A brave performance from Chorley’s Michael Jennings was not enough to prevent Miguel Cotto regaining a welterweight world title belt at Madison Square Garden.

Former British champion Jennings, in his first fight outside the UK, was no match for the Puerto Rican in his first contest since losing an 11th-round thriller to the now disgraced Antonio Margarito last summer.

Referee Benji Estevez called the fight off with 24 seconds left of the fifth round as Jennings rose from the canvas for the third time as Cotto, now 33-1 (27 KOs), took possession of the vacant WBO title, leaving his beaten opponent 34-2 (16 KOs).

“He’s a great fighter,” Jennings said. “The hardest puncher I have faced.

“He was deceiving. You think you’re out of his range but then he strikes. I thought I had distance from his firepower.”

After praising Jennings’ performance, new WBO welterweight champion Cotto was delighted with his night’s work as he bounced back from his only professional defeat to Margarito.

“When I came out and saw this crowd tonight it was great,” Cotto said.

“It was great to go back into the ring and be able to study my opponent for the first couple of rounds.

“Then I started to go to the body and then to the head and then I started to let my hands go and I just threw my punches.”

Jennings had entered the ring first to ‘Anarchy in the UK’ by the Sex Pistols and a chorus of boos from an 11,120 pro-Cotto crowd.

The opening round was a cagey affair with Jennings attempting to keep a safe distance as Cotto prowled the centre of the ring, content to get a measure of his opponent.

Cotto then launched a barrage late in the round with Jennings on the ropes but the Englishman managed to tie him up inside the last 10 seconds.

There was more aggression from Jennings in the third round as he continued to throw out jabs, Cotto preferring to pounce at opportune moments, content to pick his man off round by round.

Cotto rocked him back into his corner with a left hook and then had Jennings down for the first time with a body shot, again with the left.

The 31-year-old took the count but was quickly on the canvas again, this time in the opposite corner thanks to a sweeping left hook to the body from Cotto.

Jennings managed to survive the round.

The fifth started with a left jab that whipped Jennings’ head back although the former British champion was still game and was trying to trade.

There was only one man in the fight though and inside the final minute, Cotto exploded into action once more, sending Jennings onto the ropes with a crunching right to the head followed by an equally fearsome left.

Another straight right to the head was the final blow as Jennings went down on a knee again, and that ended it.