By Jake Donovan
The odds read one way, but the styles matchup suggested that the oddsmakers ran the risk of being very, very wrong in this one.
Score one for styles, as slick boxer Chris Martin overcame the punching power of Chris Avalos and suspect scoring from one ringside official to take an upset split decision in a battle of undefeated bantamweights Friday night at the Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minnesota.
Martin weighed 120 lb., two pounds heavier than Avalos, who came in at the bantamweight limit of 118 for their main event bout, which aired live on Showtime’s Shobox: The New Generation series.
Though traditionally a fire-breathing power puncher from bell to bell, Avalos was more subdued in the early going, attempting to box rather than fall into any traps against the slicker Martin. Any plans of keeping it strictly boxing quickly dissolved three minutes later, as Avalos began banging away from both the conventional and southpaw stance.
It seemed to be in Avalos’ best interest to keep applying heat. However, his power was hardly a factor as Martin caught very few flush punches on the chin, holding true to the scouting report of his easily being the slickest boxer Avalos has faced to date.
Avalos’ aggression and workrate was enough to turn the tide back in his favor in the fourth round, but failed to build on the success as Martin regained control in the fifth and never really looked back.
As the bout wore on, the size difference between the two fighters grew more and more apparent. Martin was already the bigger fighter on paper, a considerable advantage when you’re facing a pure power puncher who has always fought at a lower weight class.
As Avalos threw more, Martin was presented with more opportunities to counter, which he did to perfection throughout the middle rounds.
Realizing he was falling behind and possibly in need of a knockout to win, Avalos picked up the pace considerably in the final three rounds. The only problem was that Martin was ready for the attack, to the point of jawing at and taunting his fellow San Diegan during and after nearly every exchange.
Heading into the final round, Avalos’ father and trainer Felipe was blunt with his instructions, letting his son know that he was down on the cards and needed something dramatic to happen in order to win. The student tried as hard as he could to follow his teacher’s instructions, but Martin remained in a bullying mood, taking Avalos’ best shots and giving back just as good.
The undefeated slickster even found time to play defense, dipping and dodging while remaining in the pocket the entire time. The tactic gave him the room to counter at will, catching Avalos with a flush left hand in the closing seconds of the fight to put an exclamation point on a career best performance.
For a brief moment, there existed the threat of Martin’s efforts not being properly rewarded on the scorecards.
Judge John Mariano somehow found a way to not only score the fight for the promotional house fighter, but found eight out of ten rounds to award Avalos with 10 points with a card that read 98-94. Some would view his 27 years of judging as a wealth of experience, but a card like this suggests that perhaps he’s stuck around too late and needs to find a new hobby.
Fortunately, one bad apple didn’t spoil the bunch, as his two ringside peers actually watched the fight, as evidenced by tallies of 98-92 and 97-93 in favor of Martin.
With the win, Martin advances to 19-0-2 (5KO). The Chula Vista (CA)-based boxer heads home with the most significant win of his young career, as well as glowing reviews from the Shobox staff, which hopefully translates to more televised opportunities.
TV slots will remain in Avalos’ future as there is always room for power-punchers. At age 20, there is plenty of time for the Lancaster (CA) slugger to rebound and perhaps learn a few more new tricks. For now, he heads home with the first loss of his young career, falling to 16-1 (13KO).
The opening bout of the telecast saw undefeated Lateef Kayode extended deeper than at any point in his young career, but coming up victorious in his eighth-round stoppage over Alfredo Escalera, Jr.
Both fighters came in just shy of the cruiserweight limit. Kayode weighed 198 ½ lb, while Escalera was slightly heavier – and fleshier – at 199 lb.
Kayode entered the bout with a wave of hype behind him, in part due to his chiseled physique and glossy knockout-to-win ratio, but mainly because of the chief second in his corner – four-time Trainer of the Year Freddie Roach. Eight rounds later, the Nigerian-born cruiserweight remains a work in progress, but did more than enough to control nearly every second of the bout.
Escalera was there for the taking, repeatedly eating uppercuts all night but always remaining upright even if not offering much of anything in return. Kayode fought at a more measured pace than those familiar with him have grown used to, boxing early and picking up the pace as the bout progressed, but for whatever reason either seemed unwilling or simply incapable of getting rid of a hittable opponent
Frustration began to set in for Kayode in the second half of the fight, getting a little rough and at one point drawing a warning from referee Joe Cortez for using his shoulder as a weapon.
The boo birds began to set in late in the fight, but Kayode won over the crowd with a flurry of head shots to score an official knockdown when Escalera stumbled into the ropes towards the end of the eighth round. Escalera beat the count and the bell, but appeared affected enough to prompt Cortez to wave off the bout in between rounds.
The official time was 3:00 of round eight.
Kayode racks up his 12th straight knockout as he improves to 13-0 (12KO). The bout lasted as long as his past three fights combined, but he will be a wiser man for the experience he gained from Friday’s televised appearance.
Escalera falls to 18-3-1 (12KO), with all three losses coming in his last six contests. The former Contender contestant entered the fight having not fought in more than a year, and appears destined for opponent status. It’s a disappointing fall for the fleshy Puerto Rican, whose father of the same name was a super featherweight champion in the mid-1970’s.
The show was presented by Gary Shaw Productions.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at JakeNDaBox@gmail.com .