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Clottey bitter as Cotto keeps title

PUERTO Rico's Miguel Cotto retained his World Boxing Organization welterweight title with a gruelling split-decision win over Joshua Clottey of Ghana at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday night.

Judges Don Trella and John McKaie scored the bout for Cotto, 116-111 and 115-112, respectively.

Tom Miller scored the bout 114-113 for former International Boxing Federation champion Clottey.

The Ghanaian, 35-3 (20 knockouts), complained bitterly about the decision.

"I fought my heart out," said in a televised interview after the fight. "I'm chasing the guy. He's running. I'm blocking the punches. So I don't know what I have to do to win the fight."

At times it appeared the contest would not last long enough for the judges to play a role.

Cotto, 28, knocked down Clottey with a stiff left hand at the end of the first round, but the challenger recovered to take the second, as both men sought to land left hooks and uppercuts to body and head.

At the end of the third round, a clash of heads opened a gash on Cotto's left eyelid which bled profusely throughout the fight, blocking the Puerto Rican's vision and leaving him vulnerable to Clottey's powerful right hands.

Clottey slipped and fell to the canvas during a clinch in the fifth and appeared to hurt his knee. He writhed in apparent pain before referee Arthur Mercante Jr urged him to his feet.

Pressing the advantage, Cotto, 34-1 (27 KOs), dominated the sixth, pinning the 32-year-old Clottey in a corner for over half the round, but the Ghanaian rallied to dominate the next three rounds, landing his right hands against the apparently tiring champion.

By the end of the ninth, however, Cotto seemed to have regained his confidence.

He appeared to shade the tenth round on the strength of a pair of powerful left hooks, and spent the final two rounds circling his challenger, firing quick flurries and then moving away before Clottey could respond. "I just tried to keep my plan and forget about the cut," said Cotto. "I just tried to forget about the blood running into my eye and make my people proud."

Manny Pacquiao was at ringside. Promoter Bob Arum wants to put the fiery Filipino champion, who is coming off a devastating knockout of Ricky Hatton, into the ring with Cotto next.


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