Pavlik – Martinez: Winners and Losers

By Jason Pribila: Boxing returned to the main room at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ on Saturday night for the first time since October 2008. On that evening 43 year-old Bernard Hopkins turned back to clock and dominated Kelly Pavlik over 12 one-sided rounds. Pavlik lost his perfect record, his air of invincibility, and Atlantic City saw the biggest ticket seller since Arturo Gatti get beaten handily. On Saturday night, Pavlik returned to the ring and took a risk by facing the dangerous Sergio Martinez. A risk he was willing to take in order to right his ship, raise his sails, and move forward with the wind and Bernard Hopkins behind him.

Martinez entered the ring hoping that his third straight step-up in competition would be the charm. After being robbed of a knockout and decision victory over Kermit Cintron, Martinez again found himself on the short end of the decision of his all-action fight against Paul Williams in December. Martinez’s tough luck did nothing to put a damper on his confidence.

On Saturday Night Martinez finally had a platform to put it all together. He proved that he had the courage to match his skill and his reward was the Middleweight Championship of the World.

The following is my review from ringside of the Pavlik-Martinez: Winners and Losers:


4. Kermit Cintron - Say what you want about “The Killer” but his resume continues to look better and better. Cintron (32-2-1, 28 KO) twice suffered knockout losses to Antonio Margarito in his biggest bouts to date. At the time it was perceived that Cintron lost to the better man, and the only questions asked after those bouts dealt with Cintron’s mental toughness. However, following Margarito’s suspension, doubt is cast on all of his victories…including those against Cintron.

Sure Cintron received a gift against Martinez, but his official record says he fought to a Draw. Now he faces Paul Williams, and if he could pull off an upset one could claim that he belongs on “Pound for Pound” lists.
Yeah, and Sergio Martinez will simultaneously hold the top spot in two weight classes.

3. Mike Jones – The welterweight prospect from Philadelphia picked the perfect night to show off his skills. Fighting for the first time in front of HBO executives, Jones turned in an electric performance by scoring a TKO5 against the over-matched Hector Munoz. While he may not land on the Cotto-Foreman card, HBO would be wise to find a Boxing After Dark date for his proposed match against Antwone Smith. Highlights of his fight during the HBO telecast were an added bonus.

2. Lou Dibella – The likable promoter now has the middleweight belt back in his stable for the first time since Kelly Pavlik knocked out Jermain Taylor. Since then, DiBella released Taylor from his promotional deal because he feared for his health after his knockout loss to Arthur Abraham. He then watched Martinez lose a close decision to Williams. His welterweight Andre Berto pulled out of a lucrative fight with Shane Mosley due the Haiti earthquake, which left DiBella with the impossible task of promoting Berto - Quintana in an area where fans were accustomed to receiving free tickets. Hopefully this victory is enough to restore DiBella’s faith in the sport.

1. Sergio Martinez – “Maravilla” entered a boxing gym for the first time when he was 20 years old. Despite compiling a record of 43-1-1 after a decade in the fight game, no one wanted to take a chance on the former professional soccer player until he was signed by Lou DiBella. He burst onto the scene by winning an interim junior middleweight title by knocking out Alex Bunema in October 2008. A year later he was preparing for another fight when he got a call to move up to fight Paul Williams. Martinez took the fight at a catch-weight and came within a whisker of pulling off the upset. He parlayed that all-action fight into the chance to face Pavlik for a title considered the “Queen Jewel” in his native Argentina.

Martinez now has options to defend titles in two weight classes against the challenger that brings him the most money. Fight fans hope that will lead to a rematch with Williams.

5. The View from Press Row - Once the action began in Atlantic City my cell phone began to blow up. I thought for a moment my friends spotted a good looking guy, diligently working at ringside; or perhaps people were marveling at the fact that Martinez was fighting the bigger man with his hands at his sides. Instead, I received text messages asking me about the “woman in pink” that was seated across the ring.

While no one who ever had the privilege of covering a professional prize fight would trade their seats with anyone, Saturday night provided the argument that sometimes the best view is seen from one’s living room.
4. Sid Brumback – Kelly Pavlik’s cut man has taken his share of the blame for his inability to slow down the cuts over each of Pavlik’s eyes, especially after Round 9. I am not qualified to say whether or not Mr. Brumback did a good job, but at least wanted to point out that this is an example of why most cut men would rather remain anonymous.

3. Kelly Pavlik – There is no shame in his defeat against Martinez. He and his team proved they could make adjustments when things are not going their way, and I thought Pavlik was in control after 8 rounds were complete. There have been plenty of fighters that were less competitive that invoked their rematch clauses, and Pavlik earned his position to warrant one.

However, the inability to capitalize on his star making performance against Jermain Taylor is why Pavlik lands on this list. The loss to Hopkins hurt, but the inactivity in 2009 that inspired rumors about his commitment outside of the ring may have been more harmful. The economy and gas prices were even worse when he fought Gary Lockett, but one would not know that when Pavlik entered the ring.

He is only 28 years old, and has plenty of time to fill the vacancies on his bandwagon. This time with those that will remain seated when the road gets bumpy.

2. Top Rank – There is not a better team than Top Rank Inc. when it comes to developing prospects and turning them into ticket sellers and stars. In September of 2007 Kelly Pavlik captured the middleweight title and looked like he would be the sport’s next cross-over star. Two months later Miguel Cotto defeated Shane Mosley in a close decision at Madison Square Garden, NY. Each was undefeated, and each was poised to dominate ticket sales in the East Coast. Since then each fighter suffered a pair of damaging defeats that have left many to wonder if their best was in their past.

Fortunately for Top Rank, Manny Pacquiao emerged as the man to raise the Top Rank banner to greater heights than they could have imagined.

Unfortunately for Top Rank, Bob Arum was quoted in the boxing chat that Antonio Margarito could emerge as Pacquiao’s next opponent.
Arum first predicted that Floyd Mayweather Jr. would be able to beat the 38 year-old version of Shane Mosley on May 1. And he later said that if he can’t make Mayweather - Pacquiao; Margarito would be next in line (if he wins his comeback fight on May 8).

A football stadium may have bailed out the Pacquiao – Clottey promotion. Good luck trying to sell Pacquiao against a guy that got destroyed by the 37 year-old version of Mosley.

1. Atlantic City – Arturo Gatti was once considered Atlantic City’s professional franchise. No matter who the opponent was, or whether or not he was coming off a win or loss; when “Thunderstruck” played over the loud speakers, it brought 10-12,000 fans to their feet. Since Gatti retired, there has been a search to fill that void.

Kelly Pavlik soon established himself as a proven ticket seller. Three straight Pavlik fights filled Boardwalk Hall, as well as emptied the beer supplies at the casinos. Pavlik’s loss to Hopkins in October 2008 was the last time a fight was contested in the main arena. The 6,179 fans that showed up showed just how far off the radar boxing has become in Atlantic City.
The disheartening part is that there isn’t an established ticket seller ready to pick up the slack. Mike Jones is gaining momentum, but his next fight would be more suited for the 3.000 seat room at the Convention Center. Other prospects like Danny Garcia and Danny Jacobs have primarily fought on the West Coast since being signed by Golden Boy.

The harsh reality is that Atlantic City has quickly gone from being the “Ghost’s Town”, to a boxing “Ghost-Town”.
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