by Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney
The number getting the most attention as we head into the Sergio Martinez-Martin Murray fight is 48,000 --the estimated number of fans that will be in attendance at a soccer stadium in Argentina. But there are plenty of other numbers worth talking about, and CompuBox has compiled them all and presented the most interesting data to HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney. The two fight writers sat down this week to discuss what the numbers mean for Saturday’s showdown:
Raskin: Well, Kieran, it’s that time again—fight week, with the middleweight championship of the world on the line. I’ll start our chat with a self-plug of sorts and reference the overview I wrote for HBO.com, where I suggested Martinez is getting older (what insight by me!) and won’t have any more easy fights. The CompuBox numbers support that theory, in that in his last four CompuBox-tracked fights, Sergio has shown defensive slippage, getting hit with 5% more of his opponents’ jabs and 5% more of their power punches than in the four fights prior to that. What do you make of that pattern and my theory that he’s done having easy fights?
Mulvaney: He had 11.5 rounds of a fairly easy fight last time out, but then Cheech and Chong were never known for their fighting prowess. But yes, I agree: Macklin and Barker both made him work hard for his wins, and I expect much the same from Martin Murray, who is an active pressure fighter who is well schooled in the fundamentals.
Raskin: Speaking of how active Murray is, in the limited number of fights he’s had tracked by CompuBox, he’s thrown 20 punches more per round than Martinez. However, we’ve seen almost every one of Martinez’s opponent’s output drop against “Maravilla.” Do you think Murray will be able to buck that trend and throw anywhere near his usual 82.6 punches per round?
Mulvaney: That has to be the key to his success, right? Come forward with a high guard, working behind a jab. And with his hands down, Martinez must seem such an inviting target. But I suspect one of the things that causes his opponents’ punch output to drop against him is his terrific movement in the ring, combined with his frequently unorthodox style. I suspect it causes his opponents to have to reset more often than they would like, and think twice about what they’re doing.
Raskin: So if you had to say which aspect of Martinez’s game it is that’s primarily responsible for handcuffing his opponents, would you give the credit more to his offense or his defense?
Mulvaney: It’s his offense, I think, in that his movement—which I think is key—is not just him getting out of the way, it’s him getting into position to launch punches from angles. One thing that surprised me a little actually was how many jabs he throws—not as many as Murray, but higher than the middleweight average. It shows that, even for an unconventional fighter, that most fundamental of punches is important for him to set everything up.
Raskin: Yes, I’m glad you brought up the jab. He threw 41.8 per round against Chavez, and 50.7 per round against Dzinziruk! And he landed 140 jabs over the course of the fight against Chavez—most guys don’t THROW 140 jabs in a fight, much less land that many. But as you point out, Murray has a good, busy jab as well. Can he win this fight without winning the battle of the jabs? Especially in Argentina, where he can’t expect the benefit of the doubt in close rounds?
Mulvaney: What’s interesting to me is that Murray throws a lot of jabs but on average lands relatively few of them—and that’s against lesser opponents than Martinez. It suggests he uses it mostly as a range-finder, and to keep his foes’ guards up so he can nail them with power punches. I don’t think that kind of jab is going to be very effective against Martinez—unless, and here we return to your opening comment, Sergio’s legs can’t move as well as they used to and he finds himself in front of Murray more.
Raskin: You’re right that the jab is there to set up the power punches, and getting back to the winning-a-decision-in-Argentina thing, it’s hard to see Murray winning rounds without landing impactful power shots. A busy jab that doesn’t land a whole lot isn’t going to secure him any points. So, final question: Obviously, Martinez is the favorite, but if Murray is to pull the upset, would you consider a knockout or a decision the more realistic scenario?
Mulvaney: As you said, you have to figure it’s going to be hard to get a decision in Argentina—especially for a British fighter. But Martinez does get hit, as we’ve seen and as the CompuBox figures show. He’s been down a bunch. One of these times, he’s going to walk into something and not get up—and I think that’s Murray’s best hope of winning on Saturday night.
Raskin: And one of these times, I’m going to walk you into a tough question you don’t get up from—but it didn’t happen on this occasion, you were on your game again. Pleasure chatting with you Kieran, and enjoy the tripleheader on Saturday night.