By Cliff Rold
Whether the choice is HBO, pay-per-view, or both, fans on Saturday night will be treated to a look at two of the games prominent figures. The perceived better fighter in this moment, World Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez, headlines an intriguing HBO card against an undefeated foe with all of the fundamentals and none of the fanfare. Could an upset be in the air?
Three-division beltholder Miguel Cotto, for somewhere around 50 clams, has something different on tap. Think of it as boxing’s version of celebrity rehab. In search of an opponent that can bring out the destroyer in him, Cotto has gone to a Ricardo Mayorga who has played his part well in recent years. He comes, he talks, he throws, he drops (mostly). Will he hold true to form?
Let’s go to the report cards starting with the king at 160.
Title: Lineal/Ring/WBC Middleweight (2010-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: WBC Jr. Middleweight (2009-10)
Weight: 158.8 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 156.6 lbs.
Hails from: Oxnard, California (Born in Argentina)
Record: 46-2-2, 25 KO
BoxingScene Rank: World Champion
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0, 1 KO (3-0-1, 2 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat or Draw: 3 (Antonio Margarito, Kermit Cintron, Paul Williams)
Title: WBO Jr. Middleweight ( 2005-Present, 6 Defenses)
Weight: 158.8 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 153.25 lbs.
Hails from: Hamburg, Germany (Born in Ukraine)
Record: 37-0, 23 KO, 19 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Jr. Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-0, 2 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Daniel Santos)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Martinez A; Dzinziruk B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Martinez B+; Dzinziruk B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Martinez B+; Dzinziruk B+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Martinez A; Dzinziruk B
Martinez is inarguably the best at Middleweight. Dzinziruk has a strong case as the best one class lower. He could be a nightmare for Martinez because he’s so willing to just be himself. Fighting tall, with an educated jab, he’s got almost the same height of Paul Williams and Kelly Pavlik but little of their habits of mixing it up. If this plays out as high-speed chess, and it will in spots, Dzinziruk is well served in this battle of southpaws.
Where Martinez has the edge is in hand speed, raw athleticism, and quality of competition. Neither man has played in a deep pool, but Martinez has waded into the Pavlik’s and Williams’s. Dzinziruk’s best foe remains Daniel Santos, in 2005. Santos, a good fighter, never proved to be quite the grind Pavlik and Williams were and are.
No one can say Ricardo Mayorga hasn’t seen the big names. Miguel Cotto? He makes a habit of seeking them out. Unlike the Middleweight main event it shares Saturday with, experience is unlikely to be a major factor.
Title: WBA Jr. Middleweight (2010-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: WBO Welterweight (2009, 1 Defense); WBA Welterweight (2006-08, 4 Defenses); WBO Jr. Welterweight (2004-06, 6 Defenses)
Weight: 154 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 147.7 lbs.
Hails from: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Record: 35-2, 28 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #2 at Jr. Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 15-2, 12 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 12 (Cesar Bazan, Carlos Maussa, Lovemore N’Dou, Randall Bailey, DeMarcus Corley, Ricardo Torres, Paulie Malignaggi, Carlos Quintana, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey, Yuri Foreman)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Antonio Margarito, Manny Pacquiao)
Previous Titles: WBC Jr. Middleweight (2005-06); Lineal World/WBC Welterweight (2003, 1 Defense); WBA Welterweight (2002-03, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 154 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 157.45 lbs.
Hails from: Managua Nicaragua
Record: 29-7-1, 23 KO
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-2, 2 KO, 1 KOBY, 1 No Contest
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 4 (Andrew Lewis, Vernon Forrest, Michelle Piccirllo, Fernando Vargas)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat/Draw/NC: 6 (Diobelys Hurtado, Andrew Lewis, Cory Spinks, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Cotto B; Mayorga B
Pre-Fight: Power – Cotto B+; Mayorga B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Cotto B-; Mayorga D
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Cotto A; Mayorga B
Only 30 years of age, Cotto has shown signs of wear in recent fights. His losses to Margarito and Pacquiao were vicious, taxing affairs. Yuri Foreman was a nice win last summer but Foreman can’t punch.
Sort of. Known for knockouts of “Six Heads” Lewis and the late Vernon Forrest closer to a decade ago than yesterday, Mayorga hasn’t scored a notable stoppage since the first Forrest fight in 2003. He has, however, been stopped three times. There is no shame in those losses (to the Hall of Fame trio of Trinidad, De La Hoya, and Mosley) but the indication is there that Mayorga’s short peak has long since passed him by.
That doesn’t mean he can’t be hell on Cotto in spots, even at 37. He’s the naturally larger man and is still physically strong. He gave Mosley a tough time in 2008 before succumbing. None of this means his chances of victory are strong.
Because Mayorga is perceived as an effective puncher by some, Cotto blazing him this weekend can help to rehabilitate his image after two stoppage losses. It’s all smoke and mirrors, but that never seems to prevent ticket sales. The Cotto body attack, and the lacking defense of Mayorga, will make this a fiery but foregone conclusion. Look for Cotto to put Mayorga on the deck once or twice to the body before a finish around the fifth.
On alternate airwaves, in the weekend’s real main event, Martinez confronts a new style riddle and the matching is commendable. Williams, Pavlik, Williams again, and now Dzinziruk offer foes with over 100 wins between them and only a couple of loss before Martinez got to them. Kermit Cintron right before them was 30-2 going into a draw that should have been a Martinez win. Circumstance plays a part in this level of consistent challenge, but Martinez is still the one swapping leather.
There will be plenty of swapping in this one early, even if some of it comes off sloppy. Martinez is going to struggle to master the timing against Dzinziruk and will have to figure out how to get around a decidedly pesky jab. He should be able to do just that after a few rounds and then his superior speed (hand and foot) takes this over. Dzinziruk should keep his feet but Martinez will do enough to outwork him en route to a decision win.
Report Card Picks 2011: 2-1
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org