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Cotto stops Jennings in the fifth to win WBO crown

MIGUEL Cotto finally caught up with a fleet-footed Michael Jennings to stop the Briton in the fifth round of their vacant World Boxing Organization welterweight title bout at Madison Square Garden yesterday.

After three rounds of chasing Jennings around the ring, Cotto trapped him in a corner before landing some vicious combinations to knock his overmatched opponent down twice in the fourth and again toward the end of the fifth.

With blood gushing from his nose, Jennings looked toward his corner while on his knee and referee Benji Estevez called an end to the bout at 2:36 of the fifth.

The Puerto Rican's victory helped Cotto improve to 33-1 with 27 victories inside the distance, while Jennings fell to 34-2.

The 28-year-old Cotto was returning to the ring for the first time since losing his World Boxing Association welterweight title last July to Mexican Antonio Margarito, who stopped him in the 11th round.

"When I saw this crowd tonight, it was great to come back into the ring," Cotto said of his Puerto Rican supporters, whose boos drowned out the pre-fight rendition of 'God Save the Queen'.

"I studied my opponent for the first couple of rounds then I started to go to the body and then to the head.

"I started to let go with my punches and I hit him some good shots."

Jennings, the former British welterweight champion, danced and jabbed over the first three rounds as Cotto stalked him patiently and finally caught him in the fourth.

"He's a great fighter," Jennings, 31, said. "He's the hardest puncher I've ever faced.

"And he's very deceiving. You think you're out of his range yet he strikes and connects. He really surprised me."

Cotto-Jennings was the opening featured match in a Bob Arum Top Rank promotion of two title fights at different venues.

After Cotto's win, Madison Square Garden fans were treated to a live showing of American Kelly Pavlik's (34-1) defense of his WBC middleweight crown against Mexican Marco Antonio Rubio (43-4-1) in the champion's hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.

In the featured bout of the Garden's undercard, unbeaten Irishman John Duddy (26-0) won a unanimous decision in a lacklustre 10-round bout against American Matt Vanda (39-9).


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