CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Puerto Rican junior lightweight titleholder Rocky Martinez was brought to South Texas to provide a welcoming belt to Californian Mikey Garcia in his new weight class, as well as a measure of redemption for the unprofessional way Garcia outgrew the featherweight division in June. Martinez succeeded on both those counts, if no others.
Saturday at American Bank Center, in the main event of a card broadcast on HBO’s Boxing After Dark program, Garcia (33-0, 28 KOs) overcame an early flash knockdown to bludgeon Martinez (27-2-2, 16 KOs) for the entirety of their match and stop him, finally and violently, with a left hook to the liver at 0:56 of the eighth round.
“I had him hurt earlier with the right hand up top,” Garcia said. “I saw him covering up higher, so I looked for the body shot, and put the left hand right on the liver. I didn’t know if he was going to try to get up. I thought he would.”
Asked about the surprising second-round knockdown that provided the main event what little suspense it enjoyed, Garcia was typically sanguine and poised.
“Just got caught,” he said. “(Martinez) caught me with his right hand. He caught me on the chin. I was fine. I wasn’t dizzy.”
“I knew I was fighting a high quality opponent,” Martinez conceded. “I knew he wasn’t hurt when I knocked him down in the second.”
Martinez was reduced to a punching bag soon thereafter, and by round six he contended himself merely with proving how many flush right crosses he could absorb from Garcia. With so little competitive action about which to speak after the match, Garcia fielded a question about the long-threatened possibility of a fight with Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa.
“I’m willing to go up and meet him at 135, if he doesn’t want to come down,” Garcia said. “Let’s do it.
“I think anybody they want to put in front of me I’m ready for.”
DONAIRE SCORES COME-FROM-BEHIND STOPPAGE
Nonito Donaire’s second fight with Vic “Raging Bull” Darchinyan was billed as a grudge match, and for once the promotional tagline told absolutely no lies.
Saturday’s co-main event, a late-arriving rematch of the 2007 fight that marked Donaire’s professional ascent and Darchinyan’s decline, exceeded all expectations for competitiveness and vigor, despite their being high expectations to exceed. Down by margins enough to require a knockout going into the ninth round of a scheduled 10, Donaire (32-2, 21 KOs) stepped into a last maniacal exchange with a man he says hates him – and a man who certainly fought Donaire like he did – and this time caught Darchinyan (39-6-1, 28 KOs) with the short left-hook counter the “Filipino Flash” had spent much of Saturday trying to tee up. The end came shortly thereafter, and Donaire was its winner by technical knockout at 2:09 of the ninth round.
“I wanted to fight, and they kept telling me to box, box and be smart,” Donaire said after the knockout victory, in his first match since a decision loss to Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux in April. “I tried to work hard every day in the gym to get back.”
Once Donaire had Darchinyan hurt, he pursued his rival with a malice of intention altogether uncharacteristic of the “Filipino Flash,” blasting the suddenly defenseless Armenian with ferocious right uppercuts until referee Laurence Cole wisely and mercifully abided no more, calling an end to the rematch.
Saturday’s co-main event was very much a question of left hands: Could Darchinyan land from his southpaw stance a racing left cross, or could Donaire time Darchinyan and counter with the same lights-out left hook he placed on Darchinyan six years ago? The answer, early at least, was yes – to both. But as the rounds progressed, and Darchinyan applied his signature pressure while Donaire looked to land a single fight-changing blow, the scorecards moved Darchinyan’s way.
“To be honest, when he hit me in my cheek, it felt like he broke my cheek, and I thought, ‘Is this it?’” Donaire admitted. “But I would never, ever quit.”
While Donaire had numerous ways of winning, Darchinyan had but one, and that one was how Donaire chose to fight and beat Darchinyan, much to his credit. Afterwards, an elated Donaire jogged to ringside and embraced Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., on hand as a TV Azteca commentator.
“¡Que buena pelea (what a good fight)!” exclaimed Chavez.
Fantastic as the ending of the rematch was for Donaire, it was another look, a second look this year, at a fighter who appeared invincible in 2012 while en route to winning Fighter of the Year honors, but has looked plenty vulnerable in his two outings of 2013. Donaire used his final public words in Saturday’s ring to call-out Rigondeaux, but it is unlikely the Donaire who stopped Darchinyan would have any better luck on his second try with the Cuban.
ANDRADE WINS VACANT WBO 154-POUND TITLE
The televised portion of Saturday’s nine-fight American Bank Center card began with a surprisingly suspenseful 12-round title match between two former U.S. amateur standouts, as undefeated 2008 Olympian Demetrius Andrade (20-0, 13 KOs) squared up with undefeated 2004 Olympian Vanes Martirosyan (33-1-1, 21 KOs) in a fight for the vacant WBO 154-pound title. While better than feared, the fight ultimately went a longer way towards explaining Team USA’s recent inability to win medals than thrill its South Texas audience.
Andrade prevailed by split-decision scores – 114-113, 112-115 and 117-111 – that reflected a judging affinity for activity over effectiveness, as Andrade threw and landed many more punches than Martirosyan, while appearing not to hurt him.
If either man was hurt during the match, a questionable premise, it was Andrade, who was dropped in round one by a Martirosyan right hand he ran directly into. In the end, that knockdown made no difference to the result, and Martirosyan, the man who was inactive but technically proficient, lost to Andrade, the man who was faster and busier but occasionally confounded by his own long limbs.
Saturday attendance in American Bank Center, which had empty seats and an upper level closed to the public, was announced at 5,124.
Photos / Chris Farina-Top Rank