Kelly Pavlik Gets Spirited Opposition In KO Win Over Miguel Espino

The middleweight champion did what he was supposed to, and his challenger did far more than was expected of him in a surprisingly fantastic fight. Results for that and the rest of the Top Rank pay-per-view below.

This was supposed to be a mismatch, and, ultimately, it was; Kelly Pavlik was under pressure from the sanctioning organizations to defend his belts, and they picked an opponent who couldn’t crack and wasn’t world-class. Miguel Espino never had the power to bother Pavlik when he took him on the inside for a phone booth brawl, although Pavlik’s face was bruised and scuffed up pretty quickly. Nor did Espino ever come close to winning a round, but he sure did make it exciting. He got right inside of Pavlik’s long arms and forced a close-up war, landing plenty of shots to Pavlik’s head and especially his body. Pavlik, though, was landing more and harder, both to the head and body. At the end of the 1st, Espino lost a point for punching after the bell. For as long as the fight lasted, they swapped shots that way, even though Pavlik would have been better off at a distance. Pavlik started dialing in right uppercuts on the leaning-in Espino, and by the 4th, they sent Espino down. But Espino got back up, and got sent down again. Each time he seemed about to submit, something inside him made him charge forward again, and in the 5th, an uppercut sent him down once more. Referee Steve Smoger was going to give Espino one more chance, but Espino’s corner wisely stepped in and stopped the fight. Espino will get himself another good payday fighting with that kind of spirit, and he deserves it. Pavlik afterward was saying he wanted Paul Williams, a fight he postponed twice this year to make Williams’ team get fed up and pick another opponent. If that fight happens, and I suspect it will at some point, I go back to my default mode: Pavlik can win that fight, because he can really punch and the size advantage Williams usually has isn’t as pronounced against Pavlik. If not, recent talk was for Pavlik to meet Felix Sturm, which would be the next best option at 160. It’s good to have Pavlik back after a miserable 2009; he’s an exciting and good fighter, and I hope he gets his career back on track.

Nehomar Cermeno scored an 11th round knockout of Alejandro Valdez in a battle of bantamweights who had excellent showings against the division’s elite, in a fight that had a lot of good and bad to it. Cermeno early was playing hit-and-run very well, but in the middle rounds switched to just plain run. Then, in the 11th, apparently thinking that it was the final round, he turned on the juice heavy, hurt Valdez with a combo and knocked him down with a hard right hook. Valdez tried to get up but was too dazed to continue. Let’s talk about Valdez first — he showed great heart fighting through a very bad cut that came from a head butt in the opening round, and showed great determination in chasing Cermeno. I thought he won four rounds on aggressiveness and harder punches. But Valdez couldn’t catch him much and didn’t seem to know how, and it wasn’t just that Cermeno was so quick on his feet and tricky; it was that Valdez was just following Cermeno in circles. Cermeno stayed out of long range against his taller opponent and occasionally stepped inside to do some work, but wouldn’t get caught at a bad distance very often. His performance was admirably intelligent and exceptionally frustrating in spots, the latter for the running but also for the fouling. Head butts happen with southpaws and orthodox fighters, but repeatedly Valdez was getting the worst of it, and Cermeno never was warned. He finally was deducted a point in the 11th for kneeing Valdez in the crotch, but it was the only good moment for the referee; for instance, I’m not sure either of the 2nd round knockdowns by Cermeno were actual knockdowns. Anyway, both guys showed good and bad here, but of course, Cermeno gets the win and deserved it. At 30, he should be a worthy opponent for any of the top-5 bantams. Valdez at 26

In a move up to lightweight, Humberto Soto went the distance with Jesus Chavez in a fight with a lot of rough action, and even though Soto won virtually ever round and scored a 1st round knockdown to get the wide decision, I’m no longer impressed by Soto. When he upset Rocky Juarez, he looked great. You can live with him losing to Joan Guzman because Guzman at that point was so talented and was winning acclaim as a pound-for-pound top-20 guy. And he looked like a mini-Antonio Margarito in the first fight against Francisco Lorenzo. But Soto got backed up the whole fight by a powder puff puncher who was super-slow because he’s really old in boxing years — Soto’s slow, and Chavez made him look fast — and he had a terrible time with an unproven, light-punching Benoit Gaudet earlier this year. Soto had a tougher go of it with Chavez than Michael Katsidis did a year ago; Katsidis isn’t bad, but he’s more a good action fighter than an elite boxer, and this suggests to me that Soto isn’t as good as Katsidis. There’s probably a reason they haven’t been putting Soto in any meaningful fights when there has been talk about him fighting the likes of Robert Guerrero or Edwin Valero, and I’m guessing it’s because they know they have a fighter who’s just OK. As for Chavez, I’d like to see him go out on this game effort and not come back, but

Junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan was quite good in blowing up veteran trial horse Willie Lee. He knocked him out in three with accurate punching, and demonstrated smarts throughout. He never looks like a special athlete to me, but Martirosyan knows how to fight and that takes him a long way. Lee isn’t all that, but he recently beat Alex Bunema and has been in there with some quality guys who couldn’t take him out the way Martirosyan did. Even though he’s 23, Martirosyan’s ready for another step up. Howsabout a top-10 guy or someone close? He’s graduating from prospect to contender, and in my awards round-up, were I to revise them, I’d give him an honorary mention for Prospect of the Year.

Featherweight prospect Miguel Angel Garcia knocked out an unwilling Yogli Herrera, who came in on an eight-fight losing streak and didn’t want to get up after a second knockdown in the 3rd. I didn’t see anything in Garcia that caught my eye; I guess that Herrera only losing by KO twice in his 10 prior losses would say Garcia has some power, but Herrera’s non-effort made it hard to tell ow good Garcia was.

Middleweight prospect Matt Korobov knocked out 6-11-1 Ken Dunham with a third-round flurry of power punches that put Dunham down twice. Korobov didn’t knock out his previous opponent, James Winchester, so I guess the thinking was they wanted to win that way, so they found a guy Winchester had beaten. Again, not much learned here.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.