Michael McKinson had to make the best of an unfortunate situation.
The tricky British southpaw, who typically probably prefers to counter off the backfoot, found himself having to play the part of aggressor against Chicago’s evasive Alex Martin, also a southpaw, in their 10-round welterweight co-feature bout on the Alexis Rocha-Blair Cobb card at the USC Galen Center in Los Angeles.
In the end, McKinson’s ring generalship and clean punches earned the approval of the judges.
All three judges scored it in favor of McKinson: 99-91 (Zachary Young), 98-92 (Daniel Sandoval), 97-93 (Raul Caiz).
McKinson, a native of Portsmouth, England, was originally looking forward to a potentially career-changing performance against welterweight hard-hitter Vergil Ortiz Jr. in the headliner bout. But Ortiz, Grand Prairie, Texas, had to pull out of the bout after he was hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis with less than five days out from the fight.
That left promoter Golden Boy scrambling to find a replacement. Veteran Jesus Antonio Perez Campos was brought in. But although the California commission approved Campos, it turned out that the Mexican was too far above the welterweight limit to make the Friday weigh-in. Martin stepped in at 36 hours’ notice.
Stylistically, Martin was far from the sort of opponent McKinson had trained for. Where Ortiz is orthodox and comes forward, Martin is the prototypical spoiler: loath to engage and seemingly content just making it to the final bell.
The audience did not appreciate the style match-up, booing from the opening round.
McKinson (22-0, 2 KOs) smartly pressed and tried to take it to Martin (17-4, 6 KOs). Early on he had mixed results, but he gained clear control in the second half of the bout.
There were seemingly more exchanges in the first half of the 10th round than the previous rounds altogether, although nothing of note landed by either fighter. McKinson struggled to find the fleet-footed Martin, while Martin refused to stand his ground. The two traded briefly with 30 seconds left.
McKinson continued to outwork Martin in the ninth round. Martin clearly had no desire to turn it up another gear, as the Chicagoan simply circled to his right without landing any notable counters.
In the eighth round, McKinson showed signs of putting some distance between him and Martin He landed a four-punch combination to start the round. Martin simply looked to counter. McKinson came around Martin’s high guard to land a right hook followed by a jab. Moments later, McKinson dug a left to the body. The Brit closed the round with a trio of right hooks.
McKinson had a relatively successful offensive round in the seventh. He landed a few stiff, clear punches to the body and head of Martin, even if the general tactical nature of the fight remained unchanged. McKinson even snuck in an uppercut before the bell.
Sensing that he needs to be more aggressive, McKinson unleashed a few combinations early on in the sixth round. A cagey Martin, however, was not hit by anything significant.
In an uneventful fifth round, McKinson continued to stalk Martin but neither showed much interest in actually engaging. McKinson, however, landed the best punch of the round, a left hand. Boos rained down on the fighters as they returned to their corner.
Martin got off to a good start in the fourth round, connecting on a strafing straight left. McKinson took it well, however. Martin was able to keep McKinson at bay with jabs. McKinson connected on a right hook. Not much went on in the round otherwise.
In the third round, Martin got in a stiff left hand, but McKinson took it well. McKinson continued to stalk Martin, answering back with several jabs. A restless crowd booed the competitors throughout the round.
Midway through the second round, a brief exchange favored McKinson, who landed a clean right hook. McKinson continued to employ feints and outwork Martin. McKinson scored with a clean one-two before the bell.
McKinson was sharp and busy in the opening round, flicking his jab and landing a few overhand lefts. He set the pace as he continually stepped toward the more reserved Martin.