Middleweight: 2013, Apr 29- May 5

I’ve been afraid of this moment since I first started doing this.  There’s controversy and a cloud over a legitimate championship.  For once in his life, Sergio Martinez got the benefit of unfair officiating, instead of the other way around.  I made reference to Martinez coming off knee surgery and the effect it might have on the fight last week, but that’s not really what it looked like.  To me, it appeared that Sergio wasn’t quite as sharp as usual.  Maybe the knee was a factor, but not to an obvious enough extent that the eyes of this layman could detect.  But mostly, it appeared to me that Murray perfected the approach that Darren Barker used to become the first man to really win rounds and frustrate a championship-level Sergio in 2011 before suffering a very odd knockout.  He concentrated on defense, and tried to throw only when he had the advantage, and only to the extent necessary to win rounds.  This took away the Champion’s huge advantages in reflexes, speed, and timing to a large extent.  In this respect, it could be that Sergio was a victim of his own success, in that he may not have learned a key lesson from the Barker fight due to his flukey knockout win.  If I can play armchair cornerman for a second, I would say that Martinez failed to make an effective adjustment when Murray showed that he was going to make the Champ take the lead.  Sergio responded by standing in front of Murray with his hands down, daring the Englishman to bite on the bait, which he rarely did.  In my opinion, the correct adjustment would have been to get up on his toes and commit to outworking and outboxing his man, preferably with his hands in position to block the odd shot.  Surely he could pile up the points against the passive and comparatively slow Murray with this strategy.  Worst case scenario, he gets caught in an exchange with the bigger man here and there, in which case his handspeed, reflexes, and proven one-punch power would likely serve him well.
Before I get to my assessment of the scoring of the fight, let me immunize myself against any accusation of bias by saying that Martinez is actually my favorite fighter, with only Carl Froch even in the same league.  But Sergio, simply put, did not win this fight.  I scored the fight 114-113 for Murray.  And that’s without acknowledging that referee Massimo Barrovecchio essentially handed Martinez a free point by inexcusably calling a clear Murray knockdown a slip.  I scored rounds 4-6 and 8-10 for Murray.  He added an official knockdown in the 8th, in addition to the stolen one in the 10th.  Only the 9th was close enough that I could see potentially giving it to the Champ.  Murray might have similarly snatched 3 and 11 with no argument from me.  But in most cases, the one swing round would be enough for me to say “could have gone either way” and treat Sergio’s victory with minimal deference.  But in this case, the second knockdown call was so obviously blown by the ref that I feel compelled to disregard that ruling just as surely as if it were a blown round on a scorecard (though I don’t know if I’d have been brave enough to do so if I were an official judge, whom I’ll get to in a second).  So in the final analysis, the absolute best Sergio could have hoped for, given fair and accurate officiating, would have been a draw 113-113.  Since, again, he’s my favorite fighter, I will say in Martinez’s defense that he may apparently re-broke his hand in round 2, and may have also re-injured the knee at some point.

 

How did the three blind mice at ringside have it, you ask?  Almost as if they had agreed upon it beforehand, they had it unanimously 115-112 for Martinez.  That means that the judges uniformly scored each toss-up round, as well as 2 essentially clear Murray rounds, for the local hero and Champion.  Their names, for the purposes of the infamy that should stem from this robbery, are Alejandro Rochin of California, Rey Danseco of the Phillippines, and Nicolas Hidalgo of Venezuela.  Danseco is a real peach.  Just last week he did a poor job in getting the wrong winner in Trout-Canelo, and was fixing to rob Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. against Andy Lee.  I’ve actually only ever see him score one fight decently- Hopkins-Pascal II.  Hidalgo is a virtual unknown, while Rochin is somewhat hit-and-miss, but at least recently hasn’t been involved in any actual robberies I’m aware of.  If I were in charge of judges worldwide, I would see to it that Hidalgo- off to a bad start in his first high-profile assignment- worked his way up from four-rounders and got some training, as he’s young and new enough to potentially be redeemed.  I would consider Rochin on probation, and watch him very carefully.  But I would ban Danseco, who appears to be consistently incompetent.

 

The Argentine commission- in addition to picking or allowing the WBC to pick mediocre to poor officials- embarrassed themselves as an organization even further.  In the pre-fight build-up, much was made of the fact that instant replay would be available in the event of controversial calls in the ring.  Such a situation did arise with Barrovecchio’s mental misfire in the 10th.  But the commissioners made a joke out of the whole thing by actually agreeing with the ref’s call, when there was visual evidence that proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that it was indeed a knockdown.

