Friday, March 23: Staying on Eastern time I arose at 6:45 a.m. and spent most of the next few hours catching up on e-mail and tending to my writing duties. As I looked out the window, I saw a large hill dotted with hundreds of cacti framed by a gorgeous blue sky. It was postcard-quality stuff, but I knew I couldn’t indulge until I finished my work.
When I reached a good stopping point, I walked down to the lobby to print my boarding passes for tomorrow’s flights. Like the Boy Scouts, the number-one rule for Travelin’ Men is “be prepared.” And the number-two rule is “be early”; my flight from Tucson to Phoenix was scheduled to leave at 7 a.m. but I always try to complete tasks well before they need to be. That helps keep the stress level down and the gray hairs at bay.
As I was navigating the boarding pass kiosk, Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood stopped to say hello on his way to a workout in the hotel gym. As always he had a smile on his face and a friendly word.
I’ve known Steve for nearly 25 years and he ranks as one of the most knowledgeable yet most likeable boxing people I’ve ever met. Despite my being in my early 20s and a complete no-name , Steve granted me the chance to write features for the various magazines he edited. Sometimes I wondered what he saw in me (his answer: “I saw that you could write well.”). No matter, he, along with Nigel Collins and Phill Marder, allowed me to spread my wings and get a taste of what I hoped would be my future.
To show my appreciation to Farhood, I asked him to write the foreword to “Tales From the Vault” during the 2009 International Boxing Hall of Fame weekend and he instantly accepted. His contribution was so well done that it occasionally got more ink from reviewers than my own work did. That’s OK; Steve earned those kudos first as a writer, then as a broadcaster, and I strongly believe he will someday join Showtime colleague Al Bernstein in the IBHOF. It would be a most well-deserved honor and I hope I’ll be there to see it.
I met my ride – punch-counting partner Andy Kasprzak – in the lobby at 12:30 and we arrived at the Casino Del Sol a half-hour later. Sunlight revealed what we had missed the previous evening – spectacular desert scenery and a terrific view of Tucson’s sky line.
After getting our credentials and setting up electronically we exchanged our food vouchers to consume a delicious buffet that would have to sustain us for the next eight hours. Unbeknownst to me this night would boast more than its share of plot twists, coincidences and controversy.
The first fight started a little after 6 p.m. with a six-rounder between middleweights Abie Han and Rahman Yusubov. Though Han (15-0, 10 knockouts coming in) was based either in Tijuana (bout sheet) or El Paso (Boxrec), he wore trunks bearing U.S. and South Korean flags while Yusubov (13-5, 11 KOs coming in) hailed from Dallas by way of Azerbaijan. The U.N. would have been proud.
Han dominated the first four rounds by moving in tight circles and whacking Yusubov with double hooks to the head and body, knifing right uppercuts to the jaw and deftly hooking off the jab. All the while Yusubov kept chugging forward and rarely changed expression despite his involuntary leather shower. Han’s power punch accuracy was off the charts in the first nine minutes as he went 84 of 144 (58 percent), including 29 of 41 (71 percent) in round three. Yusubov’s best moment came in the fifth when a winging hook momentarily shook Han, but a 9 o f 23 final minute burst enabled the undefeated fighter to regain control and coast to a resounding 60-54, 60-54, 59-55 decision.
The final CompuBox stats in Han’s favor were equally overwhelming: He out-landed Yusubov 185-69 overall, 48-7 in jabs and 137-62 in power punches. Moreover, Han connected on 60 percent of his hooks, uppercuts and crosses. That’s both good news and bad news for Han – the good is that fighters who land at least 50 percent of their power shots almost always win. The bad news is that rarely do such fights go to a decision, which speaks of Han’s lack of one-punch power. Nevertheless, Yusubov never quit, and that was to his credit.
Next up was an eight-rounder between developing Andy Ruiz Jr. (13-0, 8 KOs coming in) of Mexicali against Kingsville, Texas’ Homero Fonseca (9-4-3, 2 KOs coming in). Based on corner locations – the house fighters all fought out of the blue corner — and records, the 253-pound Ruiz appeared poised for a short night because his 5-foot-9, 291 ½-pound opponent looked woefully out of condition.
Though he lost a resounding 80-72 decision on all three cards, Fonseca proved a durable and feisty sort. From time to time he charged at his more talented rival but Ruiz’s quicker hands and overhand cluster bombs caused Fonseca’s body to shudder. An illustration of Ruiz’s dominance could be found in the second round – Ruiz landed 38 punches while Fonseca threw only 35.
Ruiz’s only serious attempt at a knockout occurred during the second minute of round three. There he uncorked a 28-of-48 barrage that included 24 power connects but Fonseca somehow withstood it without going down. Not only did he survive, he actually buckled Ruiz midway through the fourth with a quartet of flush hooks and crosses. The rally was short-lived and Ruiz went on to cruise to victory.
The numbers were devastatingly dominant: Ruiz out-landed Fonseca 219-45 overall, landing 45 percent of his punches to Ruiz’s 15 percent. He also trounced Fonseca in power connects (162-32) and accuracy (48 percent to 21 percent). Ruiz’s jab also was very effective as he landed 38 percent of them to Fonseca’s 9 percent en route to a 57-13 connect advantage.
The final pre-telecast bout also featured the night’s most impressive KO as 20-year-old Hanzel Martinez (16-0, 13 KOs coming in) torched Jose Miguel Tamayo (12-3-2, 11 KO coming in) in 80 seconds. A wicked right to the chin caused Tamayo to fall as if in slow motion, and though he regained his feet his unsteady behavior prompted the stoppage.
Martinez is a fighter with two personas. One was the destructive one-punch knockout artist that was on display this night while the other persona was showcased one fight earlier on the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II undercard last December. In capturing a four-round decision over Felipe Castaneda, the man aptly nicknamed “El Tornadito” put forth a volume-punching display unprecedented in CompuBox’s 26-year history in two respects.
First, he became the first fighter ever to record two consecutive 200-punch rounds (213 in round three and 206 in round four). Not even his corner man Margarito – the all-time record for punches thrown in a fight (1,675 against Joshua Clottey in 2005) – has one 200-punch round to his name.
Second, and more amazingly, Martinez became the only fighter to surpass the 200-punch-per-round threshold twice. Until Martinez arrived on the scene, that benchmark has only been reached three times – and all of them occurred in the 12thround. The first was Zack Padilla’s 207 against Ray Oliveira in December 1993 while Oliveira (226) and Vince Phillips (237) produced the other two simultaneously in December 2000.
No one knows which version of Martinez will walk up the ring steps from fight to fight, but either way he’ll be fun to watch.