Why hasn’t HBO posted its video highlights of Sergio Martinez-Paul Williams II yet on YouTube? After all, it’s not like the thing hasn’t gotten incredible exposure already. It was on SportsCenter Saturday night. Today, it made #6 on SportsCenter’s list of top 10 plays of the weekend. They showed it on Around the Horn and debated it on PTI. So until HBO wises up and gets digital on this one — knockout videos can go “viral,” you know, HBO — I post the above pirated footage. Anyway, it’s tremendous exposure for the sport, this knockout. You don’t see non pay-per-view fights get this kind of attention. There’s the magic formula, boxers dying for mainstream exposure: Land one of the best punches that anyone can land. No problem. Get to it.
Understandably, Martinez-Williams II is the focus of this edition of Weekend Afterthoughts. It was a momentous fight, to say the least, with events shocking, controversial (I apparently overestimated the capacity of boxing fans/writers to just enjoy a damn good fight), and pregnant with implications.
- The punch. On PTI, they discussed whether it was a lucky punch or a perfect one. The argument for “lucky” is that Martinez’ eyes were closed. Nah. Boxers close their eyes during big punches a fair amount, a la Antonio Tarver’s knockout of Roy Jones, Jr. They know where that shot is going. It’s second nature for these dudes, and it’s freaking cool. Alec Kohut called it “possibly one of the best middleweight punches in decades,” and he’s right, although that qualifier probably isn’t necessary. It’s not the best punch I’ve seen recently, even — Manny Pacquiao’s knockout of Ricky Hatton last year was better — but it sure will go down in the history books. It’s got a very nice head start on Knockout of the Decade, really. And, for all the discussion of what kind of punch it was, this technicality must be discussed. To me, it looked like an overhand left. But there’s a debate about whether a southpaw can throw a left hook or a right hander can throw a right hook. Some traditionalists will answer “no,” that it is a left cross. My problem with that is that many other boxers and boxing people call an arcing left hand punch by a southpaw a left hook (like Pacquiao, who described his punch against Hatton as a left hook) and really, that’s a more descriptive term. If you call a hook-like shot from the left hand of a southpaw a cross, you lose descriptive power; the listener or reader doesn’t know if the punch was straight or roundhouse.
- Fighter of the Year. It’s a bummer to give away my choices so early for year-end awards, the way I did declaring Martinez the Fighter of the Year and calling his knockout of Williams the Knockout of the Year. But hey, somebody could come along and topple Martinez for KO of the Year, and there are some good candidates out there for runner-up right now. As for Fighter of the Year… I think that’s pretty sealed. Michael Rosenthal said Jean Pascal was in the running, and candidly I hadn’t thought of him. But if Pascal beats Hopkins, his wins over Hopkins and Chad Dawson probably don’t get him into the #1 spot, however parallel to Martinez’ wins over Pavlik and Williams (to claim a lineal championship, as Pascal did against Chad Dawson and Martinez did against Pavlik; to beat a top-5 pound-for-pound fighter, as Pascal did against Dawson and Martinez did against Williams; and to beat a second arguable top-10 pound-for-pound fighter, as Pascal might do against Hopkins and Martinez did against Pavlik). Martinez’ win over Williams was so definitive, and Pascal’s win over Dawson was a little marred, so Pascal would have to do something special to Hopkins to slide into the #1 spot for Fighter of the Year.
- Pound-for-pound. Martinez has to move up to no lower than #4 after this win and could even go to #2. The variables are this: welterweight Floyd Mayweather still has the overall better resume, and in recent wins, his defeat of Shane Mosley is at least comparable to Martinez’ defeat of Williams; and, lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez takes on his top challenger, Michael Katsidis, this coming weekend. I think there are good arguments for putting Martinez at #2, but I think there are also good arguments for Marquez — again, he has the better overall career resume — at #3 if he beats Katsidis. Fortunately for me, I only update every two months. So I don’t have to decide until Dec. 31. But it does kind of show what a meteoric rise Martinez has put together. He wasn’t on anybody’s map until about mid-2008, at the earliest, and he wasn’t on HBO until October of 2008. A robbery draw against Cintron and a debatable loss against Williams in 2009, then this kind of 2010? Meteoric. As for Williams, his survival in the top 10 is jeopardized, and might depend somewhat on what other fights do over the next two months.
- Disappointing attendance. Attendance was estimated at about 5,500, which raises questions about what kind of fight, exactly, boxing fans would rather see. If you lived nearby to Atlantic City, and you sometimes go to boxing matches, why didn’t you go to this one? It was a guaranteed special fight, and while it wasn’t special the way anyone expected, it sure was special nonetheless. And I don’t know what kind of ticket numbers Williams and Martinez generated, separately or as a much-desired sequel; a good portion of the crowd was there for Maryland prospect Fernando Guerrero, another portion was there for Hungary’s Zsolt Erdei, and another portion was there for Philly prospect Steve Upsher Chambers. I get that boxing is a sport of regional and ethnic alliances, that ticket sellers aren’t just who is best, but you’d think a couple thousand more people might have said, “Yeah, I need to see this in person.”
