A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

One of the great things about boxing is that a hungry fighter can come out of nowhere and do something special if given an opportunity.

That’s what Sandor Martin of Spain did on Saturday night in Fresno, California, where he outboxed former four-division titleholder Mikey Garcia to win what should’ve been a unanimous decision in a 10-round welterweight bout.

Garcia stalked Martin from the outset but was never able to figure out a way to land punches consistently, as the athletic Spaniard danced out of harm’s way or clinched to avoid inside exchanges. The pound-for-pounder landed only 60 punches, according to CompuBox.

At the same time, Martin countered well and caught Garcia coming in more than enough to catch the attention of the judges. He landed relatively few punches himself – 75 – but he made them count.

It was a winning formula. Two judges gave Martin seven rounds (as did I) while the third judge (Zachary Young) somehow scored it a draw, giving Martin one of the biggest upsets in recent years by a majority decision.

The victory is a career-changer for Martin, who had never faced a fighter of Garcia’s caliber or fought in such a high-profile event. The former kickboxer from Barcelona is now a bona fide title contender, which had been his dream.

There was talk of a rematch but that seems unlikely to me. Martin is a natural 140-pounder who fought Garcia at a catch weight of 145. He’ll probably move back down in weight and target undisputed junior welterweight champ Josh Taylor.

Could Martin beat Taylor? He already proved anything is possible.

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BAD

Mikey Garcia had a difficult time connecting against Sandor Martin the entire fight.  Photo by Matchroom Boxing

Was Garcia rusty? That would be understandable given a layoff of almost 20 months. Was he uninspired? It can be difficult to find motivation when you fight obscure opponents. Was it an off night? That happens.

Or was it worse? Is the best of the 33-year-old Garcia in his past?

I believe Garcia’s poor showing can be attributed to all of the above, although to different degrees.

A long layoff and a lack of fire can produce flat performances, which might be what Garcia experienced. He looked to me like a bored fighter going through the motions, not one battling to earn another shot at a major championship.

If he hopes to regain his status as one of the best in the business, he has to fight as if he were young and hungry to make his mark. Otherwise, he could have more nights like one he endured on Saturday.

And, let’s face it, Garcia probably will never again be the dominating fighter he was at more natural weights of 126, 130 and 135, at which he rolled over the likes of Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez, Roman Martinez, Juan Carlos Burgos and many more.

A reasonable question: Does he still have enough to win one more major title? I believe he does, particularly if he pursues it at 140 pounds and learned a lesson on Saturday.

***

WORSE

Boxing lost one of the last stars of a golden era when 89-year-old Hall of Famer Tony DeMarco died on Oct. 11.

DeMarco peaked in the 1950s, when the talent pool was deep and fighters first performed on television on a regular basis. DeMarco, Carmen Basilio, Johnny Saxton, Kid Gavilan, Vince Martinez, Wallace Bud Smith and Jimmy Carter were household names at that time and important figures in boxing lore.

DeMarco, whose real name was Leo Liotta, borrowed a friend’s name so he could turn pro at 16 years old (two younger than the required 18) in 1948. He was known as Tony DeMarco thereafter.

He quickly became a fan favorite because of his ferocious style, one in which he was willing to take punches in order to deliver them. And he reached the pinnacle of the sport. The Bostonian knocked out Johnny Saxton in the 14th round to win the world welterweight title in 1955, when there was only one champion per division.

He lost his belt to the great Carmen Basilio in his first defense two months later – and would never win another — but continued to prove that he could compete with anyone.

And a number of his fights are remembered as classics, particularly a brutal, back-and-forth rematch with Basilio – a 12-round knockout victory for the New Yorker – that was the 1955 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year and one of best of the era.

“I didn’t win that night but they said it was the Fight of the Year and some people say it was the Fight of the Century,” DeMarco once told the Boston Globe. “How many guys are part of the Fight of the Year?

“I have to be grateful for that.”

The boxing world is grateful to you, Tony. RIP.



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