The night magical middleweights Sergio Martinez and Kelly Pavlik went to war
Plus, Miller and Browne slug it out in Dubai
There’s nothing I like more than sliding back a decade or so to relive some of the best fights of the recent past. It brings back fond memories re-watching classic bouts that I remember from the time. The build-up, the circumstances, the high stakes and thin margins between victory and defeat.
First reading the fight reports in Boxing Monthly, finally catching the fights a few weeks later on DVD when purchased from the bootleg dealers in the back of boxing magazines. It was a far cry from the instantaneous methods we have today, where you can catch a full American show at the time or download the next morning.
Recently I hooked up with Boxing Asylum stalwart Andy P and my esteemed co-host Matty DiGi to discuss the 2010 clash between Argentine road warrior Sergio Martinez and Youngstown hero Kelly Pavlik. This was episode four of the fifth season of the popular Punches from the Past series that we run through the Patreon. If you’ve never heard PFTP before, you can click the video below for a snippet. Originated by Kurt Ward under the working title ‘Fights, fights, fights’ it’s basically a low budget Legendary Nights!
Looking back at the contest itself, it turned out to be a thrilling 12 rounds of back-and-forth action between two premium operators. There were cuts, knockdowns and twists in the tale on that April night in the Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City. During Punches from the Past we recapped the 36 minutes of intense leather:
In round one Pavlik tried to close the distance behind his jab but found himself struggling with the hand speed and movement of Martinez, who was cuffed to the floor at the end of the round. The referee (David Fields) correctly ruled it as no knockdown, but it had been a costly session for Pavlik who trudged back to his corner sporting a nasty cut over his left eyelid.
Sergio lowered his hands in round two and moved forward in his trademark languid stance, leading to a couple of near misses on head clashes. Clearly struggling at the weight, Pavlik had rehydrated above light-heavyweight and was looking a little bloated around the waist.
As I often say on the podcast, it’s always a welcome treat listening back to the wise words of the late Emanuel Steward who was part of the HBO broadcast for this fight. During the third round, Emanuel rightly commented on Martinez’s contentment at how the bout was progressing, while Pavlik appeared increasingly uncomfortable and a little discouraged so early in the fight.
The Ohio man got a little closer in the third and while Martinez was no Bernard Hopkins (who had handed Kelly his first loss) his boxing ability and athleticism was causing issues.
As you know, boxing is a crazy sport. Join Steve as he picks through the madness like a prime James Toney. It’s completely FREE and each post lands straight in your inbox every Friday 👇
Watching back on these old fights is a good opportunity to hear from some of the old characters of the fight game who you wouldn’t see around as much. Norman Stone, Roger Bloodworth, Dan Birmingham and, in this case, Pavlik’s trainer Jack Loew. A vocal cornerman who was never afraid to tell it straight, after round four Loew screamed: “Stop chasing his fucking head!”, imploring his man to hunt the body in an attempt to close the range and slow Sergio down.
Meanwhile, HBO unofficial scorer Harold Lederman was lauding Martinez’s ring generalship which had been a key asset to that point. Pavlik responded to his coach’s rants and finally threw to the body as Martinez continued to fire the left hand upstairs.
As slick as Martinez’s movement had been to this point, in round five the wily old fox Larry Merchant got in one of his subtle observations by implying that the Argentine’s style equated to running and compared him to a bicycle rider.
There were question marks about Sergio’s stamina and his ability to maintain such an intense pace against someone so methodically relentless. The pro-Pavlik crowd raised the volume a couple of levels, sensing their man was closing the gap.
By round six Pavlik had worked out how to block some of Martinez’s shots. He was making the Argentine fall short and starting to work out his flow and rhythm. Jack Loew was also hitting his verbal flow, referring to Martinez as a “son-of-a-bitch” in between rounds.
Fast hands: Martinez’s athletic approach troubled Pavlik
Adept at motoring forward and grinding opponents down, Pavlik showed that he is a well schooled, thinking fighter who could adjust and adapt to opponents’ styles. After the Hopkins bout some questioned whether he had the brains to solve a conundrum. Midway through the seventh round Pavlik found a mini breakthrough in the form of a cuffing right hand, mixed with a shove, to put Martinez down. Across his long career, Sergio was no stranger to the canvas.
Buoyed by a solid seventh, Pavlik’s jab was working nicely in round eight as he took Loew’s advice, stabbing the body and forcing Martinez on to the back foot. Martinez’s hands remained sprightly but his agility was flagging as the tide threatened to turn….
