On a day in which Triple Crown favorite Big Brown finished last in the Belmont Stakes and WBO junior featherweight champion Daniel Ponce De Leon was knocked cold in one round by untested Juan Manuel Lopez, middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik stopped the carnage by stopping Gary Lockett dead in his tracks at 1:40 of the third round to retain his title and cement his position as the best middleweight in the world.
Pavlik was supposed to do exactly what he did, which was drill the unheralded Lockett for nearly three rounds with a jab that stung like a flight of bees and then nail him with straight right hands that three times drove the WBO's No. 1 contender to his knees before his trainer, Enzo Calzaghe, threw in the towel.
Long before he took that wise step the fight was over. Lockett came into Boardwalk Hall a 10-1 underdog and rightfully so in light of how things went. He had no defense for Pavlik's stinging jab, which controlled the action and dictated all the terms of engagement in the champion's favor.
Once that jab began to stop him in his tracks it shut his offense down completely and opened him up for booming right hands behind it that he neither saw coming nor had the slightest chance of avoiding.
"I just couldn't see the shots coming,'' Lockett (30-2, 21) said. "He punches harder and faster than I thought. It wasn't just one punch. It was the accumulation that got me.
"He's a fabulous fighter. Every time I threw punches it seemed like he was making me pay.''
The price Pavlik (34-0, 30 KO) exacted was a steep one. After wobbling Lockett in the first round, the champion twice nailed him with a snapping jab and booming right hands behind it in round 2 that convinced Lockett to take a knee. As a strategy it was a wise one in the sense that it was the only reason he survived the round. But when he came back to his corner Calzaghe was hollering at him like a madman but had not a single bit of advice on how to stop the assault.
"He's out punching you 5-to-1 Gary!'' Calzaghe said. "You must let your hands go!''
Oh, really. Easy for him to say. He was sitting safely on a stool when the leather was flying while it was Lockett who as being strafed by jabs and right hands that buffeted him like leaves in an October wind.
He would have been happy to move his hands of course, were they not so desperately needed to protect his swelling face. But when he tried, BANG. Make that most often -BANG, BANG, BANG.
"Gary was a legit fighter,'' Pavlik said kindly after he'd won his 10th fight in his last 11 by knockout. "My jab was stopping him in his tracks. That set up a lot of things. He was smart to take a knee. I knew I'd buzzed him.''
He continued to buzz him after first driving him to one knee in the second round and it was not long after that that poor Lockett was twice more like a supplicant at the alter of Kelly Pavlik's punches. Ho will next be in that position immediately became the debate with the name of Lockett's stablemate, super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe, being at the top of every list.
Pavlik would be happy to try and win two more titles in one nigh but he was so elated at the way things had gone for him he was willing to fight nearly anyone you could think of.
"I'll fight whoever they want to put in there,'' Pavlik said. "Godzilla. I'll fight Godzilla. Calzaghe would be a great fight. (Arthur) Abraham would be good (to unify the middleweight titles). I'll fight whoever they put in with me.''
Young Juan Manuel Lopez probably feels the same way after destroying Ponce De Leon in less than one round with a crushing counter right hand that had the champion in water deeper than the wide Atlantic Ocean that lies just outside the doors of Boardwalk Hall.
Before the fight there had been concerns that the undefeated Lopez was too green and untested to match power with Ponce De Leon, who despite a dangerously loose defense was 34-1 with 30 knockouts and making the seventh defense of the WBO title. He had accomplished all that not with slickness or artful boxing but rather with concussive power in both hands.
Early in the opening round he began to use it and Lopez (22-0, 20 KO) seemed bothered. But what he was actually doing was biding his time and waiting for the champion to make the kind of mistakes that he had survived so many nights before.
When he did, Lopez landed that counter and Ponce De Leon went down on his side, clearly badly hurt. Although he bat the count of referee Michael Ortega he was all but defenseless and the 24-year-old challenger sensed it and leapt on him like a ravenous lion.
A flurry of punches sent Ponce De Leon back to the ropes and a second flurry bent him sideways and then sent him tumbling between the ropes and half out of the ring, his upper body on the edge of the ring apron while his lower body remained inside the ring.
That was all Ortega needed to see, stopping the bout at 2:25 ith Ponce De Leon's body in Atlantic City but his mind drifting somewhere out over the Atlantic. "I wasn't nervous at all,'' Lopez said. "I respected his power but I knew if I was patient an opportunity would come.''
It did and it sent Ponce De Leon's career into limbo. His handlers had said before the fight he had to look impressive in his first appearance on HBO Championship Boxing. Certainly he was not but Lopez inserted his name quickly into the mix at 122 to 126 pounds.
"I knew I had him hurt badly,'' Lopez said. "I didn't think he could recover but I wanted to make sure.''
Two more barrages assured that Upset Saturday had continued a bit longer but Kelly Pavlik brought it, and Gary Lockett, to a crushing, crashing end.