Williams narrowly defeats Martinez in a Fight of the Year candidate

boxingBy Anthony Coleman - Very rarely do you see a fight in which the winner and the loser are both elevated by their performances. Yet last night the Middleweight showdown between the two best 154 pounders in the world, Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams, was such a fight. Both men fought with true determination and skill, mixing both scientific boxing with brawling. When the bell rang it was clear that if there was any fight that was going to unseed Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz for the honor of 2009 Fight of the Year, it would be this one. Too bad it was marred by horrendous scoring from an incompetent judge. First let’s give a synopsis.

Williams came roaring out for the first round behind his trademark double right jab left cross combination. It became obvious to the viewers that the freakishly tall pound-for-pounder was attempting to overwhelm Martinez in the same fashion when he blitzed Carlos Quintana in one round in their rematch last year. Williams was doing a good job for the most part and was able to score a flash knockdown on Martinez early into the round. Then at that moment the southpaw stylist woke up as he began to counter Williams with his dynamite right hook. With seconds remaining in the round Martinez answered “The Punisher’s” earlier knockdown when he scored his own off a brilliant counter right hook.. While Williams’ knockdown was a combination of balance and the punch, Martinez’s was much more damaging as Williams stumbled into the ropes before landing on the seat of his pants. He was hurt. Very hurt. So hurt that if the round had continued he might have been in some very deep trouble, but the bell rang saved him from either further punishment. Well at least until the second round.

Quite simply Martinez owned Williams in the second stanza as he countered his much taller opponent at will with his right hook. His strategy was well thought out for the most part. First he would get out of range with his feet, watch as an overaggressive Williams threw an out of range right jab-left cross combination and then would be off balanced as Martinez would come in with a right hook that always landed flush on the chin. I have no idea how Williams did not take another knockdown because he was getting tagged with practically every right hook whenever Martinez threw it, and adding to his problems was the fact that Martinez was now landing body punches when the fight switched into the inside. Martinez clearly won this round going away.

Round 3 was more of the same as Williams had so much trouble just landing his punches. He was continually off balanced missing his left hand and then when he was out of position, Martinez would counter again with another head swiveling right hook that had the crowd wondering if Williams would survive to see the final bell if he continued to get tagged flush on the chin. Yet by the end of the round, as noted by Emmanuel Steward, while Williams’ punches were missing he was coming closer and closer to landing the big power shots and it would tell the story for round four.

Round four began with Martinez controlling the action moving in and out throwing and still landing his counter shots, but then Williams landed a nice left hand at mid round that got the Brazilian’s attention. He then began to circle the ring and continued to land, but then Williams started to land more and more with his right jab. After spending the better part of 3 rounds striking out, Williams was finally beginning to land his punches and then with 15 seconds he landed a big left cross off of the chin of Martinez. Martinez looked dazed and immediately forced a clinch as the bell rang. After 3 rounds, “The Punisher” finally conclusively won a round.

Round 5 was one of Williams’ best of the night as he was finally fighting his style of fight. He was throwing multiple jabs in succession, landing the left hand, and coming over the top with his hook. This continual volume punching and pressure was another problem for Martinez because he had spent so much energy the previous four rounds moving around the ring. He was now starting to show his fatigue and he spent most of the round being in range for a Williams jab. However, Martinez had one bright spot as he and Williams’ had a good exchange at mid ring. He landed a left cross-right hook combination, but then it was met with Williams’ own identical combination. Based off of his work rate it was clear to me that Williams’ was the winner of this round.

Round 6 and 7 were nearly the same as Williams was now landing with regularity and was throwing his usual 70-90 punches per round. Martinez was having trouble keeping his energy levels up, and was still in range when Williams threw his jab. Williams was now capitalizing on his opponent’s flaw: whenever Martinez’s feet were set in front of him, he often had no trouble hitting him with his straight punches because Martinez wouldn’t move his head from side to side. With a now increasingly stationary Martinez right in front of Williams he was now beginning to dominate the fight, and when he won the seventh round he took the lead on my personal score card. Yet when the fight seemed to be going into William’s direction, the momentum switched again.

In round 8, Williams got out to a very good start again landing his jabs and crosses, but then Martinez started find success with a left hook to the body. Throughout the round while Williams’ offense was still landing it was Martinez who would begin to counter with his left to the body, and it was landing with more regularity as the round moved on. Finally with the left hook to the body now working well for Martinez it allowed him to go back to his right hook to the head. One such hook seemed to had stunned Williams for a brief second and it was enough for me to give the round to Martinez. The fight was now tied again. Now it was time to Williams to give an answer to Martinez’s comeback.

