Boxing


Sergio Martinez stops Darren Barker; Andy Lee avenges loss to Brian Vera

By Paul Strauss: It's a shame Sergio Gabriel "Maravilla" Martinez isn't a bigger draw, because he certainly is a magnificent fighter. He proved it once again Saturday night at Board Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey with his win over the undefeated (23-0) Darren "Dazzling" Barker, Europe's middleweight champion, who odds-makers had installed as a big 14-1 underdog.

The odds-makers were correct in believing Sergio would dominate, but not many expected Barker to give Sergio as much trouble as he did. He came into the ring relaxed, chatting with some fans at ringside, looking loose and confident for his USA debut. Sergio had much the same look as he normally does, one of business. Referee Eddie Cotton, a former light-heavy title contender, gave both men a few short last minute instructions, waived them back to their corners, and said come out fighting.

The first few rounds were very tactical, feeling out ones for both men. The taller Barker pressed forward with a tight defense, trying to take the play away from Sergio and keep him on the retreat. But, Sergio poked and prodded, and bounced punches off of Barker's gloves, and then would shoot through a body shot or too.

As the fight progressed, Barker started landing some sharp counters, but he wasn't throwing enough to win rounds. His defense stayed tight, and Sergio was exhibiting some frustration, but stayed more active. Sergio did his usual hands down type taunting, at which times he sticks his unprotected chin out, inviting his opponent to lead. His hope is to anticipate his opponent's lead, and beat him to the punch. Against a taller, straight up fighter like Barker, Sergio will also try to trick his opponent into lowering his guard and chin. He gradually lowers his own, hoping his opponent will do the same. Specifically, he's looking for the guy to get a bit mesmerized by his cobra like movement. The opponent doesn't realize what's happening, and just as soon as he's in range, bam! The southpaw will then fire a left over the top. It seems to come out of no where, and completely shocks his manipulated opponent. (See Paul Williams).

Well, last night Barker wasn't falling for it. He stayed "tall" and kept his tight defense. When Sergio pressed forward hard, Barker met him with some good short uppercuts, one of which bloodied Sergio's nose. However, the problem continued to be that he just wasn't doing enough. Those few times when he did try to exchange with Sergio, he would lose, getting beat to the punch and wobbled, especially with Sergio's right hooks.

Sergio just kept breaking down Barker, driving punches into Barker's gloves, which in turn would carom off of his face. As a result, swelling developed around both of Barker's eyes. Sergio also continued to punish Barker's body, and kept piling up rounds toward a possible shutout win. Barker proved to be tough, though, and continued to throw straight hard shots, but just couldn't get through with the one(s) he needed to turn the tide.

In the tenth round, Sergio landed a particularly hard left, then moments later got through Barker's guard with what first appeared to be a huge right hook, but upon a second viewing turned out to be more of a straight punch. Regardless, it wobbled the "Dazzling" man. Sergio could smell victory, and unleashed a furious flurry of shots to both the head and body. Unbelievably, Barker stayed upright.

In the eleventh, Sergio kept up his attack, and landed more than one right hook which finally put Barker down. The big punches weren't landing clean, but the increasing number kept crashing into Barker's gloves, causing them to collide with his head. That eventually did in the Englishman. One such right hand punch caused Barker to crumble to the canvas, unable to get up. The official time was 1:29 of the eleventh round. "Maravilla" keeps his WBC Diamond middle weight title belt.

In the post-fight interview, Larry Merchant asked Sergio about possibilities for future fights. Since Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson had both been interviewed concerning their upcoming fight, Larry asked Sergio if he would consider fighting Hopkins at 170lbs? Sergio wisely expressed a reluctance to fight at that high of a weight. He pointed out that after the official weigh-in, his weight only went up to 165lbs. On the other hand, he definitely would go down in weight to fight Pacquiao and/or Mayweather, Larry added Andy Lee to the mix, and Sergio eagerly said yes to that possibility.

In the lead in to the main event, Andy Lee enjoyed some revenge for his 3-21-08 upset TKO loss to Brian Vera. In that fight, and over confident Lee dominated Vera early, knocking him down, only to run out of gas and let the tough Vera come back and stop him in the seventh.

Lee was determined to not let his over-eagerness derail things tonight. He kept on task, and managed distance well, and had Vera running into his southpaw right hook all night. When Vera got careless, Lee would shoot through a hard straight left, one of which dropped Vera, but probably didn't hurt the tough chinned warrior. In a touching fashion, Referee Steve Smoger took Vera's face between his hands to check his eyes, and was forced to smile at Brian's toughness, because he saw Vera was already in embarrassment for getting dropped.

Lee managed to avoid almost all of Vera's big shots. On those few occasions when a hard punch would get through, Lee wisely tied up Vera. Most of the time Vera would run into that oft repeated right hook, or at least a cuff to the side or back of his head that would propel him off balance.

Lee's people tried to dissuade him from taking this fight. They told him he could continue on toward a possible title shot without the need for any revenge, but it wasn't enough for Lee to garner eleven wins since his TKO loss. No, he fell a little like Joe Louis. when he said he wouldn't consider himself heavy weight champ until he beat Max Schmeling, the only man to have defeated him. Lee also wanted to avenge his only loss, even if it didn't mean much as far as getting a title shot. It was enough for him to be vindicated at 27-1. When announcer Jim Lampley pressed Lee's trainer Manny Steward about a possible fight with Sergio Martinez, Manny was gracious and said he didn't want to talk about that and take away from Sergio's victorious night. But, Lampley pressed on, and Manny then said yes. He added that Andy had dreamt of such a fight for some time.

Manny is very fond of Andy, which might be clouding his judgment a bit. He thinks Lee's height and reach would present Sergio will problems, but the reality is probably otherwise. Lee doesn't have the stamina, speed, or head movement necessary to give Sergio problems. Also, if he pulled straight back, chin exposed against Sergio, the way he did several times against Vera, the fight would quickly be over.

Article posted on 03.10.2011



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