By Cliff Rold
One champion closed the show. The other kept his show going. Both walked the high wire and escaped in a fascinating pair of main events on Saturday night.
In the end, Sergio Martinez remains the Middleweight Champion of the World. Danny Garcia remains with a claim to the top spot at 140 lbs. And fight fans remain entertained in a year where things just seem to be going right in the ring.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Martinez A; Murray B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Martinez B+; Murray B-/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Martinez B; Murray B/Post: C; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Martinez A; Murray B/Post: A; C
Martin Murray should be the Middleweight Champion of the world today. That he’s not is an illustration of the difference between a really good, solid fighter and a genuine champion. Ultimately, this card saw Martinez the winner by a score of 115-112. Martinez built a lead, endured an awful middle of the fight, and closed like the winner he is.
It should have been a point closer. Murray got screwed out of a knockdown call in the tenth. He screwed himself out of a championship effort in the last two rounds. Murray is, literally, a few flurries away from wins over Felix Sturm and Martinez; that has to sting. With it all on the line, Martinez found just enough effort to save his title at a point where it appeared to be in danger.
It was a late effort reminiscent of Roy Jones-Antonio Tarver I or Muhammad Ali-Ernie Shavers. Tarver and Shavers had once sensational fighters ready to go only to be outfoxed late. Murray will watch the tape and realize how much closer he was than his late effort suggested he believed to be the case. Regardless of the win, Martinez, at 38, might be on his last legs.
His hands were clearly less snapping then usual, his legs grew heavy, and he was getting clubbed where a year or two ago he might have slipped the hooks and crosses of Murray. He remains the champion but it’s fair to wonder:
Are we at a point where, in the ring, titlists Peter Quillin and Gennady Golovkin might both be better fighters than Martinez? Questions like that are what the great future title fights of are made of.
So too are questions of whether old men have one last big one in the tank. Zab Judah almost did on Saturday against Danny Garcia.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Garcia B+; Judah A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Garcia B+; Judah A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Garcia B; Judah B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Garcia A; Judah B/Post: A; A
Sometimes, a fight has to be seen in full, as a story in and of itself more than a collection of rounds. Garcia-Judah was like that. After eight rounds, it was a rout.
After twelve, it was one hell of a fight.
After eight, Judah could look at a brave rally in round six when he appeared to be ready to hit the deck.
After twelve, he could wish for the days of fifteen round title fights and what he might have done with just a little more time.
He didn’t have those rounds.
Being fair, Garcia may still have emerged the victor. The younger man is the rare fighter who looks ordinary all the time and wins in many ways because he’s so good at doing nothing in particular special. He, like Saturday’s fight, has to be viewed as a sum of its parts.
It bodes well for Garcia’s future. One day, he’s likely to run into a wall he can’t avoid. Until then, he will keep making solid affairs. If we get good fights, it’s easy to sit back and enjoy.
As to Judah, his has been a career both underrated and disappointing. Saturday, he had a moment that was in some ways redeeming. Late in a fight, he was the man coming on, laying it all on the line. It hasn’t always been that way.
It was for a night, and it made a special fight by the final bell.
Seriously, when was the last time boxing was this good for this many weeks in a row in the U.S.?...Amir Khan survived another heart racing battle in a career full of them. If one accepts Khan for what he is, instead of what the hype wanted him to be out of the Olympics, he’s easy to be a fan of. His chin might be bad but he’s got a ton of heart to go with the talent below his beard. Enjoy him while he lasts and pray he gets out before his reflexes are shot…I don’t know if Bermane Stiverne can be a real threat to the Klitschko empire, but he must be a real top ten contender. It’s the level of foe Chris Arreola can’t beat...Ever…No, really, he’s been a pro for a decade, has had a ton of TV time, and has never beaten a legitimate top ten fighter. On top of that, he consistently shows up at less, sometimes far less, than his best shape. Sure, he shows grit inside the ring but there has to be a professional who can show the same grit before the fight who can get a major network slot...Deontay Wilder may, or may, evolve into the real deal at Heavyweight. One thing is sure: his promoters need to move heaven and earth to get him one of these suddenly multiplying free TV slots. The U.S. is still a Heavyweight market first and some lost eyes will only venture back for big men. Wilder needs exposure as he begins to creep into real competition.
Report Card Picks 2013: 12-13
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]