© Robert Brizel / Saddo Boxing
Saturday night at the post fight press conference, newly crowned middleweight champion Sergio Martinez of Argentina celebrated his victory over Kelly Pavlik back stage in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall just after midnight. Promoter Bob Arum, sitting nearby, appeared with a solemn face, hands folded. Kelly Pavlik of Youngstown, Ohio, was not present, instead en route to a hospital where his facial cuts had to be treated and repaired.
The end of the show at the Atlantic City Convention Center was not the one Arum had envisioned. Arum said, “This was an easy fight to score. Martinez won the first four rounds. Pavlik won the next four rounds. Martinez won the last four rounds.”
Where had the bout been won exactly? Martinez set the tempo for the bout from the get go, attacking Pavlik with his hands down and landing lightning fast jabs to the head and the body. Pavlik loaded up on the right and headhunted all night, throwing only one body punch over 12 rounds. The strategy didn't work.
Martinez mixed his punches to the head and body with superior foot movement, frustrating Pavlik. It seemed impossible that Pavlik could not hit an opponent with his hands down for all 12 rounds. Overall, Pavlik was ineffective.
Martinez, a world class soccer player and cyclist who began to box at age 20, accomplished for the first time at age 35 what no Argentinean had done in 40 years. The southpaw came forward fearlessly and brought the middleweight title home to Argentina for the first time since Carlos Monzon defeated Nino Benvenuti in 1970. Promoter Lou DiBella acknowledged victory could be a short parade, stating, “Pavlik has a mandatory rematch clause in the contract, and he can have a rematch anytime he wants at his discretion.”
Pavlik knocked down Martinez for a no count flash knockdown in round seven with a right to the body, which Martinez contradicted in the post fight press conference. “That was an accidental fall, our feet got tangled up and I was hit with a punch at the same time.”
The Martinez camp praised Pavlik as a great champion. Cuts to Pavlik's left and right eyebrows during rounds two and seven did not directly affect the outcome of the bout. The decision of the Martinez corner to tell the fighter to aggressively go after the cuts before the start of round nine did turn the bout, with Pavlik's face made almost completely bloody, affecting his vision in part.
“I can't hit him, I can't hit him!” said Pavlik in his corner after the tenth, who appeared to give up but was pushed to continue. “Pavlik showed great courage to fight the last few rounds with such blood, and we salute him. He was a great champion!” said a representative from Martinez' corner.
The Martinez corner acknowledged that Martinez had 15 days to decide to keep and defend his WBC and WBO Middleweight belts, or his WBC Junior Middleweight belt. Their personal preference was for Martinez to remain at 154 pounds, his natural weight. The Martinez camp stated it was leaning towards a rematch with Antonio Margarito later in 2010, the only fighter to have stopped Martinez.
Paul Williams, who greeted Saddo at ringside and graciously signed autographs and posed for photos with fight fans, was obviously disappointed at the outcome. The Pavlik lost cost him a major anticipated future payday.
The attendance for the live bout was 6,179. The pro-Pavlik crowd was mostly quiet during the twelve round bout. Several hundred jubilant Latino fight fans, particularly those from Spain (Martinez' adopted country) and South America came alive after the bout ended, staying long after the main event to cheer their Latino American hero and enjoy their own personal celebration.
While a rematch with Martinez is an option for Kelly Pavlik, the outcome would not appear possible to change vey much. Pavlik had no answer to the styles of a fighter like Martinez, missed a great deal, and was made to look bad.
Martinez had one magical answer to Pavlik's power. Martinez had found the perfect range to land his right jab on Pavlik, found a home for it, and hit him all night. Martinez never tried to overpower Pavlik
Kelly always had the potential and ability to land the 'one big shot' to turn the tide in this bout, but the best he managed to do was shove Martinez to the canvas once at the end of a round. Pavlik landed a few good overhand left and right leads in the middle rounds, but did no damage other than cause a slight puffiness to Martinez' right eye. Pavlik enjoyed a substantial height and reach advantage, but failed to capitalize on them.
Promoter Lou DiBella, savoring the victory of his fighter, explained how Martinez made the win look so easy at the press conference after the bout. “My guy is a great fighter. Speed kills.”
Martinez explained his victory in Spanish to a reporter with one word, “Velocidad.” Martinez was a faster, superior boxer. It stood to reason if Paul Williams (split decision) and Kermit Cintron (draw) could nothing with Martinez for 12 rounds, Pavlik would have to come up with a better game plan.
Psychological warfare was at it’s highest in this bout. How was it possible for this shorter opponent to out psych Pavlik with his hands down the entire night? Truth is Pavlik has failed against the two great tests he has had, Bernard Hopkins and now Martinez. Both had frustrating styles.
Martinez uses the nickname 'maravilla', the first 'marvelous' in the middleweight division since Marvelous Marvin Hagler was champion. When asked how he could keep his hands down throughout the fight when aware of Pavlik's dangerous power, Martinez answered in Spanish “That's why I'm maravilloso!” Marvelous indeed.