NEW YORK -- Miguel Cotto, in an absolute tour de force, won the middleweight championship of the world and made boxing history by stopping Sergio Martinez in the 10th round Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Cotto scored four knockdowns -- three in the first round -- in a stunningly dominant performance. After he dropped Martinez in the ninth round, Martinez was still on his stool when trainer Pablo Sarmiento would not let him continue, and referee Michael Griffin stopped the bout six seconds into the 10th round.
The largely Puerto Rican crowd of 21,090, which was there mostly for Cotto on the eve of the annual Puerto Rican Day parade in New York, erupted.
With the overwhelming victory, Cotto made the Puerto Rican history that was his motivation for taking the fight -- becoming the first boxer from the island to win world titles in four weight classes.
Puerto Rican greats such as Wilfred Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad -- all International Boxing Hall of Famers -- each won world titles in three weight classes and became legends.
Now Cotto is one better than them.
"Happiest day of my life," Cotto said. "This is the biggest achievement of my professional career."
Cotto, who has won world titles at middleweight, junior middleweight, welterweight and junior welterweight, won every round and was ahead 90-77 on all three scorecards when the fight was stopped.
"I'm proud of Miguel. He worked so hard," said Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, in only his second fight with Cotto. "He deserved this historic victory."
The fight was essentially over in the first round when Cotto knocked Martinez down three times and had him badly hurt. Griffin showed great restraint in not stopping the fight.
First Cotto dropped Martinez with a left hook, his bread-and-butter punch. Moments later, Cotto knocked him down again with a right hand. And then he was down again on a body shot.
"I got hit with the punch and I was cold and I never recovered after that," said Martinez, who did not make any excuses about his twice-surgically repaired right knee affecting the fight. "I tried to do my best and I want to apologize to the Argentine fans and and I want to thank all of the Puerto Rican fans for coming out. You've got to know when to win and you've got to know when to lose, and I give all congratulations to Miguel Cotto."
"My maturity as a professional fighter showed in the ring tonight," Cotto said. "I told myself not to go wild. [Martinez] keeps his right hand down, which makes it easy to land a left hook. My left hook was the punch that beat him tonight.
"I was boxing on angles, controlling him with my jab while backing him up. This is everything we did at Wild Card."
The knockdowns put Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KOs) in an inescapable hole and badly messed him up.
"I never went wild even after I knocked him down three times. This was a 12-round fight, not one-round fight. I was following Freddie's game plan," Cotto said.
Said Lou DiBella, Martinez's promoter: "He said that the first punch that knocked him down, he never recovered from the punch. He had no excuses. Not a knee, not a bad hand. Nothing other than he got caught and didn't recover.
"He would have kept going but the corner stopped it and did the right thing. At that point [after the ninth round], it was just bravery keeping him up."