A critical look at the past week in boxing
Martin will be a better fighter because of the experience he gained against fellow 135-pound contender Artem Harutyunyan on Saturday in Las Vegas but the process was painful for him. The combination of Martin’s relative inactivity over the first eight rounds and his opponent’s impressive ability and work rate made for a close fight, one in which Martin (18-0, 12 KOs) had to rally to win by a close, but unanimous decision. The winner wasn’t satisfied at all afterward, blaming his sluggish performance on poor timing that he couldn’t explain. His trainer, Derrick James, provided the reason: James pushed Martin to let his hands go until he finally did so with some consistency down the stretch. My theory is that Martin was overly concerned with being precise with his punches when he should’ve focused on simply touching his clever opponent as much as possible, as he did in an explosive sixth round and in the late rounds. I’m guessing that will be the lesson Martin will take away from the most difficult fight of his career. Is he still a threat to the top 135-pounders? I believe so. All top fighters must endure such challenges at some point to evolve into stars. I wouldn’t want to be Martin’s next opponent.
Harutyunyan (12-1, 7 KOs) made a strong impression in defeat. The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, who had never fought outside his home country of Germany, demonstrated against a respected opponent that he has world class talent. He’s a gifted, clever boxer and durable. It took what appeared to be a severe eye injury to put him down in the final round, when he took a knee. He lost by scores of 115-112, 115-112 and 114-113. Had he managed to win the final round with a score of 10-9 (instead of losing it 10-8) the fight would have been a majority draw (114-114 on two cards). I hope the native of Armenia gets more big fights. He earned that Saturday night. … Elvis Rodriguez (15-1-1, 13 KOs) gave arguably the strongest performance of his career on the Martin-Harutyunyan undercard. The 140-pound contender patiently broke down still-capable veteran Viktor Postol (31-5, 12 KOs) before putting him down late in Round 6 and then finishing the job in Round 7. The convincing victory bolstered the Dominican’s position as a legitimate contender. Meanwhile, Postol, 39, might decide to call it quits after three consecutive losses. He had an excellent career, which peaked when he stopped Lucas Matthysse in 10 rounds to win a world title in 2015. …
Welterweight prospect Freudis Rojas (11-0, 11 KOs) lucked out when the Nonito Donaire-Alexandro Santiago was pushed back to July 29 and his fight with overmatched Diego Santiago Sanchez (19-3, 16 KOs) ended up on Showtime’s Martin-Harutyunyan telecast. And he took full advantage, dominating and then stopping Sanchez in seven rounds. Rojas has a lot going for him. The 6-foot-2 southpaw from Las Vegas used his length and heavy hands to pick his Mexican foe apart from a safe distance, a formula that could make him a formidable opponent for anyone. Rojas is definitely one to watch. … Undisputed 130-pound champion Alycia Baumgardner (15-1, 7 KOs) exacted revenge and maintained her momentum Saturday in Detroit, defeating Christina Linardatou (14-3, 6 KOs) by a one-sided decision. The official scores were 99-91, 98-92 and 98-92. Linardatou handed Baumgarnder her only defeat, a split decision in 2018. Baumgarnder has won nine consecutive fights and claimed all four junior lightweight titles since her setback, establishing herself as one of the best in the business.