Puerto Rican great Miguel Cotto battered back the determined challenge of Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai on Saturday to claim the vacant World Boxing organization junior middleweight world title.
In an action-packed bout in an outdoor ring at the StubHub Center in suburban Los Angeles, Cotto emerged with a unanimous decision, winning it by scores of 120-108, 119-109, and 118-110.
Cotto hadn’t fought since November 2015, when he lost the middleweight title to Canelo Alvarez, who later vacated the title to take on Gennady Golovkin on September 16.
But the 36-year-old, who says he’ll retire after one more fight in December, was dominant as he improved to 45-1 with 33 wins inside the distance.
Kamegai came right at Cotto from the opening bell, backing him into the ropes and sneaking in rights.
But Cotto landed the harder punches, nailing him with a big left hook to end the first round.
It was just one of many punishing blows Kamegai would absorb on the night.
Cotto landed a huge right hand to start the fifth that snapped Kamegai’s head back — even then the Japanese kept coming.
“He’s a tough fighter, tough opponent,” Cotto said. Since round number five, six, I already knew I’m not going to stop him.”
Despite his heart, Kamegai didn’t have the power to hurt Cotto, who insisted he would stick to his plan to retire after one more fight this year.
“I’m 36 already. I’m going to be 37 on october 29 and I think it’s enough. It’s enough boxing for me,” Cotto said. “One more in December and that will be all.”
Asked who he’d pick for an opponent in his final bout, Cotto deferred to trainer Freddy Roach.
Roach mentioned the possibility of getting the winner of the Golovkin-Alvarez bout.
“We’re not going to duck anybody,” Roach said. “We’re going to go out with a bang.”