Bronx – The bizarre situations have occurred in a boxing ring over the years at championship fights. There was Mike Tyson biting the ear of Evander Holyfield, the guy who parachuted in the ring disrupting the second Holyfield-Riddick Bowe heavyweight fight. And a riot in the ring at Madison Square Garden that ensued after Bowe fought Andrew Golata
Add another bizarre situation to the boxing annals. Saturday evening at Yankee Stadium, when Miguel Cotto and Yori Foreman were in the ring it was a towel thrown from the corner of Foreman that became a subject of speculation. Who threw in the towel, and why did referee Arthur Mercante Jr, resume the fight when all of the confusion started in the seventh and crazy eighth round.
It was the return of boxing at Yankee Stadium, the first time since 1976 when Muhammad Ali defeated Ken Norton. The stadium was electric, 20,272 fans screaming more for Cotto in the bleacher seats and most of the lower and upper right field areas.
Cotto (35-2, 28KO’s) would defeat Foreman by TKO at 42 seconds of round nine. More on that later, as the towel and an injury to Foreman were significant factors that made the historic return of boxing to Yankee Stadium more interesting than the final outcome.
Cotto, the pride of Puerto Rico becomes a four-time champion in three divisions taking the WBA super welterweight title from Foreman. For the moment questions about where Cotto goes from here, either stay at 154 or back to 147, are to be determined.
There is no question though about the revival of Cotto who would have had minimal options with a defeat. After a mediocre and controversial decision that went his way against Joshua Clottey at Madison Square Garden last year, and a brutal defeat to welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao later on, Cotto needed to look dominant and get the win over Foreman.
And for most of the fight Cotto was doing his job. He did not look impressive but good enough to be considered a viable champion at his new weight. There were times in the fight when Cotto threw the jab with authority, very defensive and using the foot work to his advantage as a way to stay with the bigger Foreman But a slip by Foreman mid way of round seven, possibly caused by a wet spot on the ring apron, hindered the champion. Foreman re-injured a right knee, wrapped with a brace, from the fall, a previous injury that was never revealed prior to the fight.
He wobbled back to his corner and there was concern. Then the bizarre events mid way of the eighth round began, which had every one talking. It was no more about the historic event of boxing returning to the new Yankee Stadium but how the towel and referee got caught in the middle.
Foreman started the eighth round obviously hurt and hobbling. The towel is thrown in the ring. The assumption from those at ringside, and in the crowd is, the fight is over. Yes, all these years covering boxing and the assumed rule is when the corner throws in the towel, the fight is over. Both fighters assumed it was over, so did everyone in the stadium.
Fans immediately made their displeasure known and the two fighters embrace, as they assume the fight is over. The ring is occupied now with HBO Sports personnel, people from the respective fight camps and personnel from the New York State Athletic Commission. Where do we go from here? That was the question at ringside.
Joe Grier, trainer of Foreman threw in the towel and apparently promoter Bob Arum, in a tirade, also wondered and asked that the fight continue something, if true goes against boxing bylaws. Grier denies the account and later retracts what was seen on the big screen at Yankee Stadium. Ring announcer Michael Buffer explains the fight will continue. Mercante said “The towel came in the heat of the battle. They had a good exchange going. I felt it was necessary to stop it.”
He added about the towel, “I didn’t know where it came from. There was no need to stop the fight. They were in the middle of a great fight. That’s what the fans came to see. I felt I did the right thing to let it continue.” When the towel is thrown a fight is stopped, though the rule in New York leaves that discretion to the referee who can determine if a fighter can’t continue.
“I called time, they had an extra minute to rest,” said Mercante son of Arthur Sr. who recently passed away and was the third man in the ring when Ali fought Norton at the old stadium. “I went over to Yuri and told him to suck it up. He showed the true heart of a champion.”
Though the referee has become an important person to determine the safety of a fighter, a decision to continue or not has always been left to the discretion of a ringside physician. This made the unusual events even more confusing and opens more questions.
It seemed Cotto was perplexed. And though he was leading on all three judges scorecards this writer had Cotto ahead by one round at the time of the official stoppage. Foreman, though injured seemed to have an incentive to continue and seemed to be getting at Cotto. Those responsible for keeping the corner areas dry in between rounds should be at fault for not making this fight continue.
“I have to still fight, I can’t stop,” said Cotto. “It’s a fight,’ he said. “The fight has to continue. When the eighth round finished I saw on the screen his trainer threw the towel in the ring,” said Cotto referring to the replay being shown on the big Yankee Stadium video screen in center field. “I still followed instructions The referee said someone outside the ring threw in the towel.”
Foreman (28-1, 8KO’s) to his credit was not a sore loser. Like Cotto he was just as perplexed at the developments, in his heart wanting to continue, until Cotto went to work and used a left hook to the body that put an end to the fight in the ninth round.
“At first I felt rusty and didn’t want to get into the rhythm, but later I felt better until the accident,” explained Foreman. “Cotto is a great fighter. It just gave out,” he said about the knee. “It was a lot of pain, very sharp pain. But Arthur Mercante let me go. I just couldn’t do a lot of movement.”
More justification, had the injury not happened, had someone did the rightful job of wiping the ring, perhaps Foreman would still be champion. Cotto may have had been telling a different story, “I’m world champion, now former world champion,” commented Foreman. But we’re just not quitting. We’re world champion, I fight. I didn’t want it to stop. I wanted to continue.”
To his credit Cotto followed his plan and trained effectively with new trainer Emanuel Steward. “I think we make the plan of working with the jab of putting pressure on him, and it worked,” said Cotto. “Just follow the instruction sand stay focused,” referring to what new trainer Emanuel Steward continually told him.
Regardless of the outcome it was a Cotto type of fight. He is back Foreman has every right for a return bout. But we will leave that up to Arum who has other major plans at the moment trying to get his welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao in the ring with challenger Floyd Mayweather Jr. Arum would like to do another fight at the stadium, but it won’t be Pacquiao and Mayweather.
“Taxes are too high,” he said with Las Vegas appearing to be the venue And with no major superstar in the sport that could draw an interest, the only hope is Cotto continues his career and makes a return to the Bronx again next June.
A bizarre night as Yankee Stadium was christened once again with championship boxing. Now there needs to be more explaining about a wet spot in a corner of the ring, and like it always is in boxing a further explanation as to how a towel throwing incident in the ring determines when a fight should be stopped.
UNDERCARD RESULT: Christian Martinez of the Bronx opened the historic evening of boxing at the new Yankee Stadium defeating Jonathan Cuba (2-2,, 2KO’s) by decision in their four round super lightweight bout.
Cuba sustained a nasty cut above his left eye and was knocked down twice in the fourth and final round. Martinez (4-0) used a barrage of punches before referee Sparkle Lee put an end to the fight at 1:18.
Email Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com