ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Middleweight Paul Williams came out ahead of Sergio Martinez in a ridiculously entertaining war Saturday night that was marked by two 1st round knockdowns, wild swings in momentum and one horrible scorecard. Martinez proved he’d be as tough an opponent as most thought he would despite being a 4-1 underdog, and Williams had to dig deep after suffering the first knockdown of his career and scrape one out in a Fight of the Year-caliber bout.
On the undercard, meanwhile, heavyweight Chris Arreola knocked out Brian Minto in the 4th round of what, off-hand, has to be the best heavyweight fight of 2009. It was a straight-up brawl, with Minto coming at Arreola for the knockout even after being badly wobbled.
A thrilling night on HBO, minus the controversy in the main event.
Martinez fought Williams tooth and nail and a draw or slight edge to either fighter would have made perfect sense — that’s what two judges had it, a draw and a 115-113 win for Williams — but a 119-110 scorecard in this fight, as one judge had it, is absurd. It’s been a terrible, terrible week for boxing judging, as we’ve covered here. The only round Pierre Benoist gave Martinez was the 2nd. It does tarnish this fight somewhat, to have that kind of atrocious scoring attached to it.
But it still was, as HBO’s Max Kellerman said, a classic. In the 1st, Williams sent Martinez down first, but it was more of an off-balance knockdown. Williams, by contrast, seemed genuinely hurt and unaware of where he was when he went down, and if not for the knockdown coming so late in the round, I’m not convinced he would have made it out of the opening stanza. In the next few rounds, Martinez was landing his counter right at will, plus mixing in some lead lefts. But Williams began to land combos that seemed to stifle and tire Martinez.
For most of the first part of the fight, and then at the end, both guys were trying to throw like they were shooting for the knockout with every punch. It was in the middle rounds where Williams won this fight, as a tired Martinez tried to stay away to gather himself. In those rounds, Williams worked his jab, worked harder overall and won some of the skirmishes. Martinez rallied hard in the championship rounds, but in an exhausted 12th round for both men, it was Williams who did more and did more damage.
There was talk of a rematch, with both fighters saying they were willing. I think everyone would love to see that. Especially to settle the score, literally.
On the undercard, heavyweight Chris Arreola knocked out Brian Minto in what strikes me off hand as the best heavyweight fight of the year. Minto was better than I expected, more mobile and more highly-skilled than I realized. The first three rounds were closely fought, with Arreola’s overhand right pitted against Minto’s right hook. In the 4th, one of those overhand rights put Minto down, and he was hurt. But when he got back up, as Arreola charged toward him to finish the show, Minto decided to become the definition of “going out on his shield.” He was going to win the fight or lose it at that moment, and the exchanges those two boys landed were real mean. But Arreola hits harder and Minto doesn’t take a punch as well, so he knocked down Minto again and the refree wisely stopped the fight as Minto got up and wobbled around. I knew Minto was tough — I didn’t know he was ultra-tough.
If Arreola’s looking for a good opponent next, fellow heavyweight Tony Thompson won a fight on the undercard and looked good doing it, too. Arreola-Thompson would be a hell of a fight between two hard-hitting men, one a more solid boxer and one a more destructive force.