By Jason Pribila Ringside, Bethlehem: The Premier Boxing Champions brought their TOE-TO-TOE TUESDAYS series back to the Sands Resort and Casino in Bethlehem, USA. The main event featured a pair of welterweights who were set to settle unfinished business.
In January, Miguel Cruz (16-0, 11 KOs) scored a split-decision win over Alex Martin (13-2, 5 KOs) in a battle of unbeaten. Cruz seemed fueled by those who felt that he either did not deserve the decision, or he would not be so lucky in a rematch.
“I honestly didn’t feel great in our first fight when I re-watched it, I thought Martin won,” said Cruz. “That made me train even harder than ever to prove that I have the skills and power to compete at the world class level, and I think I did that tonight.”
Cruz used the first three minutes to send a strong opening statement. Cruz controlled the distance by using his jab and muscle, often forcing Martin to the ropes. He made a conscious effort to land on the belt line whenever possible. When Martin attempted to steal the round by letting his hands go at the sound of the 10-second clap, Cruz was in position to land a beautiful counter left that sent Martin to the canvas.
Cruz continued to be the aggressor in the second round. He lured Martin into fighting in a phone booth where he continued to invest in working to Martin’s mid-section.
Martin began to slowly turn the brawl into a boxing match in the third and fourth round. His momentary momentum came to a halt when he again found himself on the canvas. Cruz threw a punch upstairs, and although the punch did not land cleanly he got credit for a knockdown.
“I was fighting his fight tonight,” admitted Martin. “I just didn’t put on my best performance. The first knockdown was a real knockdown, but the second knockdown he hit me in the back of the head.”
Real or not, Martin was faced with the reality that he had given up a big lead on the scorecards.
Tension ran high when a Martin punch landed below Cruz’s beltline. Cruz was given time to recover, and as he tried to walk it off, the pro-Cruz crowd let Martin know that they did not approve of dirty tactics. They also let me know that they failed to pay attention to the several warnings that Cruz had previously received for landing borderline punches.
When action resumed Martin continued to string together a few rounds in a row on my scorecard. Cruz seemed to be a bit gassed. He seemed to be a bit pre-occupied countering the earlier foul than he was with countering Martin with punches.
I had given Martin four straight rounds on my card as we entered round nine. I favored Cruz in a close round simply because the punches he landed were clean and could not be missed by the judges.
Cruz looked like the stronger man as the final round began. Martin stood his ground but it was becoming clear that he would not have the energy or time to land anything dramatic. Cruz took matters into his own hands and he delivered an exclamation point in the form of clean head shots at the final bell.
Once again their fate would be determined by the ringside judges, only this time the rounds were easier to score. All three judges turned in the same score of 96-92 in favor of Cruz.
“I trained for Martin like he was the champion of the world, and that’s how I’m going to train for every fight of my career, “said Cruz. “I’m glad I got the victory. I just want to go back to Puerto Rico and celebrate my birthday tomorrow.”
In the televised opener, Clarence Booth (15-3, 8 KOs) overcame a rocky start to stop Anthony Mercado (10-3, 9 KOs) at 1:30 of the fourth round.
If boxing was a body-building contest, Booth would be ranked a top ten welterweight. He walked out of his corner and seemed determined that the quickest way to impose his will would be to walk straight thru Mercado.
Mercado was quickly able to time the incoming Booth, and met his with a whip-like right hand. Booth was momentarily stopped in his tracks several times during the first two rounds.
Each fighter began landing single shots, but Booth seized momentum when he landed a wide right hand to Mercado’s temple. Mercado buckled, and his gloved touched the canvas.
Booth continued to fire right hands to the head and body, and when Mercado was no longer able to keep Booth off of him, the fight was waved off at 1:30 of Round 4.
Booth had a nice victory, but if he wants to continue to climb the ladder he is going to need to implement head movement. He was able to absorb Mercado’s punches, but he may not be so fortunate against the bigger punchers in the division.
The biggest winner of the evening may have been junior lightweight Avery Sparrow (7-1, 3 KOs) who entered the ring fighting for the first time under Hall of Fame promoter Russell Peltz’s banner. His first assignment was to face Isaelin Florian (6-1, 3 KO), a previously undefeated southpaw from the Dominican Republic.
