In one of the best fights this writer has witnessed in person Paul “The Punisher” Williams, 38-1 (27), of Augusta, GA, won a majority decision over Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez, 44-2-2 (24), of Madrid, SP, over 12 rounds at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall Saturday night!
When Goossen Tutor Boxing replacing Kelly Pavlik in a world title fight with Martinez they must have been disappointed when Pavlik withdrew from the fight. Little did they know Martinez who would be a solid underdog would put on the kind of performance he did. Not only did he go the distance with Williams, one of the most feared boxers in the game, but he almost pulled off the upset.
The fireworks started in the 1st round when Williams landed what seemed like a light left hand punch on top of the head of Martinez and hit the canvas for a knockdown. Martinez was up in this fight of southpaws and just prior to the end of the round landed a right hook that knocked Williams into the bottom strand of the ropes. Williams beat the count as the bell sounded! This was just a sample of what the screaming fans were going to witness. This was a round that most people would have had 10-10, but two of the officials would give it to Williams 10-9 which would play a big part in the final decision.
Martinez with hands to his side showed much movement as the oncoming Williams was looking for a short night. A straight left rocked Williams letting him know he was in with a quicker though smaller boxer. Martinez from Argentina had moved to Spain in 2002 shortly after losing his only fight to Antonio Margarito in Nevada. He was on a 29 fight win streak including a draw with Kermit Cintron in his last fight. A fight most people felt he won. That was a WBC light middleweight interim title defense. Based on that performance Williams had to be surprised not only about the quickness, but the power and good chin of Martinez as the fight continued.
Martinez seemed to take the 3rd round as the fans were treated to non-stop action. Martinez would pepper the power punching Williams with jabs and hooks trying to avoid the left hand of his opponent. Williams did not seem to use his longer reach to his advantage throughout the bout. In spite of being cut along the left eye brow Williams in rocking Martinez with about 10 seconds to go in the round seemed to pull it out. Williams never had and defense for the right hook of Martinez.
The 5th round was a war with each fighter taking turns landing blows. Williams seemed to have an edge in this and the 6th and 7th rounds. In the 7th he hurt Martinez who seemed to be slowing down a bit. The cut Williams suffered would not play a factor. The 8th round was very close with Martinez possibly gaining an edge (all judges gave it to Williams). The 9th was just as close with Williams gaining the edge.
In the 10th round with both fighters exchanging hard blows Martinez seemed to get the better of the mix. In the 11th round Williams was cut on the right brow as the accuracy of Martinez was winning him the round. He seemed to be hitting Williams in the chest over the past couple of rounds almost at will in what looked like he was setting Williams up for a shot to the head but it never developed. On this writers scorecard the fight was even going into the final round. Two of the judges had Williams ahead by a point. Press row seemed divided at this time.
The 12th and final round was a good one with Williams continuing to throw more and land more punches though his accuracy was not as good as that of Martinez. At the bell with cuts over both eyes Williams seemed to take the round over the unmarked Martinez. Two of the judges gave it to Williams as the place was buzzing who would be declared the winner by ring announcer “Classy” Jimmy Lennon being viewed over the HBO network. Judge Julie Lederman scored it 114-114 (10-9 Williams in 1st round), while judge Lynne Carter scored it 115-113 Williams (10-9 Williams 1st round). From someplace in outer space Pierre Benoist saw it 119-110 or 10-1-1 (10-10 1st round) in rounds for Williams to the boo’s of the crowd. It didn’t seem they were booing the winner but booing the lopsided scoring of the judge. Benoist did not give Martinez a round after the 2nd round. One had to wonder how four US officials were chosen for this bout. Referee Randy Neumann didn’t exactly do a good job trying to keep up with the fighters. When tied up Martinez got his share of low blows in with his back toward the stationary Neumann while Williams used his elbows to good use. It seemed the fans being treated to such a great fight and knowing it was close didn’t react to the decision in a negative way. There had been chants of “Paul, Paul” at times during the fight. It was evident Williams may have been favored by the fans going in but you had to admire and respect the efforts and abilities of Martinez. There couldn’t be a person in the crowd that wouldn’t like to see these two do it again.
