Anybody who follows sports wagering knows the old cliché: there is no such thing as a sure thing.
There are all sorts of upsets in the boxing world year after year, but sometimes a mismatch materializes and it’s hard not to assume the favored fighter will win easily. In the case of former world champion Robert Guerrero taking on Aron Martinez, the main event of the Premier Boxing Champions card on NBC was about as close to a sure thing as they come.
By the time the smoke cleared and the dust settled inside the StubHub Center’s ring just outside Los Angeles, Martinez made sure this fight was anything but a surefire victory for “The Ghost.”
Guerrero is a notoriously slow starter and Martinez, a full-time contractor outside of the ring, pressed the issue and forced the taller Guerrero into a brawl. For a few rounds, Guerrero was content to slug it out with the heavy underdog, but he wasn’t dominant. In most cases, Martinez was getting the better of the much more popular Guerrero and he was stealing rounds.
Still, those who know Guerrero’s history understood that once he got settled in, he would eventually turn the table and dominate his foe until the battle’s conclusion. Guerrero almost didn’t have the opportunity to do so because after he got careless near the end of the fourth round, he found himself on the canvas, struggling to climb back to his feet.
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Martinez had forced Guerrero into the ropes and was swinging wildly. He was slamming a furious assault of punches into Guerrero’s body but whenever he came upstairs, Guerrero blocked his shots. When the 10-second mark clicked to signal the round’s imminent end, Martinez continued to pour on the attack. He dug several hooks to Guerrero’s body and then immediately followed them upstairs while “The Ghost” dropped his gloves. A huge left hook/right cross combo badly rocked Guerrero, whose knees buckled. Martinez continued with another left-right to the head as the huge betting favorite crumbled onto his gloves and knees.
The shocking turn of events was momentarily put to rest when Guerrero beat the count and had the minute’s rest between rounds. But Martinez continued the assault in the fifth and rocked Guerrero again with a heavy left hook. It took the Gilroy, Calif., fighter almost midway through the sixth round before his head was fully cleared of the cobwebs.
Guerrero eventually switched up his game plan and began boxing with his stiff southpaw jab and lead left hand. Martinez had difficulty getting on the inside and was unable to force a brawl as frequently as he had been earlier in the fight. From there, Guerrero found a rhythm and stayed with it and eventually snatched back several of the rounds he had lost.
The action was intense in spurts, but Guerrero was landing the much harder, cleaner shots down the stretch. Martinez faded just a little and the former world champ’s pressure and jab was the difference. Coming into the final frame of the fight, it was plausible that whoever won the round would win the fight. Martinez tried to unload everything and make it a war, but Guerrero boxed nicely.
In the end, Guerrero was awarded the victory via split decision, though most in attendance disagreed with the verdict. The official scores were 94-95, 95-94 and 97-92 for Guerrero, who revealed that is was difficult to focus heading into the fight because a close cousin passed away a week ago. Guerrero, now 33-3-1 with 18 KOs wasn’t overly enthused about his performance afterward and acknowledged that Martinez’s head first style gave him problems early on. Martinez, from East Los Angeles, fell to 19-4-1 with four KOs.
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