Four Bone-Crunching Knockouts from Sergio Martinez

by Kieran Mulvaney

Since defeating Kelly Pavlik via blood-soaked unanimous decision in April 2010, Sergio Martinez has made four defenses of his middleweight crown. None of them has gone the distance, but each of them has unfolded and ended in a new way. Here’s a rundown of the Argentine’s recent roll of knockout honor:

 

Sergio Martinez, Paul Williams - Photo Credit: Will HartPaul Williams: November 20, 2010

Martinez knocked Williams down in the opening round of their first encounter, eleven months earlier. Had the knockdown not come at the very end of that frame, it might have opened up Williams to a potentially decisive follow-up flurry. As it was, the American survived and eked out a close and controversial points win.

Second time around, Martinez left no doubt. After a fast-paced first round that appeared to presage another compelling contest, Martinez landed a crunching left hand in round two that dropped Williams to the canvas face-first. It was a decisive knockout of the normally iron-chinned ‘Punisher’ and vaulted Martinez high up pound-for-pound lists.

 

Sergio Martinez, Sergiy Dzinziruk - Photo Credit: Will Hart Sergiy Dzinziruk: March 12, 2011

Dzinziruk had never been beaten, or even dropped, as a professional prior to challenging Martinez. The champion ended both those records emphatically. The first two knockdowns, one each in rounds 4 and 5, were relatively flash affairs, the Ukrainian rising to re-engage in battle on both occasions, but in round 8, Martinez dropped his opponent three times in rapid succession, a sequence that was initiated by a left hand to the temple not dissimilar to the one that flattened Williams. A final flurry, punctuated by a right hand, sent the challenger into the ropes and onto the seat of his pants, prompting the referee to call a halt to the contest.

 

Darren Barker, Sergio Martinez - Photo Credit: Will HartDarren Barker: October 1, 2011

For the first two-thirds or so of the scheduled 12 rounds, Barker frustrated Martinez with a tight defense without offering much in the way of offense. Finally, perhaps cognizant that he was far behind on the scorecards, the challenger began to open up. Big mistake: The new strategy allowed him to land some shots but left him open for the Argentine’s fast hands.

A right hook in the tenth wobbled Barker and sent him staggering sideways; although he survived that round, the Englishman couldn’t make it through the following one. Another right hook, this one landing behind the ear, dropped him to his hands and knees and rendered him unable to beat the count. For Barker, as for Dzinziruk, it was his first defeat.

 

Matthew Macklin, Sergio Martinez - Photo Credit: Will Hart Matthew Macklin: March 17, 2012

Unlike Barker, Anglo-Irishman Macklin came to brawl, and for the first half of this contest gave as good as he got. After a seventh-round knockdown (which Martinez claimed was really a push), the challenger was actually ahead on the scorecards. But that seemed to serve only to kick the champion into high gear.

Over the next three rounds, Martinez began to land with greater ease and authority, and in the eleventh, a straight left hand sent Macklin down and into the ropes. Clearly hurt, Macklin rose for more, but as the bell rang to end the round, another Martinez left dropped his foe hard. Macklin made it back to his corner, but his team had seen enough and elected to save him from further punishment.

'The Fight Game' Goes Live, Pays Tribute to Retired Fighters

By Kieran Mulvaney


When episode two of 'The Fight Game with Jim Lampley' airs immediately after Saturday's World Championship Boxing broadcast from El Paso, Texas, it will air live from on-site—a departure from the opening gambit of the series last month, which followed a "taped-in-New York" format.

"When the schedule showed up and I realized I had the Fight Game scheduled immediately following a live fight, I went to my production team and eventually to management and said, 'We can't do a live fight and then put a news show on afterward that doesn't say anything about the live fight,'" Lampley told InsideHBOBoxing last week at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. "So the lead story in this show has to be what just happened between Julio Cesar Chavez and Andy Lee, because it's a tremendously significant fight. It may or may not set up a unification fight we've all been waiting for with Sergio Martinez, so the first segment of the show will play directly off what happened in that fight."

Of course, subsequent to that conversation at the MGM, there was a reasonably high profile bout that generated fair amount of controversy and that must also be reviewed, but after Lampley and guests have dissected the Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley brouhaha and then examined the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport, there will remain one important matter to address, in five different ways.

Since the premiere episode of the show aired on May 12, five prominent professional prizefighters have left the sport – and in one case, this mortal realm – in very different circumstances. Shane Mosley, Winky Wright and Antonio Margarito have all retired , making the ultimate concessions to age and, in Margarito's case, the right eye injury that resulted from his 12-round battering by Pacquiao in November 2010. All will receive acknowledgment on the show, as will of course Johnny Tapia, the hugely popular former three-weight champion, who was finally consumed on May 27 by the lifelong demons that only truly dissipated during the times he was in the ring.