 

In another rather significant fight on a competing Showtime broadcast, Peter Quillin had his way, more or less, with game but outgunned fringe contending prospect Fernando Guerrero.  Guerrero had no answer for Quillin’s power punching early, with Kid Chocolate scoring 2 knockdowns in the second (the first of which was pretty devastating), and sweeping the first 5 rounds on my card.  But Guerrero was progressively getting into the fight starting in the third, and by the 5th he was giving as well as he got.  He all but dominated the 6th, but Quillin flipped the switch to resume the beating in the 7th, once again landing flush with regularity, blasting Guerrero to the ropes for a technical knockdown, and then sending his weakened opponent down for a 4th time to obligate (excellent) referee Harvey Dock to stop the fight.  Overall a pretty solid win for Quillin.

 

Prospect and cancer survivor Danny Jacobs knocked out journeyman Keenan Collins in 4 on the same card, as well.

 

So now to my conundrum.  The official winner of the championship bout could have hoped for nothing better than a draw, and I scored it for the official loser.  Under normal circumstances, my established practice in these cases is to treat the official winner as if he had salvaged a draw, while treating the proper winner as if he had been correctly awarded the victory.  Normally this would leave the true winner in a good position, while not hurting the fortunate official winner as much as perhaps he deserves.  The presence of a championship (as opposed to a mere ranking) in the balance alters that scheme.  If Sergio gets a draw, he keeps his title.  If Murray gets a win, he wins that same title.  So in keeping with my unstated general principle that benefit of the doubt goes to the official results wherever true doubt exists, I must leave the title with Martinez, though Murray gets the consolation prize of a #1 ranking.  Unfortunately that leaves me in the unenviable position of having a guy that won a championship fight in my rankings as something other than a champion.

 

As for Quillin, his win isn’t enough to get him past Chavez.  Furthermore, with Murray’s promotion, everyone ranked #1 to #8 last week backtracks a spot- Quillin included.

 

Dan’s Top 20 (Weeks in Current Position-Weeks in Top 10 if applicable-Weeks in Top 20)
Champ: Sergio Martinez (159-159-159)
Last Fight: 4/27/2013- UD12* #9 Martin Murray (Robbery- draw at best)
Next Fight: Unknown
In addition to rightfully doing no better than a draw while beating Murray by way of robbery, Martinez has apparently re-injured his hand and possibly his knee, and is expected to be out of action until 2014.  His mandatory for now is Marco Antonio Rubio, though it’s likely the WBC will pull an Andre Ward and take the full title from him before he returns.  He may take that as an opportunity to go for a much more lucrative Chavez rematch, instead.
1) Martin Murray (1-74-74)
Last Fight: 4/27/2013- L* (UD12) vs. Champ Sergio Martinez (Robbery- draw at worst)
Next Fight: Unknown
Murray absolutely deserves to be Champion, but there is an argument that Sergio deserved a draw, and thus he retains the Championship by the slimmest margin possible.  There’s absolutely no way Murray lost the fight.  I hope (but doubt) that he’ll get a rematch.
2) Daniel Geale (1-202-202)
Last Fight: 1/30/2013- UD12 #11 Anthony Mundine
Next Fight: Unknown
Geale hopes to have a “keep busy” fight while the IBF (slowly) sorts out his mandatory situation complicated by Soliman’s PED result.
3) Felix Sturm (1-502-502)
Last Fight: 2/1/2013- L* (UD12) vs. #12 Sam Soliman (on PEDs)
Next Fight: Unknown
The IBF has suspended Sam Soliman for 9 months, and will put Sturm in another eliminator for a shot at Geale.
4) Gennady Golovkin (1-35-98)
Last Fight: 3/30/2013- KO3 #19 Nobuhiro Ishida

Next Fight: 6/29/2013- vs. #5 Matthew Macklin
Golovkin-Macklin appears to be on for June 29 on HBO, and that’s huge.
5) Matthew Macklin (1-97-188)
Last Fight: 9/15/2012- TKO1 Joachim Alcine (UNR)
Next Fight: 6/29/2013- vs. #4 Gennady Golovkin
See Golovkin’s notes, above.
6) Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (1-100-118)
Last Fight: 9/15/2012- L (UD12) vs. Champ Sergio Martinez
Next Fight: 7/13/2013- vs. #17 Bryan Vera
Chavez has apparently settled on Bryan Vera for his next outing, which has been delayed to July 13.
7) Peter Quillin (1-28-49)
Last Fight: 4/27/2013- TKO7 Fernando Guerrero (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Quillin looked pretty darned good and as powerful as ever against Guerrero, scoring 4 knockdowns and getting his man out of there.
8) Dmitry Pirog (1-144-144)
Last Fight: 5/1/2012- UD12 #20 Nobuhiro Ishida
Next Fight: Unknown
After bleak reports of his back injury situation surfaced over recent weeks, finally we get a bit of hopeful news, as Pirog’s US promoter Art Pelullo says that Pirog is hoping to return in late August if all goes well.
9) Grzegorz Proksa (1-107-107)
Last Fight: 2/9/2013- UD6 Norbert Szekeres (UNR)
Next Fight: 6/28/2013- vs. Unknown Opponent
Proksa will bounce back from a hand injury and return on June 28 in the US.  No further details yet.
10) Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (9-9-131)
Last Fight: 10/20/2012- L (UD12) vs. #20 Peter Quillin
Next Fight: Unknown

