Fortunes rose and fell big time on HBO’s split site tripleheader
Saturday night as three world titles changed hands.
Saturday night. In the opener at Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff,
Wales, young Nathan Cleverly lost his WBO light heavyweight title in a
voluntary defense against Sergey “The Krusher” Kovalev via one-sided four round
At the Revel Report in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Kiko
Martinez, 29-4, (21) rained on Jhonatan Romero, 23-1, (12), in a six rounds relentless
punching storm to capture the IBF super bantamweight title. Romero picked up
the vacant belt in February via split decision over Alejandro Lopez and was
making his first defense. Martinez was stopped by Belfast, Ireland contender Carl
“The Jackal” Frampton in the ninth round of a similar scrap back in February,
Kiko had since got back in the win column with an April second round TKO of
Damian Marchiano. This was a classic match-up of the boxer Romero versus the pressure
fighting slugger Martinez.
From the opening bell, Martinez, who hails from Alicante, Communidad
Valenciana, Spain, trains with Gabriel Sarmiento and is promoted by Sergio
Martinez’ Maravilla Box Promotions, was a relentless punching machine. His
punch frame is tight though his right hand bomb is a sneaky looping shot that
can catch you off guard or around it. Coupling that with a left hook while
mixing in a poleaxe jab and a crushing rib attack, Martinez fought like a man
with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Romero, a classic boxer with pride and the youth at age 26
to withstand an early onslaught, bided his time and boxed off his jab in the
center of the ring in the first but was time and again bullied to the ropes by
Martinez. Hailing from Cali, Colombia, Romero is no doubt a tough fighter and
he showed fire as well as pride as he shot punches in bunches from the corner
ropes keep Martinez off him. In particular, he utilized a jab right rear
uppercut combination that kept him in the fight as long as he was.
But Martinez had to have that title. By the third, the right
eye of the 5’9” Romero was bleeding and swelling rapidly. His left wasn’t much
better off and he had to be gasping for air with all the body punching. What
looked like boxing smart earlier became outright retreat from one set of ropes
to the other as Martinez bullied forward behind his jab and left/right hooks.
Romero was out on his feet for a good long while in the
sixth before referee David Fields waved the fight off at 2:40 of the sixth
A jubilant Martinez, who became the first Spaniard to win a
world title at 122 pounds, said afterwards “Pinch me, please because this is a
dream for me. I just can’t believe it. I’m super happy. I have no words. I’ve
made it.” And then he called out Nonito Donaire who lost to WBA and WBO super
bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, 12-0, (8) the same April Martinez
had his comeback fight. Donaire is currently in Las Vegas celebrating the birth
of his first child and deciding who his new team and weight will be. He currently
holds no world titles but does possess an HBO date, according to some reports.
Moments after the fight was over, Rigo’s manager, Gary Hyde, tweeted “Guillermo
Rigondeaux-Kiko Martinez lets make it happen!!!”
That fight would be a much higher level version of this
fight with two differences: It would be for the WBO, WBA and IBF titles at 122
pounds and the pure boxer, Rigo, would have two equalizers (his right and left
hands) that Romero did not. It’s an excellent fight for Rigo’s first defense of
unified titles he won beating HBO regular Donaire. It makes total sense.
In the exciting closer, “Dazzling” Darren Barker, 26-1, (16)
survived a sixth round knockdown off a left hook to the body to edge out now
former IBF middleweight champion Daniel Geale by scores of 114-113, 116-111 and
113-114. The fight was another classic banger versus boxer match-up with
neither man giving quarter in a back and forth battle for the right to make a
run at the biggest fights the middleweight division has to offer.
Barker and Geale came out looking to be aggressive and take
control right out the gate. Barker caught Geale with a left hook inside as
Geale came in after landing a wide right hand. The shot changed things for
Geale, who got a bit tentative about eating that left. Barker found success
with the right hand as well early on.
Geale stepped up his aggression as the fight wound on,
digging to the body and coming up the middle with uppercuts and hooks. Barker responded
to each rally. The rounds were hard to score save for the sixth which featured
a nasty left hook to Barker’s body that froze and dropped him to the canvas.
He rose at the count of nine and for a moment, the stoppage
window was open for Geale. But try as he might he was not able to close it and
the moment passed with the round.
From there, they battled for control with momentum shifting
within the rounds. Barker seemed to come on sharper later. Then came the
Each man fought as if the fight was on the table and looking
at the scores, it was. Geale took this round on my card as he hurt Barker late
and almost put him away. But Barker, who had lost his first middleweight title
bid to Sergio Martinez just down the way at the Boardwalk Hall via eleventh
round knockout, wasn’t going to lay down in what might have been his last shot.
He stayed on his feet and the crowd applauded the excellent effort all around.
With the middleweight division heating up on HBO around WBA
champion Gennady Golovkin and WBC champion Sergio Martinez, newly crowned IBF
champion Darren Barker has options. While his belt owes a mandatory defense to
Felix Sturm, there is the rematch with Geale and the aforementioned Golovkin
since Martinez is out with injury until early 2014. There’s also a fight in the
UK versus Martin Murray that could be lucrative.
Three world titles in three new sets of hands with the possibilities
for more even more great fights to come; Boxing is alive and well.