By Michael Norby: Undefeated Puerto Rican Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez overcame a shaky opening on Saturday night to capture the WBO junior lightweight boxing world title with a sudden fourth round stoppage of Englishman Nicky Cook at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England on the Khan-Barrera undercard.
29 year-old Cook 29-2 (16), who claimed the world title last September in an upset victory over Alex Arthur, faced an extremely talented challenger in Martinez 22-0-1 (13) for his first defense. In fact, the undefeated Puerto Rican was mostly favored going into the contest and his overall quality was thought to be a little too much for the veteran Englishman.
Still, Cook began the fight strongly and held his own against the challenger over the first couple of rounds and almost knocked the 26-year-old down in the second with a left hook. Martinez found his rhythm in the fourth round, however, and had his opponent on the canvas with an uppercut before stopping a stunned and wounded Cook with a subsequent left hook.
Cook began the fight on the front foot and forced the challenger backward with his jab, although Martinez picked spots to counter fire in the opening minute of the round. The Puerto Rican became more aggressive in the second half of the frame and landed juicy hooks to the body of the champion before switching upstairs with a straight right/left hook sequence in the final minute.
It was a closely fought start and Cook attempted to stamp his control on proceedings to begin the second. The champion punched well to the body and snapped his opponent’s head back with a beautiful left uppercut in the early portion of the round as Martinez covered up. The Englishman looked the stronger of the two fighters and was able to push the challenger backwards and narrowly missed a knockdown after a left hook buckled his foe close to the bell.
The champion was buoyed by that success and he thumped Martinez with angry punches to the body to begin the third. He furthered his momentum with a strong right hook upstairs close to the midway point, although the challenger responded with a scoring series of punches to the body and head not long after. This was still Cook’s round, however, a frame that he rubber stamped with more body work late in the frame.
26 year-old Martinez seemed to wilt as Cook continued to punch to the body in the fourth but the Puerto Rican answered with accurate combination punches midway through the round. He steamed forward and managed to stun the Englishman with a right hook before unleashing a stunning left uppercut that sent the champion crashing to the floor. Cook got up but was clearly standing on shaky pegs and, after a left hook downed him again, referee Dave Parris wisely stopped the fight.
Time of stoppage: 2:20 RD4
Manchester’s Matthew Hall won the Commonwealth junior middleweight championship with a demolition of Welshman Bradley Pryce in the second round of a scheduled twelve.
Hall 22-1 (15) established a quick pace from the opening bell and forced Pryce 27-7 (17) into a back-and-forth battle that resulted in some fiery exchanges. Both fighters connected with beautiful short punches from close range in the first round but, in the second frame, Hall displayed fierce power – dropping the champion three times en route to a stunning knockout victory.
Hall landed a series of quick combinations against the jaw of the champion in that second round before dropping Pryce heavily with a big right hand in the opening minute. The Welshman got up in wobbly fashion and Hall jumped on him immediately. He surged forward and dropped his foe again in the final thirty seconds with a left hook before finishing Pryce with massive right hand with just three seconds remaining in the round.
Time of stoppage: End of RD2
In bantamweight action, unbeaten Englishman Craig Lyon won a clear unanimous decision victory over professional debutante Anwar Alfadie over four one-sided rounds.
Finding little to deter his charge, Hall 5-0 (2) was able to press his opponent against the ropes for lengthy periods where he landed both hands quickly and accurately throughout the fight. Alfadie 0-1 tried switching to southpaw regularly but his punches were weak from both stances, although he did display a solid chin in the face of constant pressure.
Lyon threw everything but the kitchen sink at his opponent but was unable to seriously trouble Alfadie’s durability, despite landing flush power punches against the chin of the Yorkshire fighter. Still, though, it was a dominant performance from Lyon that cemented his unbeaten record and allowed him to showcase his skills to a wide television audience.
Scores: 40-36 (Referee Phil Edwards sole judge)