The latest incarnation of boxing's best turf war will take place Saturday at Madison Square Garden when WBO super featherweight titlist Roman Martinez (Puerto Rico) takes on Juan Carlos Burgos (Mexico). Both are capable of generating terrific volume and producing early endings (a combined 36 KOs in 56 wins). No matter which man -- or nation -- emerges victorious it is almost guaranteed that the route toward the final result will be filled with excitement and drama.
The identity of Saturday's winner can be found among the following CompuBox factors:
An Unsolved Mystery: No one, even Martinez, knows which version will walk up the ring steps. At times, he can be a fire-breathing aggressor with deadly power. Gonzalo Munguia enjoyed temporary success in rounds two and three, but all that went away with a single right uppercut in round four. In round three alone Martinez threw 128 punches to Munguia's 103 and out-landed him 33-28 in power shots and for the fight, Martinez averaged 108 per round, landed 37% of his power shots and out-landed Mungia 85-72 (total) and 73-68 (power) -- including 45-33 in the last two rounds.
At other junctures Martinez becomes more mindful of his defense and the results are sometimes puzzling. In these fights he tends to fall into lulls where he can be out-hustled. Feider Viloria did just that -- for a while. In rounds four and six Martinez averaged 50 punches per round to Viloria's 76 and was out-landed 51-23 (total) and 38-18 (power). But Martinez perked up in rounds seven through nine, averaging 76 per round to Viloria's 63 and out-landing him 67-43 (total) and 50-27 (power), a surge that enabled Martinez to break open a close fight and end it with a 10-count knockout.
In his most recent outing against Miguel Beltran Jr., we saw both sides. Beltran rocked Martinez with power shots early and the Puerto Rican seemed stuck in mud, averaging 36.8 punches per round and being out-landed 28-25 (total) and 25-16 (power). But from round five onward Martinez found a groove as he averaged 69.8 punches per round (to Beltran's 51) and out-landing the Mexican 162-126 (total) and 132-115 (power). Those bulges enabled him to record connect gaps of 187-154 (total), 39-14 (jabs) and 148-140 (power).
A Riddle Wrapped In an Enigma: Like Martinez, Burgos is a fighter whose blueprint from fight to fight is a guessing game.
Against Cesar Vazquez he was a Salido-esque bomber: 78.5 punches per round, of which 75.1% were hooks, crosses or uppercuts. He also was very accurate as he connected on 48.8% of his total punches and 57% of his power shots. In less than three rounds of action, Burgos out-landed Vazquez 100-50 (total) and 88-46 (power).
But against Vyacheslav Gusev (W 10) the distribution of punches was completely different, for of his 76.7 punches per round, 47.4 -- or 61.8% -- were jabs. The results were similarly lopsided as he out-landed Gusev 227-120 (total), 118-40 (jabs) and 109-80 (power).
In other fights Burgos was more balanced. In stopping Yogli Herrera in six rounds, Burgos averaged 79.9 punches per round but he threw slightly more power shots (233) than jabs (201). Still, he out-landed Herrera 105-45 (total), 16-5 (jabs) and 98-40 (power). Against Cristobal Cruz, Burgos slowed his pace (51.6 per round), but again he didn't rely on one aspect of his game too heavily as he threw 296 power shots and 220 jabs (a 57-43 split) in producing connect gaps of 178-123 (total), 55-20 (jabs) and 123-103 (power). The same pattern held in his majority decision win over Luis Cruz (55.3 punches per round, a 59-41 split in favor of power shots and connect bulges of 172-155 overall and 112-84 power).
Prediction: More than most pairings, no one will know how each man will approach the opponent until the bell rings. The guess here is that the big-fight atmosphere will spur both to action, a scenario that favors Burgos because he has better offensive numbers (69.7 punches per round, 29.9% total and 38% power in eight fights for Burgos, 66 punches per round, 26.9% total and 34.1% power in four fights for Martinez).
Burgos' only defeat came against Hozumi Hasegawa, who is everything Martinez is not -- a slick southpaw with better-than-average defense and marksmanship. Conversely, Martinez's sole defeat came against Ricky Burns, a volume-punching right-hander (73.7 punches per round) who brought more than his share of power shots (46.6 per round, 69.3% of total offense) -- just like Burgos can. Burgos by unanimous decision.