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Martinez and Lee Continue Their Winning Ways at 160

By Jason Gonzalez at ringside

Atlantic City, NJ—Middleweight “Irish” Andy Lee of Limerick, Ireland avenged the only loss of his career by conquering his archrival Brian Vera via a lopsided, 10-round unanimous decision. The scorecards read 99-90 twice and 98-91. An emotional victory as such will now allow Lee to close the chapter of what was a thing of the past so he can finally move forward in his professional career.
Lee, a Kronk Gym product as well as Emanuel Steward’s protégé, bounced on his toes while countering Vera with crisp effective shots to the head. Three years ago, Vera, of Austin, TX, stopped the southpaw Lee within seven rounds. What was the difference this time around?

“I am more mature this go around,” Lee would tell Maxboxing. “I am a much more seasoned fighter. When I fought Vera three years ago, I was only 21. I expected Vera to be just like the other 14 or 15 opponents that I had faced at that time. I was anticipating a boxing match but that is not Vera’s style. Vera is a very strong fighter. He is also a very determined fighter. When you put all of that together, you then have a dangerous fighter.”

Lee put Vera on the seat of his pants in the second frame. The knockdown was the result of a picture perfect left hand down the middle. Much to Vera’s credit, he truly did try his best to win the fight. In the middle rounds, Vera attempted to mount a rally in order to make his way back into the fight. In the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds, Vera would momentarily stop Lee in his tracks with straight right hand leads. There was an accidental headbutt in the fifth round, which is typical whenever a southpaw fights a conventional fighter. Vera sustained a cut on the top of his left eyebrow. However, it was unclear if the cut was the result of the accidental butt.

Lee, now 27-1 (19), had an excellent eighth round, finding himself landing straight left hands at will, as often as he wanted. For someone that lacks athleticism, truth be told, Lee gets the job done. He knows the importance of the fundamentals and expertly demonstrates the basic skills necessary to be successful in boxing. On another positive note that Lee can go off of for the purpose of building or boosting confidence is that this marks his 12th consecutive victory.

“The plan was to hit him and pull out so that I wasn’t exposed,” Lee would say of his game plan. “I was trying to knock him out but it was so hard to do so. With Brian Vera, offense is his defense. He isn’t a counter puncher, so I had to keep the pressure on him.”

In terms of the revenge storyline surrounding this duel, “The importance of this victory was immeasurable,” said Lee. “If not for tonight, I would have been haunted by it for the rest of my life.”

Being that the middleweights took center stage at the Boardwalk, did Lee see any future opponents on this fight card?

“I will fight anyone,” Lee said, “but no middleweight wants to fight me.”
With the loss, Vera now falls to 19-6 (12).

As for the main event, Sergio Martinez’s skill level has never been questioned. We know that he can fight. We knew that coming into last night, the Martinez-Darren Barker contest was a showcase for the champion. Although Martinez was defending his WBC “Diamond” championship belt (No one takes that trinket seriously), the bout was for Martinez to remain active. The scrap also served as his sales pitch to the television networks and other rivals north and south of the middleweight division.
There are a couple of unanswered questions with Martinez.

In terms of marketability, Martinez’s swag is second to none. His good looks make him a hit with the ladies as well but the first question is, does Martinez have drawing power? Floyd Mayweather only fights for big money. In order for there to be big money, he has to fight on pay-per-view. It was evident yesterday that Martinez doesn’t have the drawing power of a Miguel Cotto, a Juan Manuel Marquez or, say, a Kelly Pavlik. Judging by all of the empty seats that were disguised as people at the Boardwalk Hall, it is suggested that Martinez continues to build his brand if he is going to fight on pay-per-view in the near future.

The second question is, is Martinez the world-beater we all think that he is? How would he fare in a bout against the likes of a Cotto, a Mayweather or some other guy that you might have heard of, Manny Pacquiao?
Well, the fight turned out to be much more competitive than what was expected. The Englishman Barker proved to be a worthy adversary by demonstrating solid technical skills along with excellent boxing I.Q. This is something that trainer and ESPN fight analyst Teddy Atlas would describe as “demonstrating the behavior of a champion.”

“Every challenger is a strong challenger,” Martinez would say of his foe. “Everyone has their own style. I knew that it would be this kind of fight. I planned and prepared for this.”

Be it as it may, “Maravilla” improved his record to 48-2-2 (27) by dazzling Barker in the later rounds with blinding hand speed and a precise counter body attack. Whenever Barker held his hands high, Martinez went downstairs to soften Barker’s torso.

“I am ready to fight anyone as long as we can come to a good deal for me and my rival,” Martinez proclaimed afterward.

The first stanza was a feel-out round. Martinez did a lot of jumping and bouncing. In the second frame, Martinez was finding his rhythm. The southpaw was shooting his “up jab” from his hip and then followed it with what can only be described as a lunging straight left hand. Whenever Martinez threw this punch, he would then move around Barker.

Early on, Barker was tagging Martinez with clean effective punches. In fact, it had appeared that Martinez may have suffered a fractured nose at the beginning of the match-up, as he was bleeding substantially. It’s only fair to give props where props are due; Barker started off well by cutting off the ring and shortening the distance between him and Martinez. In staying on him, Barker made Martinez uncomfortable and prevented him from doing what he does best, sticking and moving.

“I laughed after the shot,” Martinez said of the punch that damaged his nose. “This is boxing and things like this happen.”

In the later rounds, Martinez’s flurries lacked steam, likely due to fatigue. Martinez was basically scoring points, giving the judges the impression that he was the aggressor in the fight. In the championship rounds, Martinez stepped on the gas pedal and began to fight with urgency, eventually staggering Barker in the middle of the tenth round.

“That was my second wind,” Martinez said of the late rally. “That’s what I train for. I knew I would get stronger as the fight went on.” Martinez would eventually knock out Barker with a right hook that went over his guard catching him on the left temple. Referee Eddie Cotton counted to 10 at the 1:29 of the 11th round. As we have come to see in all of Martinez’s fights, he made the proper adjustment when needed.

What was the adjustment? Hit your opponent in any area he gives you, under the condition that it is legal. Once Martinez implemented his adjustment, everything else fell into place for him. The scores at the time of the knockout were 99-91, 97-94, and 96-94, all in favor of “Maravilla.”

“My legs fell out under me,” described Barker, now 23-1 (14), of the knockout. “I can’t remember the punch. I was trying to get up but I couldn’t after that.”

However, Barker also made it abundantly clear that he was not impressed with Martinez’s punching power.
“I didn’t feel he was a massive puncher.”

In other news, WBO middleweight champion Dmitry Pirog was in attendance scouting Martinez.
“It’s interesting to me that Martinez talks about fighting everybody else that’s in every other division except for the one that he is in,” Pirog said. “I am here. We are in the same division. Let’s make it happen and fight already.”
If Martinez is successful at landing a date with either Cotto, Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao at 150 pounds, it will be interesting to see if Martinez can pull off a “second wind” performance. Depleting himself of 10 pounds can ultimately come back to haunt him. Time will tell the reason why fighters fight the fight.

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