LAS VEGAS -- Ricardo Mayorga wanted to brawl all night long. Miguel Cotto saved his big punching for the final round.
Cotto fought with discipline for 11 rounds before unleashing a vicious left hook in the 12th round Saturday night that put an exclamation point on his successful defense of his 154-pound title against the wild-swinging Mayorga.
The hook dropped Mayorga to the canvas and he quit a few seconds later, ending an entertaining bout between two boxers trying to resurrect their careers.
"It was a really good fight with an amazing finish," Cotto said.
Cotto was ahead by five points on all three ringside scorecards entering the final round and seemingly headed to a win by decision. But he caught Mayorga in an exchange early in the round and, though Mayorga got up, he told referee Robert Byrd when action resumed that he couldn't go on.
Mayorga said it wasn't the effects of the left hook that made him quit, but an injury to his thumb during the exchange.
"I hate the way this fight ended," Mayorga said. "I tried to finish the final round but the pain in my hand was too much."
Cotto made Mayorga fight on his terms much of the night, frustrating the Nicaraguan and piling up points. The fight had plenty of action, but Cotto landed the cleaner and more effective punches as he stuck to his boxing style despite Mayorga begging him to brawl on several occasions.
Cotto, continuing to rebound from a beating at the hands of Manny Pacquiao, improved his record in title fights to 17-2 in the first defense of the title he won from Yuri Foreman last June.
"The game plan was not to get caught up in any of his antics," Cotto said. "He was very heavy handed, I felt his punches the whole fight."
Cotto was a big favorite to retain the title, but Mayorga fought a competitive fight and landed well in flurries to the head. He took more punches than he gave out, though, with Cotto outscoring him 249-176 in total punches scored at ringside.
Before the final round, Cotto's trainer, Emanuel Steward, told his fighter to make sure he kept going forward and that he could stop a tiring Mayorga. He did just that, though Cotto only had to remain on his feet in the final round to win.
"I told myself, 'keep calm and be myself,'" Cotto said. "He has very strong hands and punches that hurt."
Cotto, who made $1 million, improved to 36-2 with 29 knockouts. Mayorga, who has now lost five of his last nine fights and may be at the end of his career at the age of 37, fell to 29-8-1.
In another fight, Foreman returned to the ring for the first time since losing to Cotto but made it through only six rounds against Pawel Wolak. Foreman lost all six rounds on the ringside scorecards and had taken a beating in the previous two rounds when his corner called an end to the fight after the sixth round.
"I just didn't feel it tonight," said Foreman, a rabbi-in-training. "There were no surprises, but I just didn't have it."
Wolak, who improved to 29-1, applied pressure from the opening bell and Foreman didn't have any answer for him. By the fifth round he was taking big punches to the head and couldn't keep Wolak away from him.
Foreman, who won his first 28 fights before losing the last two, said he would rest before deciding about his future.
Fighting for the second time as a pro, Zbikowski barely broke a sweat Saturday night in stopping Richard Bryant in the first round of a scheduled four-round fight on the undercard.
Zbikowski, who last fought while still attending Notre Dame, earned $50,000 for what turned out to be just 105 seconds of work. He dropped Bryant with a left hook to the body and referee Russell Mora waved the fight to a close after Bryant got up at the count of seven.
"I was looking to get a little more work but you take a win any way you can get it," Zbikowski said. "I know I hurt him with the hook, you could feel the air come out."
Zbikowski, who weighed 193 pounds to 225 for his opponent, plans to fight next on March 26 in Atlantic City.
"I wanted to get the ring rust off in this fight," he said. "Right now this isn't a second career for me. It's a first career."