NEW YORK — Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin certainly fits all of the prerequisites. He’s tall for a lightweight — you can say almost towering for the division at 5-foot-11 — and he’s rangy. The 24-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, comes at his opponents in a sort of controlled manner — patient, probing and calculating.
Nothing seems to knock him off of his perch.
Certainly 5-foot-7 Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz, from Port Chester, New York, wasn’t going to do it Saturday night in the first fight of HBO’s pay-per-view broadcast featuring Gennady Golovkin-Danny Jacobs at Madison Square Garden. Martin (18-0, 11 knockouts) remained undefeated when referee Harvey Dock mercifully stopped a very lopsided fight at :45 of the eighth round.
Cruz hadn’t fought in 11 months, and his last fight was an eight-round victory against an opponent that was 15-14.
For eight rounds it looked like it.
And if Martin was hoping to score points with the packed house in the big room at Madison Square Garden, this wasn’t the way to do it. There were large segments of tedium where fans were spending more time talking than paying attention to the fight. You know you’re in trouble when you can hear catcalls from the balcony.
There also was not a second of doubt about who was going to win from the opening bell.
The numbers bear that out. Martin landed 233 of 572 punches (40.7 percent), to Cruz’s paltry 129 of 366 (35.2 percent). The power punches were even more telling. Martin landed more power shots than Cruz threw, 178/307 (58 percent) to 81/175 (46.3 percent).
“He came out a little different than I expected so it took me a while to figure him out but I’m very happy with my performance,” Martin said. “I want to be back in the ring as soon as possible, whenever my team tells me. I give myself an 8 out of 10. I’m ready for a top 10 fighter in the lightweight division.
“Great to be fighting on such a huge card, training in Big Bear really paid off dividends with my conditioning.”
In the first round, Martin poked at the smaller Cruz a few times, but toward the final minute of the round began pouring pressure on his shorter foe. Cruz, it was obvious, could do little in getting inside Martin’s impressive wingspan. As the second round opened, Cruz cut off some of the distance, but Martin quickly re-established it.
Martin then worked his jab again, pecking away, probing, finding an occasional opening for the overhand right. Cruz, playing off New York’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend in his green trunks with a white stripe down the middle, continued to take measured punishment with no answers.
By the fourth round, Cruz’s face was pretty marked up. His left eye was cut and swollen, thanks to Martin’s powerful and consistent jab.
Cruz was tough, apparent from the bludgeoning he took round after round. It appeared Martin was going to do away with his stubborn opponent the fifth, but Cruz hung in, taking another battering.
Cruz’s left eye plumped a little more in the sixth. Toward the end of the round, Martin landed a straight right that snapped Cruz’s head back, and dropped a left to the body, which bent him.
Around the two-minute mark of the seventh, Dock began taking a closer look at punishment Martin was giving out. Finally, mercifully, he waved it over at :45 of the eighth, despite protests from the game Cruz (17-2, 8 KOs).
What happens next for Martin is anyone’s guess. Cruz had a manufactured record and posed no genuine threat to his younger, more physically imposing opponent. He’s 24 and it’s time to move.
There was one consolation for Cruz: The train ride home was less than an hour long.