It was, Lampley concedes with emotion in his voice, an event that many people had been uncomfortably anticipating. "Something I'm almost certain to say in the script is that there's only one thing that could have kept Johnny Tapia alive, amid all his depredations, and he retired from boxing last year," he said. "And when I read he was 45 years old, it filled me with joy that Johnny had somehow made it to 45."

Then there is Paul Williams, who, on the same day Tapia died, was severely injured in a motorcycle accident that badly damaged his spinal cord. Williams' boxing career is assuredly over, but the news that the cord is damaged and not broken gives at least some hope that he may win the most important fight of his life so far, and one day walk again.

His public determination to do just that is testament that he will apply to that battle the same spirit that he showed over 43 professional contests, a spirit to which Lampley will pay tribute on Saturday.

"There will be 11 fighters on the Gatti list," he said, referring to his episodic guide to the ten most exciting current pugilists in the sport. "Paul Williams will gain an honorary mention because he was that kind of fighter."

He still is.

The Nation’s Capital Prepares for a Night of Punishment

By Steve Marzolf

Photo Credit: Will Hart

For the first time in 18 years, fight fans in Washington D.C. are getting a live look at HBO boxing on Saturday night, when Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson face off in a unified super lightweight title fight at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The local fervor was obvious at the official weigh-in, where Peterson fans far outnumbered (though barely out-screamed) the dedicated enlistees of Khan’s Army.

Those packed in at the Carnegie Library in downtown D.C. received an extra dose of the star power they were looking for, with Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins appearing alongside Paul Williams and a grinning Adrian Broner. D.C. native and former Hopkins opponent Keith Holmes also welcomed Saturday’s fighters to the scales. As the official business began, De La Hoya promised: “D.C., we will be back with big-time boxing. Over and over again.”

Khan weighed in at 139 pounds, looking lean as usual, and Peterson’s slightly thicker frame topped out at 140 pounds. Whether the homegrown mascot will be able to take advantage of his power against Khan’s famous speed, however, remains the big open question going into tomorrow’s bout.

For the televised undercard, heavyweight and former Michigan State linebacker Seth Mitchell will put his undefeated record on the line against Timur Ibragimov of Uzbekistan. Mitchell officially outweighs his opponent by almost 20 pounds (240-and-one-half to Ibragimov’s 221 pounds). All the action starts at 9:45 pm ET/6:45 pm PT this Saturday night on HBO World Championship Boxing.

 

Sergio Martinez vs. Darren Barker Preview: On KOs, Seen and Unseen

By Kieran Mulvaney

Left Photo: Will HartA round may last three minutes between rings of the timekeeper’s bell, but punches can come flying at any time. Hence boxing’s primary injunction to protect yourself at all times. It was a lesson young Victor Ortiz learned last Saturday at the readied hands of Floyd Mayweather, and one that British fighter Paul Samuels would likely impress on anyone who listened.

In 2006, middleweight Samuels, a ten-year veteran on the comeback trail after three years out of the ring, cracked his undefeated young opponent halfway through the opening round with a right hand to the temple. His foe’s legs briefly disappeared from under him; he touched the canvas with his gloves, but swiftly leapt back into the vertical position and, before referee Dave Parris could step in to call the knockdown, uncorked a left hand that landed flush on Samuel’s jaw and knocked him out cold.

That undefeated young opponent was Darren Barker. On October 1, slightly more than five years on from that brief but memorable contest, Barker steps onto his biggest stage yet when he confronts world middleweight champion Sergio Martinez at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Like Barker and Mayweather, Martinez possesses his own highlight reel knockout, but there was nothing controversial about the left hand that blitzed Paul Williams, also at Boardwalk Hall, eleven months ago. It was a thing of beauty to most, yet from Williams’ perspective, it was unleashed from the very depths of hell, a blow of lightning speed and immeasurable force that sent Williams down face first onto the canvas, his eyes wide open but sending no signals to his unconscious form.

There are many things that can be said about Sergio Martinez: that his success is all the more remarkable given his late start to the sport, that he is fighting more consistently at a higher level against a higher caliber of opponent than just about anyone else in the sport, or that he is ridiculously and enviably good-looking. As much as all of those, though, is this: The man can flat-out punch.

So great is his punching power, in fact, that when he floored Kermit Cintron for the count in February 2009, Cintron refused to believe it. He simply couldn’t accept that a man could hit him that hard, and so forcefully and persuasively did his argue his case that referee Frank Santore Jr. accepted the assertion that the concussive blow must have been delivered by way of a head butt and, after a confusing delay, allowed the contest to continue. Having dodged a proverbial bullet, Cintron made it to the end of twelve rounds, but promptly ducked a second incoming projectile when what appeared a clear Martinez win was adjudged to have been a draw – making Martinez possibly the only man in boxing history to have won the same bout twice without being awarded a victory.

He’s unlikely to need three, or even two, bites of the cherry against Barker, who will come to fight but seems likely to find himself outgunned. It seems reasonable to assume that Barker will at least, unlike Ortiz, keep his hands up at all times.

Whether that will be enough to save him from joining the likes of knockout victims Ortiz, Samuels, and Paul Williams is a different matter.

