by David P. Greisman
Boxing, like baseball, is a five-tool sport. And in the sweet science you cannot get away with merely being a designated hitter.
In this fight game, a boxer who is great at one thing is not necessarily great overall. Conversely, a boxer can be great even if some of his tools are merely good.
The fight between Sergio Martinez and Sergiy Dzinziruk pitted a boxer who is more great than he is good against a boxer who is more good than he is great.
Dzinziruk’s greatness is in his jab, the kind of jab befitting of his “Razor” nickname, the kind of jab that left bruising around Sergio Martinez’s left eye and opened up a cut above that same eye.
It is the kind of jab that forced the dashing Martinez to cover his face with sunglasses after the fight and sent him seeking medical attention to see if he needed stitches.
Similarly, Martinez’s goodness is in his jab, the kind of jab that earned the respect of Dzinziruk, a master of that punch himself, early in their fight.
It is the kind of jab that isn’t just pushed out merely to establish timing or measure distance, but is popped out with force, setting up follow-up shots and stopping his foe’s forward progress.
Dzinziruk appeared to have a good left hand – except what appears to be a good left hand is one that all too easily disappears in favor of the southpaw jab. When Dzinziruk did throw his left hand, and when it landed flush, it got Martinez’s attention.
Martinez has a great left hand, however – and it not only appears often, but it also often appears out of nowhere. It is the punch that hit Kermit Cintron so hard that Cintron thought he’d just suffered a head butt. It is the punch that sent Paul Williams into unconsciousness before he’d even crashed to the canvas.
And it is the punch that – with the assistance of a good jab – led Martinez to five knockdowns and a technical knockout in an impressive victory over Sergiy Dzinziruk.
Martinez does not have that razor jab, but he is nevertheless a cut above the rest.
In the past 11 months, he has outpointed Kelly Pavlik for the middleweight championship, then successfully defended the throne twice by knocking out Williams and stopping Dzinziruk.
In order to stop Dzinziruk, he had to stop what Dzinziruk was great at.
“Nullify his boxing. Nullify his jab. Nullify his punches,” Martinez said after the fight. “Little by little we did that.”
He did that with his defense – head movement and distance – and with his offense, with the irritation of his own jab and by intimidating Dzinziruk with the possibility of what could be coming back at him.
Martinez felt cocky enough in his ability that it was merely a minute or two into the fight when he first did his characteristic dropping of his arms to his waist. Against a fast, capable jabber, that decision should fall somewhere between stupid and suicidal. But Martinez didn’t need his gloves to block the jabs so long as he could use his reflexes to avoid them.
He ducked his head low, inviting Dzinziruk to jab at the open target. But when the jab came, Martinez would either duck downward and forward to send the punch harmlessly past him above, or pull straight back just enough that the shot fell short.
Martinez also circled to his right – usually a no-no when one is moving toward a southpaw’s left hand. Dzinziruk’s left wasn’t what Martinez was worried about, though. And as a southpaw himself, the move gave Martinez better angles for landing his own left hand – a similar movement to the one that preceded the Williams knockout – and his right hook.
In the fourth round, Martinez landed a left hand through Dzinziruk’s guard, buckling his knees. A follow-up left hand landed high on Dzinziruk’s head, and his knee touched the mat. That would be Dzinzuruk’s first time down – and not just in the career of a boxer who claimed that he’d never been floored as an amateur or as a pro.
Martinez would knock Dzinziruk down a total of five times in eight rounds.
The next knockdown came in the next round. Dzinziruk, for all of his skills, sometimes brings his right hand back low. Martinez already had shown an advantage in speed and timing. This was merely an additional opening.
With Dzinzuruk’s jab hand starting low, Martinez felt less threatened to move in as the punch began its course. He beat Dzinziruk to the punch with a left hand, perfectly – and painfully – placed.
For those first five rounds, Martinez had been using his jab to knock Dzinziruk off his rhythm. Martinez used the jab to keep Dzinziruk at a comfortable distance. And he used the jab to reset the timing, allowing him to set up counter shots and the occasional hard lead.
Martinez had landed 150 punches in the first five rounds, the jabs accounting for 103 of those. The power shots didn’t need to land often – they just needed to land right.
