New York: Puerto Rico`s Miguel Cotto avenged his controversial loss to Antonio Margarito three years ago when he beat the Mexican on Saturday to retain his World Boxing Association super-middleweight world title.
Referee Steve Smogner stopped the fight before the start of the 10th round when ringside doctors ruled that Margarito was not fit enough to continue.
Margarito`s right eye, which had required surgery after he was brutally beaten by Manny Pacquiao last year, had closed shut and left him half blind after he had been repeatedly battered by Cotto.
The Mexican`s corner begged the officials to let the fight continue but the physicians called a halt to proceedings despite howls of protests from the packed crowd at Madison Square Garden.
"His eye was gradually closing. I felt it was safer to stop the fight," doctor Barry Jordan said.
"His lid was completely closed for three rounds. He had no vision in that eye. I think it would have been dangerous for him to go back in."
Cotto, who improved his career record to 37-2 (30 KO), was well ahead on points when the fight was stopped, with all three judges having him 89-82 in front.
The two fighters are sworn enemies and even when the bout ended they continued taunting each other with Cotto triumphantly marching over to his vanquished opponent`s corner.
"He means nothing to me," Cotto said. "(I) just (wanted) to look at him and taste my victory on him."
Margarito, one of the most controversial figures in the sport after he was banned for a year for using illegal hand wraps, insisted he could have gone on and the officials were wrong to stop the fight.
"They were out to protect him (Cotto) because I was going forward," the aggressive Margarito said. "I hurt him. He hits like a girl. I never felt the punches."
The rematch initially lived up its billing as one of the most anticipated fights of the year after the pair traded punches in the early rounds in a repeat of their savage encounter from 2008, which Margarito won with an 11th round knockout.
But after beating Cotto, Margarito`s reputation was ruined when he was found to have used a plaster that hardens on his hand wraps during his loss to Shane Mosley.
After serving his penalty, he returned but suffered a serious eye injury in his loss to Pacquiao which almost prevented Saturday`s fight from going ahead.
The New York State Athletic Commission initially rejected Margarito`s initial application to fight but finally agreed to grant him a boxing license after he underwent further medical examinations by an eye specialist of its choice.
The fight was then in danger of finishing early when Cotto opened up a cut on the eye in the third round.
Margarito, who fell to 38-8, (27 KO), with the loss, responded by unleashing a flurry of punches in the hope of landing a knockout but Cotto defended well and continued to jab away at the eye.
By the seventh round, Margarito`s eye was completely shut. The doctors almost stopped the fight after the eighth round before finally calling a halt after the ninth.