Greene threw 222 jabs to Martiroysyan’s 191, the latter actually landed more of those, too – 40 to Greene’s 29. Martirosyan was also credited with the fight’s only knockdown, although it wasn’t much of one – a dubious trip to the canvas just before the final bell appeared to have been occasioned as much by a shove as a punch.

In the end, Julie Lederman had Martirosyan winning by a 98-92 margin, while both Blly Costello and Tom Shreck had it 96-93. (TSS scored it 99-90.) Martirosyan improved to 28-0, while in absorbing his first loss Greene fell to 22-1.

The principal off-TV bout, a collision of New York-based middleweights with ethnic constituencies of their own, would likely have been a better contest had it occurred three years ago, but their respective backers were too interested in protecting their unbeaten records to put them in what would have been a real fight. Polish-born Pawel Wolak earned a unanimous decision over Ireland’s James Moore, in a large measure because Moore, at 32, has lost quite a bit of tread on the tire.

Moore staked himself to an early lead with a big first round, and finished gamely, but in between spent much of the evening on the defensive, as Wolak waged the bout largely on his own terms. Judges George Di Gabriel and Kevin Morgan scored the bout 97-93 (as did The Sweet Science), while Frank Lombardi had it moderately closer at 96-94. Wolak is now 26-1. Moore, who was beaten by Foreman in Atlantic City two years ago, dropped to 17-3 with the latest loss.

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The honor of contesting the first-ever boxing match in the new version of Yankee Stadium had fallen to a pair of New York welterweight prospects, Christian Martinez of the Bronx and Jonathan Cuba of Manhattan. If there was any attendant pressure from that historical role, it must be said that the two youngsters handled better it on balance than did Sparkle Lee.

Normally a competent referee, Lee appeared overly flustered in experiencing a near-meltdown that commenced with the bell ending the third round.

Cuba, already bleeding from a cut near his right eye, may have let his guard down and was flattened by a Martinez right hand that landed in precise concert with the bell. As Lee administered the mandatory 8-count it was apparent that Cuba was stlll woozy from the punch, and no one would have objected, least of all Cuba, who barely knew where he was, if the referee had stopped it then and there.

Instead she not only allowed Cuba to continue, but twice ordered the fighters to resume hostilities – which they did – only to have to dive back into the fray to separate them when shouts from the commission table reminded her that the round was in fact over.

Cuba’s legs were still wobbly as the fourth commenced, and in short order he was jolted by a Martinez combination and then floored by a solid right. He made it to his feet, but seemed resigned to his fate. Cuba, in fact, was resting in a neutral corner, his arms draped across the ropes and his back to the ring and staring vacantly in the general direction of the left field pole when when Lee interrupted his reverie by ordering the fighters to resume. Only after a right from Martinez stood Cuba straight up in his tracks and a left put him down for the third time, Lee was finally forced to stop it at 1:18 of the fourth. Martinez remained unbeaten at 4-0, while Cuba’s record fell to 2-2.

Lee, who did not have the best of nights, also seemed tardy in rescuing Korean Jae Sung-Lee (10-3-1), a sixth-round TKO victim in his featherweight bout against unbeaten New Jersey featherweight Jorge Diaz. Diaz (14-0) had decked his foe with a right hand in the first, had landed well over half a dozen hard, unanswered punches against his defenseless opponent by the time the referee stepped in at 1:54 of the round.

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Another undercard fight saw lightweight Abner Cotto, Miguel Cotto’s second cousin, improve to 8-0 with a unanimous decision over Texas import Edgar Portillo (6-5-1). Judges Luis Rivera and Larry Hazzard Jr. scored it 59-55, Matt Ruggero 58-55.

Colorado journeyman Terry Buterbaugh brought a modest 5-3-1 to the Bronx, plainly outworked local favorite Tommy Rainone, and was rewarded for his efforts with a unanimous decision. So listless was Rainone’s performance that Hazzard (60-54) didn’t give him a round. John Signorile and Ruggero both had it 59-55. Rainone is now 12-4. Puerto Rican lightweight Juan Gonxalez (8-0) outpointed Juan Lucio (4-1-1) of Pharr, Texas in their 4-round prelim. Signorile (40-36) had a shutout; Ruggero and Hazzard returned 39-37 scorecards.

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Stadium Slugfest

Yankee Stadium

New York

June 5, 2010

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Miguel Cotto, 153 ½, Caguas, Puerto Rico TKO’d Yuri Foreman, 154, Gomel, Belarus, (9) (Wins WBA title)

Vanes Martirosyan, 153 ¾, Glendale, Calif. Dec. Joe Greene, 151 ½, Queens, New York (10) (Retains NABF and NABO titles)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Pawel Wolak, 156, Debica, Poland dec. James Moore, 155 ½, Arklow, Ireland (10)

WELTERWEIGHTS: Terry Buterbaugh, 145 ½, Colorado Springs, Colo. Dec. Tommy Rainone, 147, Plainview, NY (6)

Christian Martinez, 141, Queens, New York, N.Y. TKO’d Jonathan Cuba, 141 ¼, New York, N.Y. (4)

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Juan Gonzalez, 132 ½, Bayamon, P.R. dec. Juan Lucio, 132 ¼, Pharr, Tex. (4)

Abner Cotto, 133 ¼, Caguas, P.R. dec. Edgar Portillo, 134, Midland, Tex. (6)

FEATHERWEIGHTS: Jorge Diaz, 125 ½, New Brunswick, N.J. TKO’d Jae Sung Lee, 126 ½, Hanam, So. Korea (6)