In an early fight of the year candidate, Sergio Martinez and Kelly Pavlik put on quite a show for the Atlantic City crowd last Saturday night. Martinez took Pavlik’s WBC and WBO middleweight titles by virtue of his unanimous decision. The scores were 115-112, 116-111, and 115-111. And while I scored the fight closer than that, the scores were representative of how the fight played out.
Both men’s gameplan was simple on this night: Aim for the face. While Pavlik did rely on the jab, he only landed twenty-two shots to Martinez’s body while Martinez was by far the busier man, out-landing Pavlik 230-164 on punches and, more importantly, 172-87 on power punches.
With the win, Martinez—a man who won over many people on this night by becoming more than just an entertaining fighter who couldn’t win a big fight—now has plenty of options. Potential rematches with Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron are the top two choices for Martinez’s first defense. Martinez lost a majority decision to Williams on December 5th of last year and fought to a draw with Cintron last Valentine’s Day. However, if Martinez chooses to stay at 154-lbs. (he fought for Pavlik’s 160-lb. titles on Saturday), there’s the possibility that the Foreman/Cotto winner could meet Martinez near the end of the year or at the beginning of 2011. For Pavlik, a fight with Paul Williams—one that was supposed to happen on three occasions, but fell through each time due to money and a staph infection to Pavlik—should have no problem being made now.
As indicated in the title to this article, the fight was in three parts: Martinez dominating the beginning four rounds, Pavlik coming back strong in the middle four, and Martinez finishing incredibly strong in the final four to win the titles. However, the details of why the fight went the way it did show Pavlik turning a mismatch into a competitive fight by taking Martinez out of his game only to have Martinez rediscover it thanks to a cut below Pavlik’s right eye in round nine.
The cut was the second for Pavlik in the fight, as less than two minutes into the fight Pavlik was cut above his left eye courtesy of a Martinez right hand. And while that cut proved to be ineffective, the later cut may have been what cost Pavlik a fight he was on the way to winning. Martinez was able to start the blood flow quite well with a ninth round that bordered on 10-8 despite no knockdown. It was Pavlik fighting back and landing enough times towards the end of the ninth that prevented Martinez being awarded an extra point on the scorecards. Despite Pavlik’s almost heroic stand in the ninth, the damage was done as the first clean shot to the right side of Pavlik’s face in each of the final three rounds opened the cut up with Pavlik fighting not only Martinez’s punches, but the blood for those final nine minutes.
The opening portion of the fight saw Martinez outbox Pavlik by an almost embarrassing margin. The exception was round three, a round I saw as more Martinez running than Martinez slickly using the ring to his advantage. There seemed to be such a wide gap between the two during this portion of the fight that Martinez began to pile on the taunts in round four, including “Sugar” Ray Leonard’s windup fake.
Round five was the round that began Pavlik’s comeback and that could partly be due to the fact that round five turned into a brawl, something that plays more to Pavlik’s style of fighting. Pavlik even reeled Martinez in the round with a left jab after ducking a Martinez right.
From that point until round nine, the fight was all Pavlik with a seventh round knockdown of an off-balance Martinez being the highlight; Martinez later claimed that both men’s feet were tangled up when the knockdown took place.
Martinez seemed to get back to basics in round eight by going back to an emphasis on ring control, but he may have sacrificed the round by switching his approach, even if it ended up saving the fight for him.
Pavlik nearly got another off-balance knockdown in the final minute of round eleven, but it wasn’t enough to win the round for him as the cut and its effect on him during the final rounds was too great.
Martinez 10 10 9 10 9 9 8 9 10 10 10 10 114
Pavlik 9 9 10 9 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 9 113