That was until Pavlik suffered a second cut in round nine. Forcing another swing in the fight momentum, it was over the right eye and even worse than the last one. While Pavlik was rightly bothered by the laceration, Sergio was buoyed enough to land his fast accurate bombs again. The Spanish resident was even showboating at the end of the round.
As if Pavlik’s task wasn’t tough enough, he received a verbal lashing for being too static as Jack Loew yelled for him to, “Let your hands go!” Pavlik clearly needed something in the 10th round as Harold Lederman had conjured a 10-8 score in the previous session.
Two point rounds without any knockdowns are not handed out easily, but it was clearly one-sided as Martinez found his way back into the ascendancy. HBO lead commentator Jim Lampley quipped that if judges scored on blood then Pavlik could concede some 10-7 rounds!
Appropriately, Round 11 could’ve been one of those suggested three minute stints as Pavlik bled profusely and Martinez closed out the round with a fantastic display of two-fisted artistry. Shot after shot reigned in as Pavlik desperately tried to move out of the way. He was struggling to see at this point and struggling to avoid any straight shots.
So much so that Pavlik opted to box in the 12th and final round rather than closing down the distance and letting his hands go. He was tired and gushing with blood. He had nothing left to offer.
Both Pavlik-Taylor fights were enjoyable, but the first was a classic
Speaking post-fight to Larry Merchant, Pavlik showed a lot of humility, admitting he toiled with Martinez’s style and explained how the cut had severely impacted his efforts. In the end he pushed Sergio close, losing by scores of 115-112, 115-111 and 116-111. Harold Lederman scored it 115-112 to Martinez.
This was the last hurrah for Pavlik, a hometown hero who had carried his community along for the ride. ‘The Ghost’s’ career burned brightly around the time he fought Edison Miranda and then Jermain Taylor, but his super powers burned out quickly as his career wound down towards a limp conclusion.
As for Martinez, talk turned to a possible rematch with Pavlik or a return bout with Paul Williams who had defeated him in late 2009. The Williams rematch took place next (in November 2010) and Martinez gained emphatic revenge with one of the most memorable one-shot finishes of recent years.
KILLER MILLER OUTLASTS BLUBBERY BROWNE IN DUBAI
Back to the present day and two behemoths trying to resurrect their respective careers. As delightful as it is to enjoy the silky skills of a Mayweather, Toney or Leonard, sometimes you can’t beat the rough-and-tumble antics of sloppy heavyweights.
Jarrell Miller and Lucas Browne are both routinely out of shape and each man has endured a battle with illicit substances. However, for six rounds on Saturday night in Dubai the dumpy duo swapped hands until Browne’s resolve broke.
Aged 34, ‘Big Baby’ Miller has a boxing rap sheet that indicates no promoter should touch him with a barge pole. However, even greater villains have found a way back into the good graces of fans and money men. Therefore, it remains within the realms of possibility that Miller can still snare that elusive mega payday.
Browne, meanwhile, has always been a power puncher capable of producing a lights-out upset so he may be called upon once more, despite his portly frame and 43 years.
By the time you read this, the David Benavidez vs. Caleb Plant show is likely to have already taken place. In a year light on superfights (or announcements) we’ve still had some really nice matchups to enjoy. This PBC offering is solid from top to bottom and includes some intriguing fights. Jesus Ramos versus Joey Spencer is a great fight, with two young undefeated prospects backing themselves to beat a rival and progress to the next level.
In the Chris Colbert-Jose Valenzuela fight, further down the undercard, both men have suffered damaging losses and desperately need to rebound with a win. It’s a running theme across many of the proposed matchups that the winner moves on while the loser doesn’t necessarily have to leave town just yet.
Finally…quite what Gilberto Ramirez was doing last weekend weighing in around eight pounds over the light-heavyweight limit is anybody’s guess. His fight with Gabe Rosado was a bit of a mismatch already, given the fact that Rosado has spent much of his career around middleweight and Ramirez is clearly a physical monster. Four months after his one-sided loss to Dmitry Bivol, ‘Zurdo’ must reconsider his future and plan for a campaign at cruiserweight where he would hopefully fit in more comfortably.
Thanks for reading! Drop a little heart or even a comment if you get a minute, to show the Substack universe you enjoy a bit of boxing scribble every Friday. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Speak to you all next week…
About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 400 eps. 15+ years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief script writer for Motivedia channel. For enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.