by Cliff Rold
25-year old Mikey Garcia (33-0, 28 KO) of Oxnard, California, moved up from Featherweight and added his second WBO title in a second weight class on Saturday night at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christie, Texas, coming off the floor in the second and knocking out 30-year old 130 lb. titlist Rocky Martinez (27-2-2, 16 KO) of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, the eight round with a precise shot to the body.
Both men came in below the division limit, Garcia at 128 ¾ and Martinez at 129 ¾. The referee was Laurence Cole.
The first round and most of the second were measured, both men boxing and warming to their task. A short right hand enlivened the affair near the end of the second, Martinez dropping Garcia. Garcia beat the count but appeared a little unsteady in the ensuing exchange before returning to the corner.
Round three had moments for both men, Garcia landing a particularly nasty right hand. Martinez closed the round aggressively, if not too effectively. The fourth round was close, the fight remaining a technical struggle with enough hard punches both ways to keep tension high. Garcia boxed well in the fifth and knocked Martinez off balance late to assert some control. Martinez showed no wilt.
He surely showed some in round six. A left hook hurt Martinez with about a minute to go in the frame and a blasting right kept him hurt not long after. Garcia turned up the heat, landing hurtful blows to the head and body. Garcia maintained the advantage in a methodically punishing seventh.
The punishment became too much in round eight. Kept on the back foot from the opening bell, Martinez was worked towards the corner and Garcia landed a booming, perfect left to the body. Martinez dropped to all fours as if shot, his face a mask of pain. Referee Laurence Cole finished the count at :56 seconds of round eight.
Garcia addressed the early knockdown in post-fight comments. “Just got caught…it happens in boxing. He just caught me. Even when I was on the ground, I turned back to him, winked at him.”
Looking at the knockout, he said, “I saw him covering up the head so I went for the body shot and it just caught him right on the liver.” With a new belt in tow, the obvious question was what’s next and the name mentioned was undefeated Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa (23-0, 16 KO) Gamboa is the interim WBA titlist at Lightweight and a former unified titlist at Featherweight.
“I’m willing to get up and meet him at 135 if he doesn’t want to come down. Anybody they want to put in front of me, I’m ready.”
The best fight of the night came in the middle of the card.
30-year old Nonito Donaire (32-2, 21 KO), 125 ¼, of San Leandro, California, was making his first start since being badly outclassed in losing the lineal 122 lb. crown to Guillermo Rigondeaux in April, and overcame a deficit on the cards to stop 37-year old Armenian Vic Darchinyan (39-6-1, 28 KO), 125 ¼, of Glendale, California, with a concussive assault in round nine.
It was a rematch of their memorable Flyweight title fight in 2007, the fight that propelled Donaire into notoriety with a fifth-round knockout for the crown. Both men had gone on to memorable careers and found themselves at a crossroads some 14 pounds later.
Darchinyan began the fight with a controlled strategy, wary of the left hook of Donaire from the start. It was a wise course. While Donaire appeared to do just a little bit more in the rounds two and three after a fairly even first, it was Darchinyan finding holes and taking the fight to Donaire for the next three rounds. Any questions about Donaire’s chin got new answers as he took some bruising left hands.
They appeared to split the next two rounds and Darchinyan looked to have momentum on his side before the fateful ninth. In an exciting exchange, Darchinyan looked like he’s stunned Donaire near the ropes and was looking for another big shot when Donaire unleashed a perfect left hook counter.
Donaire went down in a heap and, while he beat the count, was clearly without his legs. Donaire pursued and looked for the finish. Darchinyan tried to hold and find his balance for a saving bomb but it wasn’t to be. Trapped in the corner, Darchinyan took a flush bolo punch and was being set up for more when referee Laurence Cole stepped in to save Darchinyan at
2:06 of round nine.
Interviewed in the ring after the fight, Donaire was informed he entered the ninth down on two of three official scorecards. “I tried to work on a different style, which is going back, but the funny thing is it was hard for me to go back. I wanted to fight. (My trainer) kept telling me to box, box and be smart, but part of my body still memorized the fighting style which worked in the end anyway.”
It did work and now Donaire turns to a future summarized in one name: Guillermo Rigondeaux. Rigondeaux has a title defense scheduled in December against former Bantamweight titlist Joseph Agbeko.
Darchinyan, who was not interviewed after the contest, has nothing to hang his head about. He made incredible adjustments from their first fight six years ago and, at 37, nearly pulled the upset. His has been a great career, including a quality reign at 112 lbs. and a unification of the 115 lb. division. He’s earned serious Hall of Fame consideration and his performance on this night only added to that resume.
In the televised opener, a clash of former Olympians turned out to be a more entertaining fight than it looked to be on paper but some odd scoring marred a fairly lopsided outcome in the ring. 25-year old 2008 US Olympian Demetrius Andrade (20-0, 13 KO), 153 ¾, of Providence Rhode Island, came off the floor in round one to comfortably outbox 27-year old 2004 US Olympian Vanes Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 KO), 153 ¾, of Glendale, California, to win the vacant WBO Jr. Middleweight title. Martirosyan had moments but failed to sustain offense against the long armed Andrade who kept his jab working all night. The final scores were split, two in favor of Andrade at 117-110 and 114-113 against a hard to fathom score of 115-112 for Martirosyan.
The referee was Jon Schorle.
The card was broadcast on HBO as part of its “Boxing After Dark” series, promoted by Top Rank, Inc.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]