There would be no time reserved for feeling each other out in this bout. As the fighters approached each other Florian held out his glove expecting a tap, but Sparrow countered by firing a right hand to Florian’s head. Sparrow would soon throw a fight hand from a distance that landed on Florian’s stomach. He next offering was identical, but this time it landed on Florian’s chin. More off balance than hurt, Florian soon found himself on the canvas for the first time.
The early success caused Sparrow to attack aggressively until a counter right sent him into the ropes. Referee Gary Rosato correctly ruled that the ropes held Sparrow up, and we were again even on the scorecards.
Sparrow scored another knockdown in the second round, and remained in control throughout the third. Florian was no falling behind on the scorecards, and it appeared that he may have to mount his comeback with an injured left hand. He was shaking the left hand and appeared to be in discomfort as we hit the midpoint of the fight.
Sparrow was again on the attack as round four began. A straight right buckled Florian, who crouched, but never touched the canvas. Sparrow’s recklessness again led him to walk into a counter left that sent him to the canvas. Both fighters traded shots as the round of the night came to a close.
With the crowd poised for a dramatic final six minutes, Florian decided to get on his bicycle in round five. It was a curious move from a fighter who closed the gap on the scorecards in the previous round.
Action picked back up in the final round, and it was Sparrow’s ability to win the first and final minute of the round that secured his victory on my scorecard.
I had it a round closer than the official judges who all scored the bout in favor of Sparrow: 58-54.
No one was more pleased with Sparrow’s effort than his promoter, who wrote a glowing review on his Facebook Page of Sparrow’s first bout as a Peltz boxer.
Peltz wrote a great story about the first time Sparrow came into his office and concluded his post by sharing their post-fight recap of their first fight together.
“When I told him in the dressing room afterward that I was sorry his first fight under contract with us was so tough, he said, “it wasn’t tough at all”. He simply said: "I made it tough by trying to knock him out with every punch."
Avery and me? I think we’re gonna get along quite well,” Peltz concluded.
PRIB Notes: There is no doubt that the boxing fans that turned into FoxSports1 to watch the fights on Tuesday night were entertained. Three full bouts were aired, and six fighters (each of whom had their moments) were featured. Everything was packaged neatly from 9pm to 11pm EST.
I’m unable to guarantee that those who bought their tickets to see the fights live could say the same thing. The opening bell of the evening rang at 6:30pm. Five bouts took place over the next two hours, including Sparrow-Florian.
I looked at my phone and realized that we had at least a 20-minute lull before we would go live at 9pm. Booth and Mercado touched gloves at approximately 9:15 pm. After four rounds of action, we had another lull of at least 30 minutes as the Sparrow-Florian fight was being replayed to the television audience.
I don’t know of any other form of entertainment in which someone would pay for such lulls in activity. There weren’t any ring announcements for upcoming fights. Nothing mentioned about other upcoming shows coming to the Sands Events Center. The DJ was nowhere to be found, and we didn’t even have the benefit of listening to the fight that we just witnessed an hour before.
I understand that there is an inherited risk when TV slots are purchased. Had Cruz-Martin been cut-off as Martin was mounting his comeback; Fox would have been flooded with calls from angry fight fans.
That being said, there needs to be something done to ensure that those who are paying $50 - $100 a ticket are getting their monies worth. It wouldn’t take much. People would be outright giddy if they could have caught a t-shirt from one of the Corona Girls.
Someone with a mic could have taken a poll of who will win the upcoming super fights that have been signed. There are current/former fighters and promoters ringside who could eat up some dead time by doing an interview inside the ring.
The Lehigh Valley offers professional baseball and hockey at a fraction of the cost. Every time there is a break between innings or periods, there is some sort of tom-foolery taking place on the scoreboard.
Yes, I understand that those sports are more family oriented, and many activities are geared toward getting 12-year-olds to OD on sugary snacks, but there isn’t a dull moment. Tell me you won’t get a lathered up fight crowd to partake in an opportunity to show-off their biceps, and heaven knows that the “kiss cam” could spark a good old-fashioned fight in the stands.
I am fortunate to be in a position to receive a credential to write a fight report. I am genuinely thankful to all who have allotted me that privilege. However, I also take to heart the thought that someone in the crowd could be at their first boxing match. The last thing that the sport needs is for those folks to leave the arena thinking that they would have been better off watching the fights at home.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at Pribs2000@gmail.com. He could also be followed on Twitter.com @PribsBoxing.