by Tim Smith
Roman "Rocky" Martinez had the dubious distinction of being the only current world champion from Puerto Rico when he stepped into the ring against Mikey Garcia at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas on Saturday night. It is no longer a distinction, nor is it dubious. Garcia saw to that with paralyzing force, scoring a knockout of Martinez at 56 seconds of the eighth round to win the vacant 130-pound title.
After getting dropped by a counter right hand from Martinez in the second round, Garcia slowly broke down Martinez and then brought matters to a sudden conclusion with a vicious left hook to the liver in the eighth round. Martinez crumpled to all fours. Martinez (27-2-2, 16 KOs) was frozen and could only wince as referee Laurence Cole counted him out in Spanish.
"I thought it was going to be a very good shot when I landed it," said Garcia, who improved his record to 33-0 with 28 KOs. "I knew it was a good punch. I didn't know if he was going to try to get up. I thought he would. But I could see his expression that it would be very difficult for him to get up.''
It was a powerful display from Garcia, who was weakened from trying to lose weight before his last match against Juan Manuel Lopez. He failed to make weight against Lopez, lost his featherweight title on the scales, but won the fight in the ring.
Even though he was fighting at 130 pounds for the first time, Garcia looked like he belonged at that weight as he forced Martinez to respect his power. It didn't look like he could handle Martinez's power early on when he got caught with the counter right hand that dropped him to the seat of his pants in the second round. But it was only a flash knock down.
"Just got caught,'" Garcia said. "I was coming with the one-two and he caught me with his right hand. It happens in boxing. He caught me right on the chin. When I was on the ground, I turned back. I winked at [ trainer Robert Garcia]. I was fine."
There was no real damage, but it was a quick reminder to Garcia that he had moved up in weight and was challenging a world champion.
Martinez tried to use his height advantage to keep Garcia at bay. But Garcia got himself in striking range by taking a half step forward rather than jumping in. Whenever Martinez would lunge forward to throw a punch, Garcia was able to counter with a sharp left hook. Martinez looked off balance every time he tried to land a power shot. And Garcia's defense was frustratingly tight.
The beginning of the end for Martinez came in the sixth round when Garcia wobbled the Puerto Rican champion with a stunning left hook. Martinez looked like a newborn colt after the punch. But it was a false front of bravado from Martinez as Garcia continued to rake him with punches. He beat his chest and waved his hands, beckoning Garcia to come forward and fight. Garcia obliged and stuck a left to his rib cage -- a harbinger of bad things to come for Martinez.
Martinez landed just two punches to Garcia's 45 in the seventh round, according to CompuBox punch statistics. That was fairly representative of the beating that Martinez was absorbing as Garcia put the pressure on Martinez, who considered himself an aggressive stalker. It seemed only a matter of time before Garcia would conclude matters in concussive fashion.
The hook to the liver was the coup de grace.
"I think he had respect for the power early on,'" Garcia said. "Maybe he was trying to outbox me the last few seconds of the round. I saw him kind of flurry the last 10 seconds and try to steal the round. When he caught me he didn't apply pressure. I was expecting him to come at me stronger, but he had a different game plan."
Now that he has successfully moved up to super featherweight, there could be more upward mobility in Garcia's future. He wants to fight Yuriorkis Gamboa, the lightweight champion from Cuba.
"I'm willing to go up and meet him at 135 if he doesn't want to come down. It will be a good fight. People want to see it. There's been talk about it for some time. Let's do it. I think anybody they want to put in front of me I'm ready for anybody."
Back in April, Nonito Donaire did not look like the boxer whose left hook landed with the impact of Thor's hammer when he fought the slick Guillermo Rigondeaux. Instead he looked disinterested and consequently lost a dull decision.
What better way to get Donaire's attention and allow him to unleash his power than putting his old foe Vic Darchinyan in front of him. It worked like a charm for Donaire, who stopped Darchinyan on a TKO at 2:06 of the ninth round of a scheduled 10-round featherweight match.
Donaire (32-2, 21 KOs) was trailing on the two scorecards and needed the knockout to win the fight. He got it when he sailed a left hook over Darchinyan's jab and dropped the Armenian to his knees and into the ropes. Darchinyan (39-6-1, 28 KOs) got up on unsteady legs and appeared to be out on his feet, but referee Laurence Cole allowed the fight to continue.
Donaire pushed Darchinyan to the corner and continued to rain punches on him. When he landed a stunning uppercut that snapped Darchinyan's head upward, Cole stepped in and stopped the fight.
"I tried to work on a different style, which was going backwards,"' Donaire said. "It was hard for me to go back. I wanted to fight. They kept telling me to box, box and be smart. But part of my body memorized the fighting style, which worked in the end anyway."
It would be completely understandable if Darchinyan had been carrying a grudge against Nonito Donaire for the past six years. The last time they fought, Darchiyan was the king of the flyweight division and Donaire knocked him stiff in the fifth round.
Donaire, a heavy-handed, four-division world champion, used that match as the launching pad that saw him rise in acclaim and land among the top five of the Pound-for-Pound list. Darchinyan, an Armenian who lives in Australia, didn't go in that direction. And he's been waiting a long time to avenge that loss. He would have to meet him again at featherweight. It was his first time fighting at the weight.
It didn't take long for Donaire and Darchinyan to determine that they wanted to take each other's head off. That played out in the second round when Donaire staggered Darchinyan with a straight right and Darchinyan came back and buzzed Donaire with a sharp left hook.
At that point no one at the American Bank Center was thinking the match would go the distance. It didn't. And it ended just in time for Donaire, who was on his way to a split decision loss if he hadn't taken matters into his thunderous fists.
Donaire said he would like to have a rematch against Rigondeaux. But Carl Moretti, the chief of boxing operations for Top Rank, Donaire's promoters, said they are looking at matching him against featherweight champions Evgeny Gradovich or Nicholas Walter.
Demetrius Andrade and Vanes Martirosyan, a pair of former U.S. Olympic boxers, came to Corpus Christi searching for validation in the junior middleweight division. Andrade got what he came for and Martirosyan went home bitterly disappointed.
Andrade (20-0, 13 KOs) rallied from a first round knockdown to score a 12-round split decision victory over Martirosyan for the WBO junior welterweight belt. Martirosyan, a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic boxing team, had waited nine years for his opportunity to fight for a world title.
It looked like Martirosyan (33-1-1, 21 KOs) was going to have too much power for Andrade after he caught Andrade in the first round with a counter left that dropped the 25-year-old southpaw on his trunks in the middle of the ring. But Andrade got up from the knockdown and went on to control the remainder of the fight by using his jab as the platform for his offense.
Martirosyan spent the remainder of the match looking to land something with the same thunderous authority of that counter left in the first round. He never could.
Andrade thrust himself into the conversation of intriguing matches in the junior middleweight division. Whether any of the current champions at that level will listen is another matter.