Commentary

Martirosyan pushed to limit by Ouma

Originally Published: January 18, 2010
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:

Saturday at Las Vegas
Junior middleweight
Vanes Martirosyan W10 Kassim Ouma
Scores: 97-93 (twice), 97-92
Records: Martirosyan, 27-0, 17 KOs; Ouma, 26-7-1, 18 KOs

Rafael's remark: Martirosyan, one of Top Rank's best prospects, has been moved steadily since turning pro after representing the United States in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Finally, after five years as a pro, Martirosyan and his team, including manager Shelly Finkel and trainer Freddie Roach, felt it was time for the 23-year-old to make a move. If Martirosyan wanted to eventually compete for a championship and take on the big names of the division such as Sergio Martinez or Paul Williams, he would need a serious step-up fight to prove he's ready for such a bout. That's where Ouma, 31, came in. The Uganda native is a respected former titleholder who posed considerable risk even though he entered the fight having lost four of his past five bouts. But make no mistake, he would be a serious test. And he was.

Although Martirosyan got the decision -- one that should have been closer than the scorecards had it -- you can make an argument that Ouma, a left-hander, should have won or at least deserved a draw. He gave Martirosyan everything he could handle and proved the Armenian is not yet ready to face the big names. Martirosyan, who lives in Glendale, Calif., did not fight particularly well. That was because he had an off night or Ouma shut him down. Whatever it was, Martirosyan sounded disappointed with his performance afterward and headed to the hospital to have his swollen and cut left eye checked out.

Martirosyan fought on Dec. 19 and scored a dominant third-round knockout of Willie Lee to set up this fight, which headlined the debut card of Top Rank's new Fox Sports Net series "Top Rank Live." It was a very entertaining fight (and an entertaining card overall). If Top Rank continues to put on shows such as this one, the series should last a lot longer than the initial commitment of 36 cards this year.

Martirosyan looked uncomfortable from the outset as Ouma, who looked in terrific condition and was working with trainer Livingstone Bramble for the first time, put his punches together well and gave Martirosyan angles that seemed to confuse him. In the fourth round, an accidental head butt opened a cut over Martirosyan's left eye. That sure didn't help Martirosyan's confidence. But Martirosyan fought back and boxed well on his toes. He was warned multiple times for low blows by referee Kenny Bayless, who never took a point.

With the fight seemingly in the balance, Ouma nailed Martirosyan with a short right hand and knocked him down in the ninth round. Martirosyan immediately popped up and did not appear hurt by the punch, but it seemed to give him a sense of urgency. He pressed Ouma for the rest of the round and in the 10th round, which Martirosyan won big. Although the decision was could have gone either way, Martirosyan showed he has a big heart and can pick up his intensity when times get tough. If Martirosyan ever gets into a position to fight for a title, this bout should serve as an excellent learning experience for him draw on.

Junior lightweight
Diego Magdaleno W8 Gerardo Robles
Scores: 80-72, 78-74 (twice)
Records: Magdaleno, 13-0, 3 KOs; Robles, 9-9-, 5 KOs

Rafael's remark: The original co-feature was supposed to be featherweight Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia facing Joksan Hernandez. That bout was called off on Friday because, according to Top Rank, Hernandez had a problem with his visa paperwork when he tried to enter the United States from Mexico. The problems with that fight turned out to be a blessing for Magdaleno, 23, whose bout was moved up to co-feature status and opened the telecast. The Las Vegas resident and former national amateur champion took advantage of the exposure, turning in a very solid performance against an opponent who's better than his record. Robles, of Kansas City, Kan., entered the fight on a bit of a roll, having won six of his past seven fights, but Magdaleno outworked the game 27-year-old in a good, tough fight, especially working the body well. The 80-72 scorecard seemed a bit out of line because Robles did more than enough to avoid a shutout. An accidental head butt in the second round opened a cut under Robles' left eye, but it did not become much of an issue.

Junior welterweight
Jose Benavidez Jr. TKO1 Steven Cox
Records: Benavidez Jr., 1-0, 1 KO; Cox, 1-1, 1 KO

Rafael's remark: Benavidez is viewed by many as a future world champion. Just 17 years old, the gifted amateur (who went 120-5 and winning the National Golden Gloves) was so good that the Nevada State Athletic Commission granted him a waiver to turn pro before the usual age of 18. Top Rank, the best in the business at building a young fighter into a champion, and trainer/co-manager Freddie Roach have very high hopes for the 6-foot Phoenix youngster, and he did exactly what was expected in his professional debut: He blew out Cox, 21, in fast fashion. Barely a minute into the fight, Benavidez grazed the 5-6 Cox with a sweeping right hand, then smashed him on the jaw with a left hand. Cox went down and was hurt, although he beat the count. But Benavidez went right after him, and after Cox literally sprinted away from him briefly, Benavidez caught him and unloaded a few more shots until referee Russell Mora wisely called off the fight.

Friday at Laredo, Texas
Featherweight
Juan Carlos Burgos KO12 Juan Carlos Martinez

Records: Burgos, 24-0, 17 KOs; Martinez, 15-11-1, 5 KOs).

Rafael's remark: Coming into the main event of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights," it looked as though it might be a quick night for Burgos, 22, of Mexico, who is the nephew of former junior flyweight titlist Victor Burgos. Martinez, after all, had lost his six of his past nine fights (although he was coming off an upset decision win over Jose Hernandez in September in Hernandez's hometown of Chicago) and struggled with his weight. He had weighed 150 pounds on Jan. 8 and melted down to 129 for the fight, which was still three pounds over the contract weight.

Had Burgos, who possesses an outstanding body attack, broken Martinez up to the body in a few rounds, it would not have been much of a surprise. But Martinez, 28, gave a very game effort and hung in there despite being outclassed. Martinez had gone the distance with such quality opponents as interim lightweight titleholder Antonio DeMarco (eight rounds) and former featherweight titlist Guty Espadas (10 rounds) in losses.

Burgos had predicted Martinez would not last past the ninth round, then wound up in the 12th round with him. But Burgos, a pro since he was 16, had controlled the fight entering the final round, especially in the second half of the bout. From the seventh round through the 12th round, Burgos had a 115-62 advantage in power shots landed, according to CompuBox statistics. In the 12th round, Burgos finally knocked Martinez down to a knee with a barrage of blows. Martinez survived but ate a giant right hand during Burgos' follow-up attack. Martinez then staggered backward into a corner, prompting referee Jon Schorle to call off the fight.

Junior middleweight
Demetrius Andrade KO1 Bernardo Guereca
Records: Andrade, 9-0, 7 KOs; Guereca, 15-10-1, 3 KOs

Rafael's remark: Easy work for Andrade. Too easy. The 21-year-old left-hander was a decorated amateur, winning a world amateur championship and representing the United States in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In fact, Andrade, of Providence, R.I., is the best prospect off the U.S. Olympic team. Even though this was just his ninth pro fight, he is fighting horrible opposition, and there's no reason for it. He faced better opponents in the unpaid ranks.

Andrade's handlers, promoters Artie Pelullo and Joe DeGuardia, can say all they want about taking their time, and that's fine. They should take their time with such a young and talented fighter. But at least step the kid up a little bit in opposition. Andrade won't learn a thing by blasting out guys with zero chance to win and no ability to even remotely fight back. He and boxing fans who tune in to see him deserve better.

This was not a real fight. This was Andrade throwing a few nice jabs and then nailing Guereca with a hard right hook that knocked the Albuquerque, N.M., resident down for the count as he lost for the fifth time in six fights. This outcome was ordained when the contract was signed.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.