NEW YORK -- Miguel Cotto, the slugger and brawler, didn't figure to take a decision against the quicker, smoother Shane Mosley, but the Puerto Rican star turned the tables Saturday night.
Cotto, pounding away and stalking forward, retained his welterweight title in an exciting nip-and-tuck battle before a crowd of 17,135 at Madison Square Garden.
Cotto (31-0, 25 KOs), defending his title for the third time, had his hands full with Mosley, the former three-division champion who battled him on even terms for most of the fight. But the judges preferred Cotto's heavier punches, rewarding him with the victory. Glen Feldman and Peter Trematerra each had it 115-113 and Winn Kintz had it 116-113. ESPN.com had it 115-113 for the 27-year-old Cotto.
When Cotto and promoter Top Rank made the fight they were banking on the fact that the younger Cotto could outlast Mosley (44-5, 37 KOs) and notch his first win over a superstar opponent. He did that and Mosley gave the young titleholder credit.
"It was a great fight. Miguel is very strong," Mosley said. "Not only was he powerful with pressure, but he can also box. He really mixed it up and did a great job out there tonight. He's a young lion on his way to greatness. For a guy to be going in the ring like that and the way I was fighting, and he kept fighting back, that's what made it a great fight."
Here's how tight it was: In a CompuBox anomaly, both fighters landed the same amount of blows. Cotto was 248 of 675 (37 percent) and Mosley connected on 248 of 774 punches (32 percent).
"We both did our best and we both gave it our all," Cotto said. "Mosley hit me with some real hard punches. However, I trained in camp with speed and movement and to face his kind of power. I did all that in Puerto Rico before I got here. I thought I was ahead the entire fight. I thought I had a big lead."
Cotto is now in line for another major fight as an undefeated titleholder and a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter.
"I'll fight whoever they tell me to fight, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Ricky Hatton. Whoever the company tells me to fight," Cotto said. "All the big names."
Both fighters mixed up their punches and were effective with an assortment of shots. Both are crunching body punchers and went downstairs throughout the bout as the crowd cheered.
Although it was expected to be a Cotto house with so many Puerto Rican fans in attendance, there were times when the crowd also burst in chants for Mosley.
After a lot of infighting, Jack Mosley, Mosley's father and trainer, implored his son to use his jab more after the fifth round. Mosley tried to respond in the sixth, but Cotto continued to land left hooks and Mosley began to retreat.
"He definitely caught me with some good lefts, but never enough that I was going to go down," Mosley said. "But I definitely felt the buzz. I definitely hit him with some body shots and some other shots, but he's very tough."
In the seventh, Mosley altered his style a bit. After so much inside action, he got up on his toes and started to use the jab.
Although Cotto had bulled forward for most of the fight, it was Mosley coming forward over the final few rounds.
In the 10th, Mosley was attacking Cotto and drove him into the ropes, but his momentum was blunted when both men skidded on the water in the wet corner and referee Benjy Esteves briefly stopped the fight to wipe up the moisture.
Mosley slipped to the canvas on the moisture in the 12th, but he popped up and battled Cotto to the final bell.
On the way out of the ring, Mosley was classy to Cotto, saying: "Good luck champ. You're a real warrior."
HBO will show a replay next Saturday (9:45 p.m. ET) along with live coverage of junior lightweight titlist Joan Guzman's defense against Humberto Soto.
Mosley, who had won five in a row, said he will consider retirement after a glorious career that includes two victories against De La Hoya.
"Maybe now I will put my promoter hat on," said Mosley, who is De La Hoya's partner in Golden Boy Promotions. "I'm not getting any younger. But if there was a rematch, I would consider it and maybe take that fight. There's also the winner of the Mayweather-Hatton fight. The welterweight division is the toughest division."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.