You have to wonder what kind of a fight either would have given Pavlik who is defending his WBC and WBO titles in two weeks against Miguel Espinoso who is on an 11 fight win streak since losing on the “Contender” and ranked #3 by the WBC and #12 by the WBO. Williams holds the WBO interim light middleweight title while Martinez holds the WBC interim title. Williams was 157 to 159 for Martinez in this fight. Williams seems to want to compete as a middleweight since he has not defended his title since winning it over a year ago. Martinez may stay at light middleweight. There were no titles on the line in this fight. Martinez defended his title with the draw against Cintron.
The undercard co-feature was a real shoot out when heavyweights Chris Arreola, 28-1 (24), Riverside, CA, and Brian Minto, 34-3 (21), Butler, PA, let it all hang out for 3 rounds. Arreola at 263 rocked the smaller Minto at 218 in the 1st round. In the 2nd round Minto landed a straight right rocking Arreola, but by the end of the round he had a shiner under his left eye while seemingly having the edge. In the 3rd round it was a great mix of letting it all hang out with Minto again seeming to have an edge. In the 4th round Arreola scored the first knockdown over Minto. With Minto’s eye looking like it was starting to close and blood running from it became more aggressive possibly in fearing a stoppage. He drove Arreola into the ropes. As Arreola spun out Minto got his arm caught into the ropes but referee Eddie Cotton never came in to halt the action. Arreola came in and took advantage of this and blasted Minto to the canvas again. As he got to his feet with all the heart in the world the fight was over as the referee called a halt at 2:40 of the 4th round.
In another heavyweight fight Tony “The Tiger” Thompson, 33-2 (21), of Washington, DC, was in a close fight with Philly’s Chazz “The Gentlemen” Witherspoon, 26-2 (18), rocking Witherspoon in the 2nd round on several occasions. The 3rd round was a good mix from both fighters as Thompson continued to counter the aggressive Witherspoon. In the 4th round Thompson hurt Witherspoon with a punch on the side of the neck area. Witherspoon was busier than Thompson in the 5th and 6th rounds. In the 7th two straight left hands rocked Witherspoon. In the 9th Thompson turned orthodox and a lead right hand drove Witherspoon into the ropes causing the referee Benjy Esteves, Jr. to give Witherspoon a standing count. Thompson landed several more punches to the unstable Witherspoon who was out on his feet when the referee wisely stopped the fight at 2:13 of the 9th. Thompson did something I never saw in a ring before after the fight. He took his trunks off and threw them to the crowd where his fans were cheering him on. Fortunately he had tights on under his cup. Eventually he got those trunks back.
Carlos Quintana, 27-2 (21), of Moca, PR, was too fast for his opponent Jesse Feliciano, 15-8-3 (9), of Las Vegas, until he ducked into a left hook in the 2nd round and was dropped. In the 3rd round a cautious Quintana turned up the heat and cut Feliciano on the right eyebrow that caused the referee Neumann per the ring physician’s advice to stop the fight at 0:59 of the 3rd round in favor of Quintana. This was a light middleweight 10 rounder. Considering Quintana split in two fights with Williams he could have had better opposition.
Jorge Diaz, 11-0 (7), of New Brunswick, NJ, was given an inferior opponent in Luis Paneto, 5-7-2 (2), Caguas, PR, in a 6 round featherweight match. Considering his amateur background Diaz needs to step it up. It was over at 2:53 of the 1st round when Diaz went from a brutal body beating to a straight right knocking down. Paneto beat the count but quit.
The show opener pitted muscular Jeremiah Wiggins, 7-0-1 (3), of Newport News, VA, against a surviving Manuel Guzman, 6-9-2 (2), of Lancaster, PA, in a 6 round light middleweight match. Wiggins chased Guzman around and caught some shots in return, but Guzman didn’t have the power to stay in there with him. Wiggins won by scores of 60-54, 59-55 and 58-56. This writer had it 59-55 Wiggins. The referee was Esteves.