Scotland’s Ricky Burns produced a sensational twelve round pummeling of Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez, stripping the Puerto Rican of his WBO super-featherweight title. In a gripping contest, Burns, who was floored in the opening round, got up to out-box and out-class the champion. In his greatest performance since turning pro in 2001, the 27 year old showed skills maybe even he didn’t know he possessed.
Thousands of fans packed the raucous Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, but most turned up in hope rather than expectation since the hard hitting Martinez was a red hot favorite.
As round one began, it seemed a tough night lay ahead for the home town hero. While he attempted to establish his jab, Martinez kept low, bulldozing forward. Burns was concentrating hard, trying to keep his man at distance and almost secured the round. Then a lapse in concentration and defense, allowed ‘Rocky’ to land his famed right. Burns was knocked down, but rose quickly.
The Scotsman showed real toughness to bounce back and secure the next two rounds, but was rocked and looked vulnerable every time the Puerto Rican backed him up. Then, in the third, Burns began utilizing weaponry nobody knew he had. He charged on the front foot, playing Martinez at his own game, landing power shots and roughing up the champ.
The dynamic of the fight changed in round five. As a rendition of the Scottish national anthem ‘Flower of Scotland’ was bellowed out by the partisan crowd, Burns landed two powerful rights mixed in with a series of jabs and uppercuts. Unbelievably, Martinez, who has never hit the canvass as an amateur or pro, was stuck in the ropes taking real punishment. But with only 9 stoppages in a 30 fight career, Burns’ lack of KO power was evident. Martinez survived the onslaught, landing some powerful overhand rights of his own, but another burst by Burns late on was effective.
Burns was now in the ascendancy and every punch landed was loudly cheered by the crowd who could barely believe their eyes as the man from Coatbridge dominated.
The combatants entered the championship rounds with Burns in front and Martinez looking scrappy. Yet a power puncher always has a chance, and as the Scotsman tired, ‘Rocky’ landed some big bombs.
In the final three minutes, Martinez, desperate for a KO, stormed forward looking aggressive. Undeterred, Burns met the bullish charge and landed a thunderous right hook of his own. Bemused and irritated, Martinez had no reply as he desperately looked to his corner. A mindless low blow by the Puerto Rican with less than thirty seconds on the clock helped Burns as he wisely took time to recover.
The final bell was a cue for wild celebrations and even before the scores came in, a gracious Martinez, congratulated the new champ who had fought so well. The decision was unanimous. Two judges awarded Burns the victory by three rounds, the other by two. Burns rode his luck at times but was the superior fighter on the night and a worthy champion.
A mention should go to Billy Nelson, Burns’ trainer. His tactics worked perfectly and Martinez became more and more frustrated as the fight went on. We all expected to see Burns bouncing about the ring jabbing and counter punching utilizing his height and long gangly arms. Instead he came forward with real intent and beat ‘Rocky’ at his own game.
Martinez, although always dangerous with that right, never made the most of his openings and looked, at times, rather ragged. He did, however, show heart, and never gave up. Possibly weight, travel or preparation problems will be blamed for his loss, but for me he was outgunned by the better man.
The new world champion joins compatriots Amir Khan and David Haye at world level and with Jason Booth and Rendall Munroe both in title action in the coming weeks the resurgence of British pugilism continues.