Though both Martinez and Dzinziruk have spent the majority of their careers in the junior-middleweight division, Martinez has thrived since going up to middleweight. Though he is not as large as some of the other fighters who compete at 160, he carries the weight well and has six fewer pounds to lose before stepping on the scale.
He has power that is amplified by the speed at which the shots come and the location on which they land.
And with his hands down, those punches came from unorthodox, unexpected angles.
But Martinez opening up on offense meant he also left himself more open on defense. Dzinziruk was able to seize the opportunity. Previously he had landed just 10 jabs in the first round, nine in the second round, 12 in the third, eight in the fourth, and four in the fifth.
The sixth round saw him land 16 jabs, however, and the seventh round had him landing 18.
Martinez’s left eye had already been bruised. Then a jab opened a cut over that eye with less than 30 seconds remaining in the seventh. Martinez dabbed at his eye with his glove, and between the seventh and eighth rounds he was heard talking of trouble seeing out of the eye.
Martinez’s corner went to work before the eighth got under way. And once the round began, so did Martinez.
He went back to lowering his head and bobbing it up and down, looking up, waiting, setting a trap.
Dzinziruk sent out jabs. Martinez moved to his right – Dzinziruk’s left – then distracted him with jabs and followed up with a straight left hand.
Down went Dzinziruk. He got up, but as the referee was finishing his mandatory eight count, Martinez was rushing in. A left landed directly on Dzinziruk’s chin. Down he went again. He rose once more but had little ability to stop what was still coming. Dzinziruk’s high guard meant nothing when the shots were pummeling him through and around the gloves.
He fell back, and the referee stepped in.
“The knockdowns were not from hard punches,” Dzinziruk said after the fight, sounding at first like he was trying to take away from Martinez’s accomplishment. And then he finished his sentence with due credit. “Just perfect shots. And I got caught.”
Dzinziruk’s great jab was less effective on this night than his power punches were – he landed 80 of 242 jabs, compared to 81 of 171 power shots.
Martinez, meanwhile, landed more jabs than he did power punches in six of the eight rounds, with the fourth and eighth rounds being the only exceptions.
On the night, he landed 147 of 384 jabs, compared to 79 of 209 power punches.
With his one tool limited, Dzinziruk was merely a good fighter who could not contend with a great one.
Martinez, meanwhile, is a five-tool player who decided to keep hitting singles until he had the chance for those big swings that would send everyone home.
The 10 Count
1. I’ll withhold comment on the actual fight between Miguel Cotto and Ricardo Mayorga until I’ve seen it – I was at the HBO card on Saturday, then making the seven-hour drive home from it on Sunday – but I must make one observation about the card itself:
The announced attendance of 7,247 was the lowest for a Cotto fight in a long, long time – dating back to the 7,412 in the arena in December 2006 for a doubleheader featuring Cotto vs. Carlos Quintana and Antonio Margarito vs. Joshua Clottey.
Since becoming a regular headliner, Cotto’s almost always been an East Coast guy – excepting his two biggest fights, losses in Las Vegas to Margarito and Pacquiao.
Don’t know why Cotto was taken away from his stable stomping grounds of New York City, New Jersey and Puerto Rico for the Mayorga fight – even if there was concern about the competing card in eastern Connecticut.
Going someplace different than usual isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s possible that the premise of Cotto facing Mayorga needed the extra selling point to customers of a trip to Las Vegas.
2. With that in mind, I understand why Lou DiBella is bringing the April 16 bout between Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz to the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods in Connecticut. I don’t endorse it, but I understand it.
DiBella talked up the theater as the best venue on the East Coast. And I can say that while it’s on the smaller side, it’s intimate, with nary a bad seat.
Berto fights out of Florida but is not at all a draw there. Ortiz is from Kansas and fights out of Southern California. Ortiz is a Golden Boy fighter, however, and DiBella apparently doesn’t want to give his guy, Berto, the perceived competitive disadvantage of fighting in the other guy’s territory and in front of the other guy’s crowd.
Putting the fight in Ortiz territory could bring in more money. And sometimes promoters do opt for such arrangements – of recent note, Golden Boy might be going back to Canada for the rematch between Jean Pascal (not their guy) and Bernard Hopkins (their guy).
