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Martinez Scared By Barker, But Gets TKO11 Win..LEVIN RINGSIDE

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While the main event between Argentine WBC middleweight champ Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez and contender “Dazzling” Darren Barker of England was not a “barnburner,” it was much better and certainly more competitive than most expected—at least on this side of the pond where most paid the Brit short shrift, including the oddsmakers who had him a 15-1 underdog. If you appreciate elite-level chess, this was a fight for you.

 

Barker made an excellent account of himself against one of the pound for pound best and the “real” middleweight champ but it was not enough.  At 1:29 of round 11, a gorgeous right hook to the temple dropped him hard to the canvas. He had no chance of beating the ten-count. Scores at the time of stoppage were all in Martinez’s favor: 96-94, 99-91, 97-94. But don’t let the numbers fool you; this was a nip-and-tuck affair for most of the night.

 

Martinez ups his mark to 48-2-2, 27 KOs and Barker goes to 23-1, 14 KOs.

 

“Maravilla” struggled for large portions of the fight against the rangier, smart, technical, confident customer in front of him. But the way he turned up the heat late in the fight (with what has been announced as a broken nose) as his younger (29) foe tired, and then to uncork such a spectacular KO, he secured his greatness.

 

It didn’t take long into round one to see that Barker might have been one of the best boxers Martinez has ever faced. We weren’t sure if he had all the other qualities to hang in there to the end or possibly pull the upset. But the kid could box; he was hitting and not getting hit.  And he was no runner.

 

In round two Barker was stepping to him. Martinez was trying to figure him out, dropping his hands and snapping jabs that mainly fell on his gloves.  Barker had previously spoken of his high boxing IQ; he wasn’t lying.  Some of the crowd booed but they shouldn’t have. These were two high level boxers trying to decode each other—a display of sweet science.

 

More cat and mouse action in the third. Sergio looked to counter, walk him into something. But this was  a much more sophisticated boxer than a Paul Williams.  A hard round to score, as were the others.

 

By round four, anyone had to be impressed with Barker. Martinez was bleeding from his nose with crimson all over his chest. Barker was winning the fight in the eyes of many sitting around me.

 

Round five, Barker continued to step to him without giving up is length. Martinez had both hands at his waist, looking to counter, but Barker not giving him much to work with.

 

In the next frame it was Barker’s jab versus Martinez’s reflexes. Barker wasn’t taking a backwards step and blocking most of the incoming fire. Martinez found his groove near the end of the round, but still hadn’t solved the Brit.

 

Sergio began to open up in the seventh. He went to the body a lot and was the busier of the two. But Barker was by no means out of it.

 

Sergio slipped in the eighth and took his time getting up. One wondered how much his broken nose was affecting him? And while he doesn’t act 36, that is his age. Martinez clearly did more than Barker this round.

 

The momentum was officially turning in the champ’s favor and Barker had to make a stand to make at this point. Nothing on this night or in his past suggested he had the type of power to change a fight on a single punch—at least not against this man. The fight was incrementally slipping away from.

 

There was a clash of heads in the ninth. Martinez seemed to lobbying ref Eddie Cotton a bit. There didn’t seem to be much on his punches, either. I thought he sort of stole the round, a la Ray Leonard, by just letting his hands go more than the other guy.

 

Martinez landed a good left in the tenth but was it a big left? But we quickly learned about Martinez had plenty of pop left. Barker was hurt with a looping right, and covered up for a while but also began to  counter and even walk him back. He was hurt for a second but then possibly turned it into possum. Smart guy. Either way, big round for the champ.

 

In the eleventh, we learned why the handle “Maravilla” fits. He was pot-shotting well and had much more in the tank than Barker.  Then came the right hook to the temple. And fast as that, it was over.

 

Andy Lee came up huge once again on HBO, got his long-awaited revenge against Brian Vera, and likely secured a title shot in 2012 in winning a clear UD by scores of  98-91 and 99-90 twice.

 

On March 21, 2008 Lee and Vera met for the first time and the undefeated, highly hyped Lee was stopped in the 7th. It’s been an 11-fight rebuilding process since then. Vera has had his ups and downs since then but has been on the upswing lately, having decisioned Sergio Mora earlier this year. On paper this looked to be a can’t miss affair.

 

Southpaw Lee boxed well in the first, using his right to keep Vera a range and also did a good job staying off the ropes. Vera looked as fit as ever, having had the longest training camp of his career, and wore his customary smirk whenever Lee landed.

 

In the second, a focused Lee boxed continued to box well. His defense and footwork looked improved from his last outing on HBO against Craig McEwan. A nifty check hook was also working for him. With a few seconds left in the round, Lee floored Vera with a straight lead left.

 

Vera came out as aggressive as ever in the third, determined to make it a dogfight. Vera was getting close in the first half of the round but Lee regained control in latter part, landing a sharp lead left that stunned Vera, as well as a jolting right uppercut to Vera’s jaw at the end of the round.

 

Lee used his legs in the following round to avoid Vera’s winging blows. Vera was getting close. But Lee countered with a right hook that opened a cut on Vera’s left eye. Adding insult to injury, Lee landed a good one-two at end of round and a right hook upstairs at the bell. I had Lee up four rounds, and an extra point for the knockdown, but nothing suggested that Vera would go quietly.

 

In the fifth, Vera once again came out with a confidence that suggested short-term memory loss. But Lee would not fully relinquish what he had attained. This was an even round, and Lee’s face was showing the effects of punches and his energy was flagging a bit. Their heads clashed hard at the very end of round.

 

In the sixth, Lee caught him with a digging shot to the gut and crisp check hook moments later. For the first time in the fight, Andy was smiling back at Vera. But the Texan still had his moments and seemed utterly undeterred. This looked to be a battle of attrition, and Lee was showing the effects of his massive efforts.

 

Lee wasn’t controlling the center in the seventh as he did early on, his back showing rope burns. This was Vera’s best round by far. He was fighting his fight—roughing Andy up when in close and pushing him back at all times. And also smiling at him as usual! Lee must’ve had flashbacks to the rough night back in March 2008 when Vera proved too much for him by the 7th.

 

Vera looked even stronger in the eighth. Indeed, he is much physically stronger than Lee, but he was unable to capitalize on the moment. Lee looked worn but he showed great moxie in countering Vera and doing more than enough to prevent a recurrence of their first encounter in  ’08.  He has learned a few things since then. And one thing Lee has always demonstrated is toughness. Tonight was no different.

 

Andy played keep away in the penultimate round, knowing he was up on points and perhaps saving a little for the final frame. Vera, while chasing him, didn’t land anything of consequence. And a good short lead left caught Vera just before the bell.

 

In the final heat Lee looked to pot-shot and his legs were still spry to carry him around. Vera mauled him and got inside and Lee, taking a break, obliged him. They slugged on even terms and Lee found a home for his uppercuts. Lee took that last round and was sufficiently proud of his efforts that he dropped to his knees afterwards, his arms raised high. “Maravilla” may be next for him.

 

“This win was immeasurable,” Lee said.  “If not for tonight, I would have been haunted for the rest of my life.”

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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans

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Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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