“A showcase bout”
That is what’s to be expected of tomorrow night on HBO’s World Championship Boxing. A showcase bout is a fight where not many, if any at all, are truly torn as to who the victor will be. On Saturday night, the Middleweight Champion of the World, Southpaw, Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez, 36 (47-2-2 26 KOs) of Argentina, now fighting out of Oxnard, California, will be looking to defend his Championship for the third time in his reign. His challenger, the best Middleweight in Europe and undefeated Englishmen, right handed Darren Barker, 29 (23-0 14 KOs). Martinez has been one of the hottest names in boxing since his incredible fight in late of 2009 with former two division World Champion, Paul “The Punisher” Williams (40-2 27 KOs). Although Martinez walked away with a disputed Majority Decision loss, many in the boxing world were quite taken by the late blooming Martinez’s performance. Barker, although virtually unknown in the United States, is undefeated and is the reigning European Middleweight Champion. The Twenty nine year old Barker is a heavy underdog, and this site cannot disagree with that line of thinking, here we will breakdown each man’s style and career and do our best to predict who will be walking away tomorrow night the Middleweight Champion of the World, and in what kind of fashion.
SERGIO “MARAVILLA” MARTINEZ:
Sergio Martinez is a bit reminiscent of another former great Middleweight Champion, the current oldest and reigning Light Heavyweight Champion of all time, Bernard Hopkins. LIke fine wine, he is aging gracefully. Sergio did not begin boxing until the age of 19. With practically no hype turning professional, the Argentine began his professional career in late 1997, winning his first fight via Disqualification. Martinez then rose to an undefeated record of 16-0-1, until February of 2000, on the undercard of the legendary classic Junior Featherweight Championship bout that was Morales-Barrera I. Martinez that night was stopped in the seventh round of a Welterweight fight with the soon to be known three time Welterweight World Champion, Antonio Margarito (38-7 27 KOs). Martinez, although not discrediting Margarito, believes he would handily defeat Margarito nowadays, because of his vast improvement as a fighter. After the TKO loss, Martinez would remain undefeated for the next nine years, winning twenty eight fights in a row. Until he was given a hotly disputed Majority Draw to former IBF Welterweight World Champion, Kermit Cintron (33-4-1 28 KOs). Many ringsiders and fans alike believe the draw was bogus, and that Martinez had been robbed, more than likely due to his relatively unknown name in comparison to Cintron’s here in the U.S. Still, the showing Martinez had was impressive enough for everybody in boxing to deem Sergio the best Junior Middleweight in the world alongside Paul Williams. Martinez and Williams clashed in December of 2009, six pounds north of the Junior MIddleweight division at Middleweight. What ensued was a memorable brawl, with both men tasting the canvas and being buckled on multiple occasions. Paul Williams was awarded with a razor thin Majority Decision in a Fight of the Year candidate. Again, despite Martinez not getting the nod, a big opportunity loss, those who witnessed the bout were very impressed with the “Maravilla” they had seen. Many felt the decision with Williams could have went his way, the grueling bout made Martinez a more than worthy opponent for the Middleweight Championship against then Champion, Kelly Pavlik (37-2 32 KOs). Martinez was given a very good shot to upend and dethrone Pavlik, but was still the underdog coming into the bout in April of 2010. Martinez got off to a good start and was ahead in the early rounds against the significantly bigger, and harder punching Pavlik. Pavlik however, mounted a very good rally in the middle rounds, knocking Martinez down in the seventh round. Pavlik looked to be slightly ahead coming into the Championship rounds, but that is when Martinez went into another gear and showed that this night was going to be the night he wouldn’t be denied. Martinez finished the late rounds battering and bloodying the Champion, Pavlik, dominating the Championship rounds to take home a Unanimous Decision. The victory had been the biggest of Martinez’s career, and at 35 years old, “Maravilla” had become the first Middleweight Champion from Argentina since the great, second longest reigning Middleweight Champion in history: Carlos Monzon (87-3-9 59 KOs). A man who Martinez said he had looked up to and wanted to make the same accomplishment as his countrymen. With that victory, Martinez was already pegged by many to be the Fighter of the Year in 2010. Ambitious, Martinez sought redemption, and wanted to avenge the defeat he suffered the year before against Paul Williams. The rematch was set for November of 2010, and everybody in boxing was hoping for, and for the most part expecting, another Fight of The Year candidate. Instead, what happened was not the Fight of The Year but The Knockout of The Year for Martinez. A little more than halfway through the second round of another exciting fight, Martinez nailed Williams with a left hand shot Paul did not see coming, and that was all she wrote in a shocking, scintillating, and almost scary knockout. Martinez emerged after the jaw dropping kayo as one of the universally recognized Pound-for-Pound best fighters on the planet. Not only did the knockout garner him that acclaim, but the Middleweight Champion appeared to be improving each fight, despite being well into his 30s. Earlier this year in March, Martinez had the then undefeated WBO Junior Middleweight Champion of the world, Serhiy Dzinziruk,, now (37-1 23 KOs). Move up to Middleweight to challenge for Sergio’s Championship. Dzinziruk had never lost, let alone tasted the canvas in his entire professional career. Martinez turned both of those credentials, along with Dzinziruk, flat on their back, knocking the game Dzinziruk down four times and stopping him via TKO in the eighth round. Sergio Martinez is listed universally as a top five Pound-for-Pound fighter, and this site is of course