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Fresh off a final-round victory Saturday, Miguel Cotto could face Antonio Margarito next

With coach John Harbaugh in attendance, Tommy Zbikowski of the NFL Ravens records first-round victory on undercard

Cotto defeats Mayorga

Steve Marcus

Ricardo Mayorga of Nicaragua (L) takes a punch from Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico during their WBA world super welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 12, 2011.

Cotto defeats Mayorga

Ricardo Mayorga of Nicaragua (L) takes a punch from Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico during their WBA world super welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 12, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Cotto vs. Mayorga

KSNV coverage of fight between Ricardo Mayorga and Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand, March 12, 2011.

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Miguel Cotto didn’t have to wait long Saturday after successfully defending his WBA super welterweight title boxing title against Ricardo Mayorga at the MGM to learn of his promoter’s plan for his next fight.

Cotto, whose solid left hook in the opening seconds of the 12th round dropped Mayorga, improved to 36-2 with a technical knockout victory after Mayorga asked for the fight to be called moments after rising from the canvas.

Conveniently sitting ringside was Antonio Margarito, who handed Cotto one of his two losses and was confirmed by promoter Bob Arum to likely be Cotto’s next opponent. While contracts are still being finalized, Arum said, he is aiming to hold the fight in July at either the New Meadowlands in the New York area or back at the MGM.

In an appearance clearly by design, Margarito spoke at the post-fight news conference and was shown during the pay-per-view broadcast.

“You know it is not up to me. That is why I have a promoter,” said Cotto, who improved to 17-2 in title defense fights and won by knockout for the 29th time. “I always follow what he decides in my career. Whatever he decides is whatever we will do.”

Cotto was comfortably ahead by five points on all three judges’ scorecards entering the final round, using great patience and discipline to hand Mayorga his fifth loss in his last nine fights.

Cotto entered as a -1000 betting favorite (gamblers won $100 for every $1,000 wagered), but Mayorga put up a tremendous battle and made the bout entertaining. In one round, he playfully rested on the ropes to toy with Cotto, giving him an open shot with hopes the fight would turn into a brawl.

While the antics certainly pleased the crowd, they didn’t define Mayorga’s effort. He was believed to be in the best shape of his career and earned the respect of Cotto’s camp for a well-fought match.

“Mayorga was much, much tougher and in better condition than I expected,” said Emanuel Steward, Cotto’s trainer. “It is very difficult to get away from his punches sometimes, because he operates at so many different angles. But (Cotto) never did get into the mind games and basically won the fight with the jab.”

Cotto was surely tempted to turn the fight into an all-out slugfest, but he stayed true to his game of relying on the jab and being patient. Ultimately, Mayorga’s handlers said, Mayorga elected to not continue because of a dislocated thumb.

“He came, he saw, he just didn’t conquer — unfortunately,” said Don King, Mayorga’s trainer. “But, nevertheless, he put on a performance. He did he job. There are no excuses. You move on. Give Cotto some credit. He wasn’t just standing there fighting a straw man.”

Cotto added: “The fight was amazing and the ending was beautiful.”

Click to enlarge photo

NFL player Tommy Zbikowski of the U.S., a safety for the Baltimore Ravens, flexes on the scale during an official weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada March 11, 2011. Zbikowski will take on Richard Bryant in a 4 round heavyweight fight at the arena Saturday.

The undercard included Baltimore Ravens defender Tommy Zbikowski earning a first-round technical knockout of Richard Bryant at the 1:45 mark of the round.

Zbikowski’s cheering section included Ravens coach John Harbaugh and team General Manager Ozzie Newsome.

It was Zbikowski’s second career fight but first in three years. He’ll fight again in late March and continue training in boxing while the NFL works out its labor issues.

“We’ll see what happens with everything going on with the labor talks,” Zbikowski said. “As of right now, it looks like I’m going to be a full-time boxer.”

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