In starting quickly and taking the fight straight to Robert Guerrero, welterweight Aaron Martinez surprised NBC viewers, oddsmakers and likely Guerrero himself, fighting far more successfully than most expected. Based on Martinez’s only previous upper echelon showings—clear losses to Jessie Vargas and Josesito Lopez—he had no business being competitive with someone of Guerrero’s caliber, but he was. Unfortunately, one judge at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. went with the pre-fight script, turning in a card that had Guerrero a dominant winner. While this wasn’t the only aggravating part of the latest Premier Boxing Champions show, it was certainly a major source of annoyance.
Guerrero, who generally likes to battle on the inside, scratching and scraping with his opponent, made the fight physical early on as he stunned Martinez with a left hand in round two. But that was the battle’s high point for “The Ghost”, as Martinez started shooting right hand leads and closing the distance to where he outdid Guerrero on the inside.
Martinez, from Michoacan, Mexico and fighting out of East Los Angeles, settled into a rhythm by making Guerrero uncomfortable and smothering anything he tried to do over the bout’s first three rounds. While Martinez was seemingly overachieving by bashing the spindlier Guerrero around, the ‘A-side’ looked confused and unprepared for such a physical fight, which is somewhat paradoxical, given his hard reputation.
In round four Guerrero, of Gilroy, Calif., got banged around some more and was dropped by a Martinez flurry just before the bell. He got up and appeared more disappointed and frustrated than anything else as he ambled slowly to his corner.
Martinez jumped on what he thought was wounded prey in the fifth, which he almost won by pressing the issue; to his credit, Guerrero planted his feet and got through the round with a needed show of resilience. From round six onward, a combination of Martinez’s fatigue and Guerrero setting the right distance and pace with his reach and some well-timed lead left hands, meant Martinez’s offerings became fewer as the rounds went by. In the seventh and eighth Guerrero wrangled control back with partial help of rabbit punches on the inside and some pushing.
In the end, the knockdown may have actually hurt Martinez’s game plan, as he resorted to hunting for single shots for much of the last half of the fight. In the 10th and final round, Martinez spent most of his time missing with single right hands as he complained about Guerrero’s mugging.
Guerrero did not look good through most of this bout. Martinez showed up to win and perhaps that alone surprised Guerrero, who may have been expecting more of a showcase fight. Instead, Martinez did more damage than most envisioned, put Guerrero on his seat and was awarded a split decision loss for his effort.
That Martinez lost a split verdict wasn’t outrageous because he allowed himself to be outworked by Guerrero down the stretch. 95-94 cards for both fighters were reasonable, but a third card giving Guerrero eight of 10 rounds just didn’t mix well with reality. The verdict was roundly booed by a crowd that was noticeably sparse for such a wonderful SoCal day at a renowned outside venue.
The main event got sandwiched between a heavyweight set-to featuring Dominic Breazeale vs Yasmany Consuegra, and one round of Jesus Cuellar vs Vic Darchinyan. Then NBC cut Cuellar-Darchinyan off, inexplicably skipped broadcasting round two, and picked the rest of the fight up on NBC Sports in round three. (Some viewers did get round 2 of Cuellar-Darchinyan, so perhaps this broadcasting glitch varied by location.)
Breazeale-Consuegra portended a nice brawl since it featured two undefeated heavyweights. Consuegra found an opening for his right hand in round one, surprising Breazeale, who did little more than stand and absorb power shots before firing back. Round two saw a marked drop in Consuegra’s output and Breazeale went to work comfortably, dropping the Cuban with a right near the back of the head before the bell.
When action resumed in the third, a right uppercut was followed by an overhand blow that put Consuegra down again; after rising shakily and then going down once more, the fight was stopped, which prompted some complaining from the battered Cuban. While it was sloppy work, and despite evidence that Breazeale is too stiff and defensively-flawed to be an upper level heavyweight, he got the job done here.
Though it’s likely neither the laughable scorecard for Guerrero-Martinez nor the ridiculous production/broadcasting decision to cut away in the middle of a fight was the fault of PBC, both give fuel to its naysayers, of which there are plenty.
As PBC hits its three-month anniversary, concerns about the “boxing back on network television” thing still linger. Where is the money coming from to pay fighters like Robert Guerrero $1 million to face Aaron Martinez? Is there ad revenue at all? Is the PBC venture even profitable thus far? Do investors care?
Those are questions that can only be answered in due time. But as head-scratching scheduling decisions continue to misuse an unbelievable stable of talent, PBC is going to have to figure out whether or not it can get people to stick around long enough to care about getting the answers.
– Patrick Connor