Trading Shots: Raskin & Mulvaney Play the Percentages

By Eric Raskin

CompuBox has compiled an innovative new data set for HBO.com, ranking active fighters according to a “+/-” stat derived from their offensive and defensive connect percentages over their last five fights. HBO.com’s Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney stepped away from the free media buffet long enough to huddle up in the MGM Grand press room and dissect what the numbers mean and how they might impact several upcoming bouts:

Raskin: The first thing that jumps out at me, Kieran, is that Floyd Mayweather’s score of +30 is more than double the next closest figure. Does this surprise you? And does it make a case that he’s the best boxer in the business?

Mulvaney: What’s interesting to me is that he is number one in both columns. It isn’t a surprise that opponents have a lower connect percentage against him than against anyone, but it’s very interesting that his own connect percentage is so high. It shows how precise, how selective, and how smart he is with his punches.

Raskin: I notice you avoided my question about whether these numbers suggest he might be boxing’s best, and I’m not letting you duck that one. If there’s another surprise on here, it’s that Manny Pacquiao is only a +8. What do you make of that?

Mulvaney: I do think Mayweather is the bext boxer, if not necessarily the best fighter, of this generation. I’m not terribly surprised by Pacquiao’s numbers; he’s always taken one to land one, which is one reason why fans love him.

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Contentious Majority Decision for Williams

Photo: Ed Mulholland

During Boxing After Dark’s two televised bouts from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday night, fight fans witnessed two of the hallmarks of boxing: A stunning knockout punch and a controversial decision.

Read the rest of the Williams-Lara Fight Recap at HBO.com

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CompuBox Analysis: Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara

Saturday's match between Paul Williams and Erislandy Lara embody two classic boxing story lines. The first is Veteran versus Prospect, although the 29-year-old Williams is just 21 months older than Lara and the experience gap is mitigated by Lara's deep amateur background. The second is the Crossroads Fight in which both men are confronted with win-or-else scenarios given their most recent results (KO by 2 Sergio Martinez for Williams, D 10 Carlos Molina for Lara).

The brutal truth in matches like this is that one man will revitalize his career while dealing a severe -- and perhaps irreparable -- blow to his opponent's. Which fighter will assume which role? The CompuBox figures offer the following clues:

Read more Compubox analysis of Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara at HBO.com.

Fan Prediction: Paul Williams Will Find Redemption

Photo: Will HartThe last time we saw Paul Williams at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, he was falling face down onto the canvas, the victim of a vicious straight left hand from Sergio Martinez. Can he return to the scene of that devastating KO and retake his place near the top of the fight game? We asked you, and a whopping 82 percent responded that Erislandy Lara will be the first stop on Williams' comeback trail. Here's a sampling of what you had to say:

  • I like Lara,but it may be too early for him to be in their with the likes of P. Williams ,especially coming off an upset K.O. loss. We will see,...but it may be too big for,Lara at this stage. – Phillip B. (Facebook)
  • Paul Williams will win but he is going to struggle.  - @RegRoundTree (Twitter)
  • I believe Williams has not recovered from the KO by Martinez yet.. That was brutal! – Mae A.(Facebook)
  • Lara is gonna get PUNISHED by Paul!!! Williams by UD – Karl J. (Facebook)
  • Gotta go with Paul on this 1.His freak loss to Martinez doesn't reflect his true greatness.I got Paul 4 the win. - @GoldenCappedPen (Twitter)
  • This is a huge step up for Lara.  Before suffering a one punch KO, P-Dizzle was considered an elite fighter.  Lara is basically still a prospect who suffered with C Class competition.  His amatuer pedigree is as good as it gets.  So this will be a true test as to whether he's the goods.  Hopefully Dizzle doesn't have lingering effects from as devastating a KO as I've seen.  Should be a solid matchup.- Hit King  (HBO.com)
  • Lara by decision. PWill's constant punching is just the medicine for an accurate Lara who too often doesn't let his hands go. - @oldstylin (Twitter)
  • P. Williams gon take it back to basics, stay active and keep Lara at bay. UD Paul. – Derek C. (Facebook)

Big Stakes for Two Fighters

By Nat Gottlieb

Of the two, Williams’ fall from grace was far more dramatic. One second he was the aggressor and building up points, the next he was out cold on his back, the victim of a Sergio Martinez left hook to the head that he never saw coming.

Lara, a Cuban defector and 2005 amateur world champion, was steamrolling his way to the top, having beaten all 15 of his opponents, including the last four by first round knockouts. Then he took on rugged Mexican fighter, John Molina, whom he was supposed to beat, but narrowly escaped with a draw. What was most surprising was the lackluster effort by the normally aggressive Cuban, who seemed content for long stretches to let his opponent dictate the pace. When both fighters’ arms were raised at the end, suddenly Lara didn’t look like the sure bet to be world champion so many predicted he’d be.

Read the rest of the Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara Fight Overview on HBO.com.

Paul Williams On Ring Life