- Catchweight. Yes, this is still being debated. I just want to make one final point about this. Martinez, for all his protests, has no problem with catchweights. He offered them before this fight and he offered them moments after he won in the press room. I get that as middleweight champion, he has more moral authority to dictate terms to challengers. But if you’re OK with catchweights in some circumstances but not others, the question has to be asked: Why? The reason, I think, goes to his promoter Lou DiBella declaring afterward that he believed Williams was a welterweight or junior middleweight at best. In other words, DiBella wanted THIS fight at 160 because they suspected it would be an advantage for them. It’s the same reason Williams’ team wanted the fight at 158, by the way: His promoter Dan Goossen thinks he’s a welterweight, too, and he wanted the fight at as low a weight as he could negotiate. I bet if they had their way, the fight would be at 154. For that reason, 158 strikes me as a pretty reasonable compromise — Williams wanted it lower, Martinez wanted it higher, and they settled on a weight closer to 160 than 154. And by the way, it’s not as if Williams didn’t have an argument for getting some things his way. He won the first fight, whether you think he did or not, because that’s what the judges decided. Usually, the winner of a fight gets to dictate terms for the rematch. Neither man is a gate draw, but judging by the cheering, Williams was the one who was the favorite of the crowd, even if just by virtue of being American. Usually, the person who’s the bigger draw is the person who gets to dictate terms. Whether Williams deserved more of the money or to be introduced first in the ring (they split on this, by the way — Martinez got to walk out second) is a separate question. And keep in mind, Williams’ people didn’t get everything they wanted — like a rematch clause. I’m sure Williams having Al Haymon as his manager didn’t hurt one bit at the negotiating table, but if Haymon had the magical powers attributed to him (my understanding is that he’s responsible for the War of Jenkins’ Ear, by the way) then: 1. This fight wouldn’t have happened at all — Williams’ team wanted this fight only after exhausting other options; 2. It would have happened at 154, not 158; and 3. There would have been a rematch clause.
- Wrong storyline. Part of why this catchweight thing has swung so much against Williams, I suspect, is because some boxing fans and writers tried to force this good vs. good fight into a good vs. evil fight. Martinez is everything you could want in a prizefighter. But then, so is Williams. Both men take all challengers, both men are good guys who stay out of trouble and speak well, both guys fight in exciting styles. But because Williams is affiliated with Haymon, because he wanted a catchweight, suddenly he’s the bad guy. Being affiliated with Haymon should not in any way reflect poorly on the fighter affiliated with him. Haymon gets his fighters paid, and he often (but not always, as Williams shows) gets them easy fights on HBO. Williams is not at all some typical Haymon fighter, marked by crap fight after crap fight on HBO. Let’s not let a guy’s manager and two pounds’ difference at the negotiating table turn him into a villain.
- Next for Martinez. This is no more settled than it was the day after the fight. The fact is, Martinez doesn’t have any obvious big money options and at 35, he doesn’t have much time to get one, either. DiBella tried to lure Bob Arum into giving him a fight with Pacquiao by saying that Martinez could get down to 155, but it would kill him to do so. It didn’t work, but it was worth a try. Unless Floyd Mayweather gets brave, he has to settle for a variety of lesser options. Alfredo Angulo at 156 might be the best of those, but his situation’s uncertain and I think there’s at least a reasonable doubt about whether Angulo would want a piece of Martinez at any weight. Nobody will want a rubber match with Williams until Williams re-establishes himself. Felix Sturm and Dmitry Pirog are intriguing opponents who could make competitive fights with Martinez, but neither of them are big time in the United States. Martinez probably has to move to 168 before he can make some scratch, like against Lucian Bute, but Martinez’ team doesn’t believe he’s ready for 168 yet. Another option would be to wait for some of the good young middleweights out there to develop into attractions, but that is probably years away. It’s too bad that Martinez became such an overnight sensation and might not be able to capitalize on it.
- Next for Williams. Dan Rafael said that the first Martinez fight “clearly” took something out of Williams. I’m not sure it’s all that clear. It’s a jump ball, I think. What’s possible instead is that Martinez got much, much better in the interim and that the shot he landed would have taken out just about anybody, let alone a guy who probably isn’t a true middleweight. We’ll see. There are fighters who have come back from one-shot KOs like that, such as Roberto Duran after the Tommy Hearns knockout, and more recently, Vic Darchinyan after the Nonito Donaire knockout. Darchinyan honed his game some after getting clobbered, but mainly he’s the same old brawling guy who cares more about hitting you than getting hit; his chin appears no worse for the wear today than before the Donaire knockout. The other big debate here is whether Williams needs to overhaul his game. No, he doesn’t fight tall, the way a 6’3″ fighter maybe should. But isn’t that what makes him exciting? Does anyone want a middleweight Wladimir Klitschko? I don’t. He can fight basically the same way he did against Martinez and beat a lot of guys, so long as his chin isn’t permanently broken after this. I’m of the mind that, so long as he can take a good shot still, he really just needs to sharpen up his defense more and learn to work his jab more effectively. It still leaves him with some flaws, but I’d rather have a flawed, exciting fighter who fights at a high level than a boring, loss-less fighter who fights at a slightly higher level. And at age 29, I’m not even sure you could overhaul Williams to fight so much taller. He’s young still, but he’s been a pro for a long time fighting this way.
- Other results. Check out Rafael’s scorecard for the full weekend results. I’d like to get a look at round 9 of the Raul Martinez-Rodrigo Guerrero bout, since it was called a Round of the Year candidate here. Sad face.