N’Dam was recently seen sparring at Mayweather’s gym with some of his top prospects.  This has fueled speculation of his possibly signing with Mayweather Promotions, himself.
11) Marco Antonio Rubio (7-118)
Last Fight: 3/23/2013- UD12 Marcus Upshaw (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown

With Martinez (for whom he is that mandatory) sidelined until 2014, Rubio may get a shot at Sergio’s alphabet belt against someone else in the interim.  Alternatively, I think he is also in line for Quillin’s belt, as well.
12) Anthony Mundine (7-118)
Last Fight: 1/30/2013- L (UD12) vs. #1 Daniel Geale
Next Fight: Unknown
Mundine expects to fight again in late June or July, but doesn’t know against whom or in what division yet.  He has hinted he may be moving back down to 154.
13) Osumanu Adama (7-110)
Last Fight: 3/16/2012- W(SD10) vs. Grady Brewer (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Adama came in heavy and nearly lost to 42 year-old Grady Brewer.  The fact that he missed weight by only a half pound gives him the opportunity to schedule a middleweight fight by September 7 to maintain a ranking, though.
14) Darren Barker (8-81)
Last Fight: 3/9/2013- RTD4 Simone Rotolo (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
It appears that Barker has lost out to Bryan Vera for an opportunity to fight Chavez.
15) Max Bursak (8-118)
Last Fight: 2/2/2013- TKO3 Julien Marie Sainte (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Bursak is now the EBU champion after destroying journeyman Sainte.
16) Demetrius Andrade (8-89)
Last Fight: 1/25/2013- UD10 Freddy Hernandez (UNR) (at JMW)
Next Fight: 7/6/2013- vs. Zaurbek Baysangurov (UNR) (at JMW)
Andrade will finally have a significant fight at the 154 pound limit, as he challenges for the ridiculous title of Russia’s Zaurbek Baysangurov in either Kiev or Odessa in the Ukraine.
17) Bryan Vera (9-28)
Last Fight: 3/29/2013- TKO7* Donatas Bondorovas (UNR)
Next Fight: 7/13/2013- vs. #6 Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.
After an absolutely abysmal performance from which he was lucky to escape without a loss against journeyman Donatas Bondas, Vera appears to be the choice to fight JCC on July 13.
18) Makoto Fuchigami (2-9)
Last Fight: 10/12/2012- RTD6 Marlon Alta (UNR)
Next Fight: 5/4/2013- vs. Akio Shibata (UNR)
Fuchigami has a good domestic-level opportunity on his hands, fighting essentially a peer in junior middleweight fringe contender Akio Shibata.
19) Nobuhiro Ishida (2-61)
Last Fight: 3/30/2013- L (KO3) vs. #3 Gennady Golovkin
Next Fight: Unknown
Ishida said before the Golovkin fight that he’d retire if he lost.  But that could have just been posturing.  I won’t remove him as a retired fighter until I find some post-fight confirmation of his intentions.
20) Jose Miguel Torres (2-2)
Last Fight: 3/16/2013- TKO4 Javier Gonzalez (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Torres sneaks into the rankings based on a nearly 18 month old upset win over Patrick Majewski, but considering the awful opposition he has faced since, I’m not particularly happy about it.

 

The Week Ahead: Two significant fights on Saturday.  In Tokyo, #18 Makoto Fuchigami meets  fringe contender Akio Shibata, who is probably the 3rd-best Japanese middleweight behind himself and Ishida. 

 

And in Vegas, we find a very interesting clash between junior middleweight contender Gabriel Rosado and fairly unproven but well-promoted and apparently quite skilled undefeated prospect J’Leon Love on the Mayweather-Guerrero undercard.  I hope Rosado is getting paid very well for the fight, because it’s a very high-risk, low-reward kind of fight for a guy who at least ought to be in line for a shot at Ishe Smith’s very winnable title at 154.  But since winning an eliminator over Charles Whitaker in September, he was essentially paid to serve as a sacrificial opponent to apparent world-beater Gennady Golovkin and now, it seems, is getting the same treatment against a prospect who hasn’t even burst into the top 50 yet.  If he wins, it doesn’t give him much benefit at all in my opinion.  If he loses, then it may become very difficult to get quality fights.  He’ll be as dangerous as the top 10 contender he is today, but will offer relatively little credibility to the opponents who hope to make a name off him, since he will be coming off back-to-back losses- something that is very tough to overcome for a modern boxer, whether rightly or wrongly.
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