Before the main event fight went live, HBO showed a video package to recap what has been a tremendous year for boxing. Max Kellerman narrated great fights, great upsets, controversies, and sadly, those fighters we lost early this year.
One was Vernon Forrest, and main event fighter Sergio Martinez fought tonight in his honor. Martinez surely did Forrest proud with his performance tonight.
Another was Arturo Gatti, and tonight at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Martinez and Paul Williams did the memory of Gatti proud in his signature building.
In what was expected to be a tactical affair, all out savagery, brutality and boxing war broke out between Williams and Martinez, thrilling one of boxing's best cities, and reminding us once again that you just never know when you might get a fight for the vaults.
Williams wound up winning the fight by majority decision. We'll get to that part later. For now, let's talk about the fight.
Martinez went down with bad balance in the first round, touched more than punched by Williams. Just before the bell signaled to end the opening frame, Martinez nailed Williams with a right hook that sent the taller fight tumbling to the canvas. And he was hurt.
For two more rounds, Martinez's precision counter punching was clinical. Williams absorbed right hook upon right hook, looking like a fighter being outsmarted and outfought.
But then Williams made an adjustment and turned the tide of the fight. After seven rounds, I had Williams ahead by one point (having given Martinez a 10-9 in the first).
Down the stretch, both were exhausted, and both had their moments. They continued to battle their hearts out, showing unexpected grit, fire and resolve. It looked at times as if a stiff breeze could have blown Martinez over, and Williams seemed to be fighting purely on instinct.
It was a fight that made you marvel at what these athletes do to themselves and each other. Both pushed on when it seemed nothing was left, and they did so for just about half the fight, truthfully. Williams appeared badly shaken early in the fight, and didn't seem too clear-headed in his post-fight comments. He could have been out there fighting through a hand injury or possibly even a mild concussion. Whatever it was, he left nothing in reserves. Neither did Martinez.
Everything you could want out of a fight was in this one. It was dramatic, it turned on dimes. Just when you thought you had it figured out, the other guy would come roaring back into the fight.
It was a very serious contender for Fight of the Year, and I stand and cheer for both Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez.
Worst Scorecard of 2009
About those scores. One card was 114-114, one was 115-113 for Williams, and the third, from judge Pierre Benoist, was 119-110 for Williams.
This made Gale Van Hoy's 118-110 Diaz card from Diaz-Malignaggi I look defensible. It is absolutely ridiculous that Benoist thinks Martinez won just one round of this fight. He should never judge another fight again, not on the world title level, and not in a National Guard Armory. This was such a piss poor excuse for a qualified judge that words cannot properly describe it. There's no "mistake," there's no "you could have seen it that way, maybe." There's none of that. The man is not qualified based on this one fight alone.
If you took a dog, and you let it walk through chocolate, so that it had chocolate on its paws, and then whichever piece of construction paper the dog got the most paw prints on indicated which fighter won that round, the dog would have scored it closer to correct than Pierre Benoist did. It is utterly ridiculous and should be dealt with immediately.