NEW YORK -- The folks at Madison Square Garden like to call their building the mecca of boxing. For one night, the show lived up to that hyperbole.
World Boxing Association welterweight champion Miguel Cotto's 11th-round stoppage of Zab Judah had a sellout crowd engrossed from beginning to end Saturday night . Puerto Rican flags waved from every level as Cotto's supporters made Brooklyn's Judah into an outsider. Many in the crowd of 20,658 yelled Cotto's name, though there were some who also chanted for the challenger.
Both fighters loved the scene.
"It was very exciting to see the flags and to have the support from my people," Cotto said. "It was an unbelievable event."
The Big Apple is something of an adopted home for Cotto (30-0), who has fought at the Garden on Puerto Rican Day weekend three straight years. With the size of the crowd he drew and the performance he and Judah put on, it's certain Cotto will be back -- perhaps for his next defense.
"I think it was the best fight of the year," Cotto said. "It was the toughest fight of my career."
Judah (34-5), who said he was slowed by two low blows early in the bout, would like Cotto's next defense to be against him.
"I am not going to make any excuses," the 29-year-old Judah said. "He did a lot to me. He fought a great fight; he's a great young fighter with a great future. We'll sit down and discuss [a rematch]. I have unfinished business."
As noteworthy as the action in the ring was the turnout at the gate. It's been six years since the Garden opened the entire mezzanine for a fight.
The scene was reminiscent of some classic boxing cards here. Clearly, Cotto's star is on the rise as much in New York as in anywhere outside of San Juan. And maybe his popularity in New York is equal to that in his homeland.
Of course, it helped greatly that Judah, who 14 months ago was suspended for his role in a melee during a title fight loss to Floyd Mayweather, was on his game, too. Although he was knocked down twice before being stopped, Judah had his share of flurries.
"Zab came to win," Cotto said.
In the ninth round, Judah, 145 pounds, went down to a knee in his corner even though he wasn't hit. It was the collection of punishment Cotto was delivering that made Judah kneel for an 8-count.
The knockout came shortly after a left hook floored Judah. He got up, only to be pummeled by Cotto, and referee Arthur Mercante Jr. stopped it.
Judah was still upbeat after the fight.
"It was a beautiful night -- it brought back boxing. No matter what you say, we came to New York City and brought boxing back to where it should be at, and that's beautiful."