in agreement. Sergio is at the very top of the sport, and lately he’s become much more explosive and dangerous. Despite having just 26 Knockouts in 47 victories, he’s scored 12 knockouts in his past 20 bouts, against stiffer competition. As previously mentioned, he had the knockout of the year against Williams whose always been regarded as a guy with a very good beard. Martinez fights unorthodox, but incredibly explosive and effective. His hand speed is the best in the division, he fights with both hands usually at his waist, and gets away with it due to his great foot speed, getting in and out of punching range very well, even against taller opponents like Williams. His reflexes also enable him to fight so unorthodox, as he can make the man in front of him miss clean with his hands low. At long range, Martinez’s blazing hand speed can dazzle his foe in combinations, like he did against Kelly Pavlik in the late rounds. His left hand down the pipe, from long range is a dangerous punch, he can loop it as well or throw an overhand left, with knockout power written on it. He has a very good right jab as well, and on the inside his right hook is dangerous, and has thudding power on it. Since Martinez has terrific legs and speed, a foe trying to outbox him from the distance is liable to have a lot of problems doing so. The other poison that’d have to be picked is to go forward with aggression, Williams did a good job in their first bout, however Williams is a freak of nature height wise and still took a lot of punishment. Martinez is comfortable and adept at letting someone come forward towards him and using his feet and hand speed to bewilder them. If you get him into a bar room brawl though, or have Martinez himself coming forward you still have hell on your hands. Martinez can jump into punching range very quickly and fire off short precise shots, particularly the right hook on the inside and hurt you. So whether it be from the distance, Sergio using his reflexes, foot movement and blazing hand speed from the outside to outscore his opponent, or it be a bar room brawl, where Martinez has shown the guts, and desire and know-how to out fight you; He can do it all. An aggressive fighter would have to worry about Sergio’s explosiveness, speed, and in and out movement, with the left hand in particular. A fighter thinking of outboxing the Middleweight Champion has a helluva task on their hands, because as previously said, Martinez has the fastest hands and feet in the division. Sergio Martinez is the best Middleweight Champion since Bernard Hopkins.
Since joining the professional ranks in September of 2004, London’s own Darren Barker has risen to an unblemished professional record. In his sixteenth professional bout, Barker become the British Commonwealth Middleweight Champion via a wide Unanimous Decision over the then undefeated Ben Crampton. After that defending that title four times, in April of 2010 Barker captured the vacant European Middleweight Championship against Affif Belghecham (19-7-1 4 KOs) via Unanimous Decision. After Barker’s most recent conquest Italian Middleweight Domenico Spada (33-4 17 KOs) his record now stands at twenty three victories without a loss. The level of competition though, pales in comparison to his adversary, Sergio Martinez. Barker is a fighter with some craft, some slickness. He likes to fight at a distance most of the time, with his left hand at his waist, he jabs from the waist quite often. Barker’s left jab is a good one, and he’ll use it downstairs and upstairs to set up his shots, he’s what some in boxing would call “cute” defensively. Barker uses good shoulder rolls and his legs from the outside to avoid punches, although he’s far from being a defensive professor. His punching power is average and he has a good hand speed. The right hand behind the jab lacks knockout power. Barker fights at a high work rate though, throwing an assortment of shots usually set up with the left jab from the waist. When the distance is closed, Barker will curl up in a shell and his opponents are able to bang against his guard, sometimes effectively. Barker is not a specialist on the inside, or moving forward. He is a tall, thin fighter who likes to circle his foe and use that left jab. Despite not having a lot of explosiveness, he has made all his opponents respect his pop thus far, but as previously mentioned, he is not a knockout artist. Darren Barker is a tall Middleweight with quick hands, and the best man at One Hundred and Sixty pounds out of Europe. His flaws are on the inside, where he lacks craft, and his punching power which is just average. Though he is a good undefeated fighter, it is understandable why he is the underdog tomorrow night.
BREAKDOWN AND PREDICTION:
Darren Barker is biting off more than he can chew. That is to the Brit’s credit, as it shows a lot of fortitude to get in there with one of the best pugilist in the sport with relatively little experience for such a fight. His punching power is highly unlikely to get Martinez’s respect or hurt him, as Sergio was able to take the very hard hitting Kelly Pavlik’s best shots and come out on top. Barker is a fighter who does his work on the outside anyways, but with Martinez being the fastest Middleweight in the world, that could be dismal for Barker as well. With Barker’s typical style of fighting, keeping his left hand low and setting up shots with his left jab, it won’t be enough to befuddle Martinez. Sergio is the faster fighter, the more explosive fighter and will be too much for Barker at long range, despite Barker’s height advantage. On the inside, Barker is not very polished, and Sergio is almost just as good at getting into an inside brawl as he is using his speed and range, the right hook in particular is the punch to look for on the inside, and the left hand on the outside for Martinez. This is a fight to showcase the brilliant abilities of the Middleweight Champion of the World, and I think this bout will fulfill exactly that purpose. Bleachereportboxing is selecting Sergio Martinez to successfully defend his title in spectacular fashion in a middle round stoppage.
Sergio Martinez via mid-round stoppage.