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Weekend Review: A great fight

07
Dec

Sergio Martinez took plenty of hard punches from Paul Williams but never stopped fighting back on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

BIGGEST WINNER

Paul Williams: Williams has amazed us for years with the relentless pressure that almost invariably overwhelms his opponents, his unbelievable conditioning and his sheer size. One thing that might be overlooked is his warrior spirit, which was plainly evident in his unforgettable battle against Sergio Martinez on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. Williams never bargained for the war with which he was presented but refused to wilt under the gunfire, even when he was hurt on multiple occasions. A lesser man wouldn’t have survived. The fact he proved to be a relatively easy target — particularly for Martinez’s right — raises questions but no one will ever question his toughness. He’s a joy to watch.

BIGGEST WINNER II



Sergio Martinez: The Argentine lost a fight but also removed any doubt whatsoever about his elite status in the sport. The man somehow stood up to Williams’ suffocating pressure and fired right back with chilling effect, which made the fight an instant classic. The thing that struck me most was his combination of refined boxing ability and ferocious aggressiveness, which isn’t common in boxing and is what makes Martinez special. The Argentine is now 0-1-1 in consecutive fights he arguably won, having earlier drawn with Kermit Cintron. Obviously, he’s frustrated. However, Saturday night was a coming-out party for him. He probably won’t get a rematch with Williams but big fights lie ahead — unless he, like Williams, scares people off.

BIGGEST LOSER

Pierre Benoist: Emanuel Steward tried to defend Benoist, the New Jersey judge who scored the fight 119-110 for Williams. Steward said some judges simply prefer certain styles. And, yes, technically it’s possible to score a close fight 120-108 by giving one fighter a slight edge in every round. That said, this is one of the worst scorecards in recent memory. Martinez sacrificed his body and left his heart in the ring in a fight a blind man could tell was close. That Benoist didn’t see it that way was an insult to a gallant warrior and the only black mark on an otherwise amazing fight. As former judge Chuck Giampa wrote for RingTV.com, Benoist needs to sit down with New Jersey officials and explain himself.

BEST BOUNCE BACK

Chris Arreola: Arreola obviously didn’t train very hard, as evidenced by the career-high 263 pounds he lugged into the ring against Brian Minto on the Williams-Martinez undercard Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. That didn’t matter, though. Arreola got back on the proverbial horse after the beating he took from Vitali Klitschko and put one on Minto, stopping the brave, but much-smaller man in the fourth round. Afterward, he said he wanted to prove he remains a factor in the heavyweight division and he probably succeeded to some degree. The sad part is that (figuratively) he could be a much bigger factor if he would commit himself 100 percent to his career, meaning he needs to watch his diet and train year round. Have some willpower, man!

BIGGEST LOSER II

Roy Jones Jr.: Jones had what would’ve been one last super fight on the horizon, a rematch with Bernard Hopkins 17 years after they first fought. That went down the tubes shortly after Jones went down to the canvas Wednesday against Danny Green, who won by first-round knockout. Worse, this was only the latest display of Jones’ faded skills, a sad sight for those of us who so admired him in his prime. There’s good news, though. The likes of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard also were embarrassed in their final fights but we mostly remember the good times. The same will hold from Jones one day. We can only hope that day comes soon.

MOST FRUSTRATED

Bernard Hopkins: The 44-year-old wonder did his part to set up the rematch with Jones, easily outpointing Enrique Ornelas on Wednesday in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Jones didn’t do his part and the rematch — a very big fight that would’ve garnered him a lot of attention and money – was spoiled. So now what? He called out heavyweight David Haye, an intriguing prospect, but the Brit will be tied up most of the year. I like Hopkins-Tomasz Adamek but they couldn’t reach an agreement. Lucian Bute, formerly a light heavyweight, would be a good opponent. And, if Hopkins really wants to prove he still has it, he should fight Chad Dawson. He better move quickly, though. He has to slow down at some point.

BIGGEST HOMETOWN HERO

Danny Green: The Aussies reportedly went nuts when Green stopped Jones in one round Wednesday in Sydney, which shouldn’t be surprising. Their man beat down a living legend in the sport. They should be proud of a good, very powerful former titleholder. That said, we shouldn’t read too much into the victory. The result was at least as much about how bad Jones has become than how capable Green is. Jones isn’t the Jones of the past. He’s merely a good fighter with good speed, not the athletic thoroughbred he was a decade ago. And there’s his chin. It seems a strong wind could knock Jones out, which might’ve always been the case. He just never took punches when he was at or near his prime.

QUICKEST KNOCK OUT

Amir Khan: The talented Briton in effect ended his fight against Dmitriy Salita with one big right about 10 seconds after the opening bell. Salita got up only to hit the canvas two more times before the fight was stopped, giving Khan a KO 1:16 into a fight almost everyone expected him to win. Now he must get down to some serious challenges. Among the possibilities: Timothy Bradley (if he beats Lamont Peterson), Victor Ortiz (if he beats Antonio Diaz), Ricky Hatton (if he doesn’t fight Juan Manuel Marquez), Juan Diaz (if he beats Paulie Malignaggi), Marcos Maidana, Michael Katsidis or Edwin Valero. It really doesn’t matter which direction he goes. None of these guys will beat him. He’s the real deal.

MOST UNFORTUNATE

Dmitriy Salita: No one is surprised that Salita was whacked out by Khan, although few would’ve predicted it would happen in 76 seconds. His critics said he never deserved a shot at Khan’s title in the first place, never having faced a world-class opponent in his career. And, obviously, he did nothing to disprove that perception on Saturday in Newcastle, England. That’s sad for Salita. The Brooklyn, N.Y., fighter worked and dreamed most of his life for a shot at a world title yet lasted little more than a minute. It’s too bad he didn’t have at least a few rounds to show that he’s a decent fighter, as some knowledgeable observers said before the fight, and not a patsy. The lesson here: Don’t jump from no-names to a fighter as good as Khan. It’s important to work your way up against progressively better opponents.

BEST QUOTE

Promoter Lou DiBella: “I’ve been saying this for a few years. Sergio Martinez is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. There is nobody at 154 that can beat him. There is nobody at 160, other than Paul Williams, that can beat him. He would walk through Kelly Pavlik.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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