Atlantic City – Sergio Martinez, the WBC Diamond Belt Middleweight champion retained his title with an 11th round stoppage over Darren Barker Saturday evening at Boardwalk Hall In Atlantic City, a knockout not as stunning as the one he administered to Paul Williams in the first round at the same venue last November.
But the win was good enough to keep Martinez possibly among the elite as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the business. It was a right upper cut to the temple that put Barker on the mat that caused referee Eddie Cotton to call and end at 1:29 of the round in the scheduled 12-rounder.
Barker, (23-1, 14 K0’S) the relatively unknown and undefeated fighter from London England used his technical and defensive technique against Martinez. In the fourth round, Barker caught Martinez in an exchange that caused the champion to sustain a broken nose. With blood coming from his mouth, Martinez was losing some stamina but was able to withstand the defense and power from Barker.
Sensing the urgency that Martinez is at the pinnacle of his career, Lou DiBella, promoter of Martinez, and co-promoter of the HBO televised card, believed Barker was the appropriate opponent for the champion from Argentina. The win may propel Martinez to bigger pay days, though it is still undetermined if Martinez would remain at middleweight or take on the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto or any of the other known fighters at 147 or 154.
“Every challenge is a strong challenge,” commented Martinez (48-2-2, 27 KO’s) who had a contingent of fans at half empty Boardwalk Hall. “I knew it was going to be this type of fight. I planned for this,” he said. And it appeared Martinez was struggling in the first six rounds but got stronger as the fight progressed. “I knew I would get stronger as the fight went on. I kept throwing the right hand because I knew it was going to land. It landed more and more as the fight went on.”
When asked if he would be interested in taking on the winner of the upcoming light heavyweight fight with Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson, Martinez said, “I’m ready to fight anyone as long as we can come to a good deal for me and for my rival.”
Barker wanted to prove he belonged in the ring with Martinez. He was not a mandatory challenger and had he pulled off an upset, DIBella and Martinez may have not been talking about lucrative and future pay days. But DiBella believes Martinez deserves to be in the discussion towards getting a lucrative opportunity in the ring with Pacquiao or Cotto.
The co-feature of the HBO televised card saw middleweight Andy Lee avenge a loss to Brian Vera with a 10-round unanimous decision In their first fight on ESPN, in March of 2008 at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, Vera overcome an early barrage of punches but he managed to stop Lee in the seventh round.
A straight left from Lee (27-1-19 KO’s) put Vera down towards end of the second round and quickly earned him points. Lee, rated 2nd by the WBA and 6th by the WBC won his 12th straight fight. Vera (19-6, 12 KO’s) of Austin Texas would sustain a nasty cut in the next round above the left eyebrow.
“The plan was to hit him and pull out so I wasn’t exposed,” said Lee about his strategy. “I was trying to knock him out but it’s hard with him,” Lee added, “with Vera offense is his defense. He is not a counter puncher so I had to put the pressure on.
Oh the revenge win he said, “The importance of this win was immeasurable. If not for tonight I would have been haunted the rest of my life.”
In another undercard bout undefeated junior middleweight Steven Martinez of the Bronx New York, a national and three-time New York Golden Gloves champion, defeated Jay Krupp (14-5, 7 KO’s) when referee Steve Smoga stopped the bout at 0:38 of round five. Martinez (11-0, 9KO’s) trapped Krupp in the ropes and used a short right uppercut that sent his opponent to the canvas. For the last few weeks, Martinez was one of the lead sparring partners for Sergio Martinez.
Email Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com