The three championship fights featured on HBO's "Boxing After Dark" program this past Saturday night from The Theater at Madison Square Garden could not have been any different from one another. A new featherweight king was crowned in a perfectly executed technical performance amidst some criticism, an undefeated middleweight champion retained his title with a dominating and bloody one-sided beating against a game opponent and a super featherweight fight ended in yet another scoring controversy. This variety is what makes boxing the entertaining, yet frustrating, sport we embrace.
Garcia (31-0, 26 KO's) was masterful in his challenge for the WBO featherweight title over rugged Mexican champion Salido (39-12-2, 27 KO's). In the first world championship round of his career, the poised Garcia knocked down Salido twice with left hooks and dropped the veteran two more times with a right uppercut in Round 3 and a straight left in Round 4. Garcia was extremely sharp, outworking and outlanding the champion who had quickly found himself in a deep hole.
The question coming into the bout was whether the pressure fighter Salido would be able to force the patient and fundamentally sound Garcia into an inside fight where the 25-year old challenger would be pushed to a place he has never gone before. Garcia was tugged in that direction but made sure he would not stay there. Salido began landing several looping overhand rights in Rounds 7 and 8 and bull-rushing his way inside with his head as he had been trying to do throughout the fight.
It was an accidental headbutt during one such attempt at the end of Round 8 that broke Garcia's nose and caused the ringside doctor to stop the contest, but not before the corner first ensured with referee Benjy Esteves Jr. that the injury was caused by a headbutt rather than a punch. Had it been caused by a punch and Garcia unable to continue, Salido would have been declared the winner instead of going to the scorecards where it was clear that the Oxnard, California resident was well ahead.
Had the injury been caused by a punch or if he believed he was behind on points, Garcia would have likely found a way to fight through the injury or at the very least put up an argument to keep fighting, neither of which he did in this instance. This prompted a scattering of chants throughout Madison Square Garden Theater of "Ortiz! Ortiz!" from fans who drew a comparison to the Victor Ortiz situation when the former welterweight champion stopped fighting against Josesito Lopez last June after suffering a broken jaw.
Team Garcia chose to secure the victory and world title with the technical decision with scores of 79-70 and 79-69 (twice) rather than finishing the fight. While it is understandable that they did not want to risk further injury (Garcia claimed to be having difficulty breathing which would have potentially led to a bevy of other issues), it also shows that they did not want to risk a potential loss, either. Salido was far behind in the scorecards so would have needed a knockout to win and would have most certainly tried to get one given his aggressive fighting style and toughness. We still don't know what Garcia would have done in the face of such adversity during actual combat, making this the only blemish on what was an otherwise flawless performance.
He may have been fighting a smaller man who moved up in weight from 154 pounds and whom many considered to not be world class caliber opposition, but Golovkin (25-0, 22 KOs) displayed superiority in every facet of his sixth defense of the WBA middleweight title. Golovkin cut off the ring exceptionally well from the opening bell, limiting the effectiveness of Rosado's (21-6, 13 KO's) movement and putting the Kazakhstan champion in position throughout the bout to land his power shots at will. Rosado often found himself pinned within firing range of the powerful Golovkin's short, sharp right hands and stinging left jab.
It was a jab that sliced open Rosado's left eyelid in Round 2 which progressively worsened as he took more punishment with each passing round. The Philadelphia fighter tried to get offense going with his own jab but could not set up his power punches as Golovkin was moving him backwards and peppering him with a slew of hard shots.
Rosado showed true heart and courage while trying to fend off the mighty champion, pawing at the steady flow of blood pumping from his eye. By the end of the fifth round, his face was a bloody mask with blood now also coming from his nose and mouth.
He was well behind on points, was getting badly beaten and his sight was impaired, yet Rosado did not want his corner to stop the fight when asked between rounds 6 and 7 by his trainer Billy Briscoe. The brave fighter could have quit on the stool and no one would have had any issue with that, except maybe Rosado himself. While he was clearly on the losing end of this fight and wanted to go out on his shield, one has to believe he would have continued fighting if he was faced with a situation like that of Garcia against Salido. If Rosado was willing to still fight while behind in a savage beating against Golovkin, he would have tried to continue fighting to see a victory through to its full completion with a broken nose from an accidental headbutt, wouldn't he? In this case, Briscoe saved his fighter from himself by throwing in the towel at 2:46 of Round 7.
This was one of those fights that looked quite different from Section 203 of The Theater at Madison Square Garden (which did not have video screens set up in the venue) than it did on the HBO replay. From the live seats, this fight appeared incredibly close with both men having their moments and WBO super featherweight champion Martinez (26-1-2, 16 KO's) being the primary aggressor. So when the score was announced a draw, it did not come as that big of a surprise at the time.
Fast forward to the following evening while watching the recorded telecast. The 139 body shots landed by Burgos (30-1-1, 20 KO's) on Martinez and the almost 100 more punches connected by the challenger appeared to have gone unnoticed by this live observer, as well as two of the three ringside judges. Burgos was incredibly effective with his left hooks to the body and, although tall and rangy, had success on the inside. He was able to turn Martinez and launch his own inside attack while the Puerto Rican champion was reaching with his shots that often fell too short.
Credit to Burgos for coming out strong in the final round in an attempt to win the fight rather than play it safe and take his chances with the scorecards. He continued his effective attack, landing lefts to the body and rights to the head. Unfortunately, all it did was likely prevent a loss instead of the draw that was ultimately awarded with scores of 116-112 (Martinez), 117-111 (Burgos) and 114-114. Judge Tony Paolillo who scored the fight for Martinez is the latest to join Boxing 101's 2013 'Watch List'.
In victory, Garcia did not pass all elements of the test.
In defeat, Rosado showed tremendous heart.
In a draw, Burgos fell victim.
Also:Billy Briscoe, Boxing, Gabriel Rosado, Gennady Golovkin, Juan Carlos Burgos, Mikey Garcia, Orlando Salido, Rocky Martinez