The second chance at a lasting impression did not end very well for Raul Martinez.
The former amateur standout sought to become just the fourth fighter ever from San Antonio to capture a major title, but an untimely knockdown and accidental headbutt at the hands of Rodrigo Guerrero cut short his chances of living out that dream.
A cut produced from the aforementioned headbutt ended their rematch after just six rounds, with Guerrero taking a technical unanimous decision in their vacant super flyweight title fight Saturday evening at the Municipal Auditorium in Tijuana, Mexico.
Scores were 57-56 (twice) and an absurdly wide 59-54 in their Fox Deportes-televised main event.
Considering the drawn out mess it took for this bout to take place, a rare break was caught when the Major League Baseball playoff game preceding it was struck with a rain delay of more than an hour.
Rather than wait out the foul weather (which would improve enough to continue the game later in the evening), Fox Deportes lived up to its promise of cutting to the live feed of the fight, though clipping the first two minutes of the opening.
The last minute of the round proved to be a sign of things to come for Martinez, who was fighting in Mexico for the first time in his career. Just as he was forced to endure a rough and bloody start in their first fight last November, the opening round proved every bit as foul – literally, as Guerrero went well south of the border shortly before the bell, leaving Martinez to wince in pain.
From that point onward, who was getting the better of the action came down to a matter of presence. Guerrero was the aggressor throughout the aborted contest, as evidenced in scoring the bouts lone knockdown when Martinez hit the deck late in the third after getting clipped with a left hook.
To that point, Martinez was being outworked, but also appeared to beat Guerrero to the punch with his straighter, more accurate combinations up the middle. The scorecards suggested otherwise, and the knockdown certainly didn’t help matters – in fact, proving to be the difference between a majority draw and the eventual loss he would suffer.
Martinez seemed to successfully shake off the knockdown with a strong showing in the fourth round, attacking Guerrero to the body and also countering any time the Mexican managed to land his looping shots.
Defense was on the menu for the American challenger in the fifth, though a practice that perhaps cost him on the scorecards. Guerrero switched back and forth between southpaw and conventional stance, though not appearing to enjoy much success from either side of the plate as Martinez bobbed and weaved most of the incoming.
The sixth – and what proved to be the final – round swung back in the direction of Guerrero, who was the busier fighter. He was also a tad too aggressive, as his anxiousness to get on the inside led to a clash of heads, forcing Martinez to turn away in pain as blood streamed from a deep laceration over and around his right eyelid.
The flow of blood was enough to prompt the ringside doctor to take a look at the road fighter. The final prognosis was the exact opposite of what Martinez wanted to hear, throwing up his hands in disgust after the orders came to stop the contest.
Confusion ensued, as Guerrero was hoisted upon the shoulders of his cornermen and paraded around the ring as if he was already officially declared the winner. Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr soon put an end to that mystery, revealing that the final outcome wasn’t a technical knockout, but that the fight ended on an accidental foul, which meant the fighters’ respective fate was in the hand of the three ringside judges.
While Guerrero’s initial celebration was premature, it wasn’t out of line as all three judges ruled in his favor. The win advances the 23-year old Guerrero’s record to 16-3-1 (10KO), as well as declaring him a super flyweight champion on his second try, picking up a belt more than 18 months after falling very short against then-lineal champion Vic Darchinyan.
The bout was also Martinez’ second crack at a major belt, having suffered a fourth round knockout at the hands of Nonito Donaire in April 2009 for the first loss of his career. Four wins later – including a hard-fought split decision over Guerrero last November – Martinez is back in the loser’s column as his record falls to 28-2 (16KO).
Martinez hoped to join the ranks of Jesse James Leija, John Michael Johnson and the late Robert Quiroga as the only fighters to bring a title home to River City. Instead, it’s back to the drawing board for the former two-time US amateur champion, who has yet to convert that success on the pro level.
The rematch proved to be every bit as brutal as their first fight, though their preceding bout at least came with the satisfaction of a conclusive ending. Martinez was bloodied and bruised in the first fight from an assortment of punches and headbutts, but proved to be well worth the journey when the split decision in his favor led to a mandatory ranking for the very belt at stake in this bout.
Martinez’ title shot was to come against Cristian Mijares, though injuries suffered at separate points by both fighter twice delayed such plans. The matchup was scrapped altogether after Mijares vacated the belt in favor of a run at the talent-rich bantamweight division.
A rematch was ordered between Martinez and Guerrero was ordered, though finding a home proved to be a challenge. The return go was initially slotted as the co-feature to another title fight rematch, between Jorge Arce and Simphiwe Nongqayi, which took place last month in Mexicali.
It was instead decided to split the bill into two shows, which resulted in this particular rematch landing in Tijuana and Martinez’ time away from the ring extended to a career-long 11 months.
The long and arduous journey towards redemption proved Martinez to be a patient man, but one without anything to show for it once all was said and done.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]