Sergio Martinez stunned the boxing world with a masterful performance that left Kelly Pavlik bloody, battered and minus his WBC/WBO Middleweight titles. Martinez of Argentina outworked the 28-year-old American with clever moves, angles, handspeed, creative combinations and much more zest and intensity. Pavlik had size and strength advantages and tried his hardest to satisfy his Youngstown backers, but he could never seem to get a foothold on the fight.
Martinez was so fired up he was throwing wicked combinations at his trainer’s open hands during Michael Buffer’s introductions, sending an obvious message to Pavlik: that he could not wait for the fight to start. Pavlik also exuded a strong confidence before the first bell, pumping his fists, smiling and showing more enthusiastic animation than he did before previous fights. His body language seemed to say, Don’t worry everyone, I feel as strong as ever and will take care of business tonight. But it looked like he knew he was in for a tough scrap with this tricky man they call El Maravilla.
Martinez dominated the first four rounds with his unique style. He made Pavlik look like a plodder at times with in and out assualts and excellent agility and quickness. Cocky Martinez added insult to injury as he played psychological games too, by mocking Pavlik and smiling and sneering at him. Pavlik concealed any frustration though and kept coming. His diligence paid off as he dropped his tormentor in the seventh with a right, but it appeared Martinez was more off balance than hurt by the shot. Martinez got up and continued fighting an almost perfect fight. A fitness buff, Martinez was clearly in superior condition. He switched gears and turned up the heat in the championship rounds, carving a nasty cut over Pavlik’s left eye which poured a frightening amount of blood. Pavlik ignored the horrific wound but could not land anything significant to turn the fight in his favor. It will be difficult to argue the critics who call Pavlik a one dimensional brawler after this outing.
But Martinez vs. Pavlik was still a very exciting clash from start to finish. It was the masterful matador in complete command – except for a couple of flash moments – from start to finish. The furious bull kept charging but his options were limited against such a skilled and experienced competitor as Martinez. “He’s fighting the perfect fight,” remarked one reporter in the middle rounds. “I gotta put Martinez in the pound for pound (rankings) after this,” praised a fan on the boardwalk after.
When Martinez learned from Buffer that he had won the unanimous decision (115-111, 116-111, 115-112), he exploded in joy. It was one of the highlight moments this year for the sport which is entering a period of several high-profile showdowns.
35-year-old Martinez (45-2-2, 23 KO’s) also holds the WBC 154-pound belt and has plenty of options: Pavlik (36-2, 32) has a rematch clause and said he would use it. A Martinez-Paul Williams rematch at 154 or possibly 160 would undoubtedly be another classic.
As Larry Merchant says, “Boxing is the theater of the unexpected.” Two years ago Kelly Pavlik was a superstar on the verge and Martinez was struggling in obscurity. Things change quickly in the wacky world of pro boxing.
Notes: Mike Jones (21-0, 17) sent another message that he might be a future American welterweight superstar with a TKO 5 win over Hector Munoz (18-3-1, 11). Jones certainly looks the part, and put on a class performance on par with some of the other great Philadelphia ring gladiators. Munoz had former world champ Danny Romero Jr. and Sr. in his corner.
Matt Korobev won an eight rounder against Josh “The OC Bomber” Snyder but it was not a particularly positive win. The decorated Russian amateur got tagged repeatedly with right handers by the tough man from Bethesda, MD but made it through. 27-year-old Korobev is now 11-0 with 8 KO’s but several boxing writers were unimpressed and expressed skepticism about his future as a Top Rank superstar. Perhaps a new trainer is needed. Kenny Adams currently guides Korobev.
BoxingInsider.com would like to express a speedy recovery for Top Rank executive Bruce Trampler who fell ill during the evening.
In attendance: Eddie Chambers, Paul Williams, Mike Perez.
For a superb photo gallery of Martinez vs. Pavlik please go to www.tgourjon.com to view the photography of one of the best photographers in the business – Thierry Gourjon.
Gourjon’s quick, post-fight observation: “Sergio fought the perfect fight and displayed once again – just as in his fights against Cintron and Williams – how deceptively quick and intelligent he is in the ring. It was just a great night.”