Congratulations to the newest major two-belt titlist in the Middleweight division, Sergio Gabriel Martinez (45-2-2, 25 KO’s). He’s a crafty, flamboyant boxer with tremendous will, athleticism and timing to compliment his excellent ring generalship. He had to go through some politics, like when he beat Kermit Cintron early last year but got robbed with a Majority Draw decision, in a fight that saw Cintron knocked out but then amazingly allowed to continue, where he continued to lose rounds. Fact is, Cintron was his first “big fight” on Martinez resume and he clearly won it in the eyes of those who could see. His second big fight was against Paul Williams, where Martinez lost a Split Decision in a fight I thought he won. Saturday night in Atlantic City , he took on his third top fighter in a row in Kelly Pavlik (36-2, 32 KO’s) and won his WBC/WBO Middleweight titles too.
Though it was billed as a Middleweight Title fight, Pavlik came in as a Light Heavyweight and Martinez , a Super Middleweight. HBO’s Manny Stewart complained before the action started that ‘The weigh-ins used to be on the morning of the fight.” Nowadays it’s nearly 30 hours before the fight and guys tend to rehydrate well past their fighting weight, which is obviously not their natural weight. So, Saturday night in Atlantic City , a 178 pound (Light HW) Pavlik took on 167 pound (Super Middleweight) Martinez for the WBA/WBO Middleweight titles.
It was great fight. Martinez put on a show of fluid mobility, quick hands and some very impressive ring generalship against the tall, power punching, technically sound Kelly Pavlik. The first few rounds were dominated by Martinez, who ran circles around Pavlik, all the while popping him with shots from various angles, often showboating, with his guard down and getting under Pavlik’s skin in the process of busting up his eyes with clean punches that put Kelly in the compromised situation of having blood running into his eyes from fairly early in the bout.
That’s boxing, and Pavlik never lost his focus, as he gave a strong account of himself, particularly after the fourth round, where he won three in a row on my card with persistent jabs and follow up combinations. He used his height better and imposed himself on Martinez from rounds five to eight. Pavlik landed a few stinging shots that slowed Martinez down enough for Kelly eventually catch him with a clean right that sent Martinez to the canvas in the seventh round.
Martinez was resilient and went back to how he started the fight, circling from the outside and using his speed to out box Pavlik and win rounds. He knew that as the “visitor” he had to win by a convincing margin. And with the blood clouding Pavlik’s vision, Martinez was able to use his speed to pop Pavlik with enough offense to close the show winning the last four rounds in a row.
Paul Williams was in the crowd wearing a big smile. Williams, like Martinez , is a busy, fast handed fighter and he appreciates what Martinez brings to the ring. Seeing Martinez vs. Pavlik was some good homework for tall Paul who may fight either man in the near future.
Though Pavlik put a few rounds in the bank midway into the fight, he wasn’t able to sustain his momentum, as Martinez regrouped and retook control of the action. Martinez speed and agility was the key for beating Pavlik, who not only got off to a slow start but wasn’t fast enough to keep up with Sergio, who put a bunch of early rounds in the bank, slacked off a few rounds and even got knocked down in round seven. But Martinez came back and won the last four rounds in convincing style.
The official scores were 115-111, 115-111 and 115-112 all in favor of Sergio Martinez, the new WBC/WBO titlist.
After the fight, Martinez was gracious and generous in his remarks regarding Pavlik and Williams, wrapping up by saying, “I want to fight both Williams and Pavlik. It’s an honor to fight either man.”
Martinez could easily ride the usual gravy train and fight a few has-beens and also-rans but he seems bent on fighting and being the best. Paul Williams surely shares his sentiment. That would be an excellent fight for sometime in September. Surely Sergio wants that rematch with Williams, the man who beat him by a Split Decision, as two of the three official Judges saw Williams as the winner in their fight back in December of 2009.
As for Pavlik, he credited Martinez for fighting a smart fight. He said that the cuts on both eyes made it an uphill battle for him since he couldn’t always see things coming. “He cut me with a left and that affected me.” He also said he wanted to exercise the rematch clause, so we should expect a rematch sometime soon.
Kelly Pavlik is a warrior; of course he wants redemption for this loss. If he were to catch Martinez flush on the chin it would be lights out. Boxing is the art of hitting without being hit. But after coming in at 178 to fight Martinez , its clear Pavlik’s having a hard time making weight. He may be better off moving up to Super Middle or even Light Heavyweight, where he won’t have to drain himself to make weight.
A rematch with Pavlik or Williams is destiny for Martinez . It will be only his fourth top level fight but Sergio looks like the man who can rise to the status of best fighter in the divisionespecially if he beats Paul Williams again.
If the promoters have the business acumen, they’ll do all they can to create the kind of classic rivalries that generate a lot interest in this sport and the revenues that go with it. Rivalries give boxing a stronger pulse rating on the machine that goes Ding!