Williams went back to his jab and left cross in the ninth and clearly won the round, landing some of his hardest shots of the fight. You need to give the man a ton of credit: whenever he is pushed Williams has a tendency to dig deeper in his reserves in order to pull out a victory. Martinez was still finding some success with his body shots and right hook, but Williams landed more of the damaging and telling punches of the round. Williams successfully managed to tie the fight, but the momentum would not last.

As round 10 began, Martinez must have known that the fight was still very much in doubt because he came out of the ring determined and landing with another weapon: a lead left cross. He began to land the punch early in the round. Then it continued to land. Then it landed again followed by a right hook. The left hook to the body also was an effective weapon in this round too. In the middle of the round Williams missed a right jab, then Martinez fainted and landed a great overhand left. Now the tale of the fight had a new chapter: Martinez was now having success with three punches and it was the reason for him winning the tenth round going away. The fight was still one the table as the 11th round began.

To me this was probably the hardest round to score, even including the first. On one hand you had Williams constantly pressuring and landing with his right jab, and left cross against an exhausted Martinez as the partisan crowd chanted “Paul! Paul! Paul!” Yet Martinez, even though he was so tired that he fell over from exhaustion, refused to go away and by the mid and late stage of the round he was countering Williams beautifully with his overhand left and right hooks again. They were trading back and forth and it was hard to differentiate between the fact that while Williams was landing and being the aggressor, Martinez once again landed the more damaging shots. As the 12th round began, the fight should have still been on the table (but it wasn’t and I’ll get to the reason why soon enough), and both men came out strong.

Both men put their hearts out on the line in this round and they showed no bend or break in their resolve. They came out and threw their best punches and landed regularly. The fighting even continued during the clinches as both wasted no time going to the body when their arms were tangled together. The bell rang and both fighters embraced and the crowd cheered the performance of two of boxing’s best, and waited to hear the verdict. Of course this is when the night was almost ruined.

Julie Ledderman scored the fight a reasonable 115-113 decision win for Williams. Lynne Carter also scored it fairly as a 114-114 draw. However, Pierre Benoist scored the fight in an inexcusable 119-110 for Paul Williams. Of course that was the scorecard that titled the victory to Williams. Let me be honest: not only was Benoist’s score card was bullshit, it was even worse. He was serving bullshit to the fans as chocolate ice cream and expecting us to eat it and smile. It was a disgrace.

I have no problem if the fight went either way because it was a very close fight and some of the rounds could have been decided on coin flips in the air. But Martinez clearly won rounds 2,3,8, and 10 and for Benoist to only give him one round and attempting to sabotage his chances for a victory is unethical. The man should be put on suspension and investigated. I don’t want to see him score another fight in the near future. Yet even though one man tried to ruin the fight it doesn’t take away from the performance of either man. This was an excellent fight and both men proved their worth.

Before this confrontation Martinez was a respected titlist, but not just outside of the top echelon fighters in the sport. Now it is clear to me that he is one of the top 15 best boxers in the sport. He still needs to learn how to use head movements and roll with the punches instead of relying solely on his feet as defense, but he is still a technically sound ring technician. Don’t let the outcomes of the last two fights fool you because he is one hell of a boxer. Williams once again showed that he is as dangerous a boxer in the sport and why he is a match-up nightmare. Yet while he was already slotted in my top ten pound for pound boxers he still needs to improve his defensive flaws. It is clear that other southpaws give him problems, as he has problems seeing the right hook coming. Plus he keeps his head up in the air while punching. He also has a tendency to throw himself off balance when he throws his punches. Yet again, he is still a very talented and intelligent fighter who knows how to use his length, and stamina for his advantage. All and all this showdown has managed to elevate both men, and I would love to see a rematch.

New of the World:

-Yeah this is a late update but I had to work all weekend long. More importantly this detailed round by round article is a tribute to Chris Bushnell and his work on Boxing Chronicle. Last month was the seven year anniversary when he decided to end his coverage of the sport of boxing, and his presence is missed. He was one of the main reasons why I loved not only the sport of boxing, but also writing about it. He was a master of doing the narrative-driven round by round recap of a boxing match, and others have yet to take up the torch and run with it. I wanted to try my hand and take the task of writing such an elaborate piece. Whatever he is up to nowadays I hope Mr. Bushnell is prospering.

-Roy Jones Jr. needs to retire now. I’m serious this time. He is shot. He can’t take a punch, and win against Jeff Lacy is meaningless because Lacy is a walking corpse who is even more sucky than he is at this point. I don’t want to see the man take another punch to the head. He needs to sit down and retire and in five years make his acceptance speech as he enters the hall of fame.

-When the contract is finally signed I will write my article about the Mayweather-Pacquiao confrontation. Now that is a fight that is worth getting excited over and I am already making plans to travel to see the fight (whether it is in Las Vegas or in Dallas). This is the biggest fight of the last 30 years and it will bring a lot of media attention to the sport.

Article posted on 08.12.2009

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