Martinez-Dzinziruk had an undercard with multiple smaller, regional ticket sellers. Female heavyweight Sonya Lamonakis had a contingent of fans drive down from the rural town of Turners Falls, Mass. Light heavyweight Seanie Monaghan was one of two Irish guys on the card, and he had a crew of supporters who very well might’ve come in from Long Beach, N.Y. And then Andy Lee, the other Irish fighter, had a loud crowd.
Sometimes it’s not just about building one fighter as a regional attraction. Sometimes it’s also about building a customer base for fights as a whole. In this case, the two casinos in Connecticut have long been used by the New England promoters, but they’re also in a good location for fans coming up from New York City.
3. Martinez had three names first and foremost on his mind following Saturday’s victory: Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto.
All of those potentials have obstacles keeping them from being possibles.
Lou DiBella argued that Cotto won’t fight Martinez because promoter Bob Arum is only pitting his fighters against other boxers in his stable – which Mayorga isn’t (he’s with Don King). But I imagine DiBella would slot Mayorga under what he described as Pacquiao and Cotto “facing bum after bum after bum.”
Should Pacquiao get by Shane Mosley in May, I can see Arum either making a power play for Juan Manuel Marquez, whose contract with Golden Boy is said to be expiring (and who desperately wants a Pacquiao shot), or for a Pacquiao-Cotto rematch.
And Mayweather Jr. is taking a sabbatical and dealing with his recent run-ins with the law.
4. Who does that leave?
People have been calling for a fight between Sergio Martinez and Dmitry Pirog ever since Pirog’s stunning one-punch knockout of Danny Jacobs last year.
“Fuck Pirog,” DiBella said in an interview before the fight with myself and Tim Starks of boxing blog The Queensberry Rules. “We got stripped so that the WBO could make a fight between Pirog and Danny Jacobs. That’s Sergio’s title. We’re not fighting that guy to get our title back. Who gives a flying rat’s ass about Pirog?”
Kery Davis of HBO talked to Starks after the fight. Here’s Starks’ recap of that conversation: “Davis said Pirog is a ‘good fighter,’ but said he'd like to give more people in America an opportunity to see him, perhaps by pairing him on the undercard of a Martinez fight.”
Because, you know, Pirog’s been on HBO once, compared to the zero times Dzinziruk had been on HBO before he fought Martinez.
As long as we get Martinez-Pirog fight sooner rather than later, I’d be happy – as long as the doubleheader put both Martinez and Dzinziruk in good fights.
My suggestion? Martinez against a decent but lesser opponent (after a run of five straight fights against current and former titleholders). And why not Pirog in a rematch with Danny Jacobs?
5. Speaking of rematches: How about HBO gives Andy Lee and Craig McEwan some rest and then has them back on an undercard or “Boxing After Dark” main event as soon as possible?
6. Speaking of requests of HBO: Please stop airing doubleheader cards with a 10:30 p.m. start time if you’re broadcasting from a casino where they stop serving beer at 1:30 a.m.
7. Boxing Promoters Behaving Badly update: Damon Feldman, infamous for his celebrity boxing cards with such notables as Jose Canseco and Rodney King, has been sentenced to two years of probation after pleading no contest to charges of fixing fights and promoting in Pennsylvania without a license, according to the Associated Press.
He’s been banned from promoting in the state for two years – though, as the Philadelphia Daily News pointed out, that doesn’t mean anything when he’s since put on shows in other states.
8. Feldman’s legal drama ended just in time. Now we can see Danny Bonaduce vs. Charlie Sheen…
9. Not every moment of being a boxing writer is glamorous.
I’d been looking forward to seeing featherweight prospect Javier Fortuna. But not in the way I saw him at the weigh-in the day before he fought.
Fortuna was two-tenths of a pound overweight – and was still two-tenths of a pound overweight after stripping off his underwear. Usually when this happens, a fighter’s team will surround him with towels.
Not this time.
Boxing manager Samson Lewkowicz had held up a “Team Maravilla” jacket to cover Fortuna from one angle. But then he dropped the jacket before Fortuna got the chance to put his underwear back on.
Hope the weigh-in wasn’t live-streamed…
10. Biggest shocker of the weekend? No microphones at the Martinez-Dzinziruk post-fight press conference.
When was the last time a promoter didn’t want to be heard?
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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