By Mariano A. Agmi
The first spectacular boxing event in the post-Gatti era took place at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday, as Goossen-Tutor Promotions and DiBella Entertainment collaborated to put on a quality fight card from top to bottom. In the main event, Paul “The Punisher” Williams (38-1, 27 KOs) escaped with a narrow majority decision over WBC jr. middleweight champion Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez (44-2-2, 24 KOs) in a twelve round non-title middleweight war in which both fighters tasted the canvas in round one. In the HBO co-feature, heavyweight contender Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola (28-1, 25 KOs) recovered from his one sided loss at the hands of WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko only two months ago to score a fourth round technical knockout over Brian “The Beast” Minto (34-3, 21 KOs) in another slugfest.
Although the Punisher did not attend the post-fight press conference due to several nasty cuts he suffered around his eyes, Martinez, Arreola and Tony “The Tiger” Thompson were on hand to more than hold their own in an entertaining press conference.
Photos: Ed Mulholland
Click the photo to go to the next photo
“I hope you enjoyed this spectacular fight,” stated Martinez. “Paul Williams is a great, great champion. I think we gave you a great fight tonight, and I hope to perform even better in a rematch to bring a victory back to Argentina.”
The classy champion immediately announced that he would not discuss the questionable judging, where judge Pierre Benoist inexplicably scored the close bout 119-110 for Williams.
“I will not address the judging or the scorecards,” declared Martinez. “That is not my place. My job is to start working towards a rematch with Paul Williams and I promise to deliver another spectacular performance. Hopefully a title will be on the line next time.”
Martinez’ matchmaker, Sampson Lewkowicz, was less diplomatic when describing Maravilla’s recent string of bad luck with American officiating. “First, Martinez knocked Cintron down and out on Valentine’s Day in Florida. The referee counted to ten. Cintron’s corner protested and the bout continued after his corner entered the ring. That is a disqualification, Martinez should have won again. And then Martinez won a decision that they scored a draw.”
“Today, the 119-110 score is a travesty. I know that the New Jersey commissioner [Aaron Davis] will do the right thing and I hope that no one sees [Benoist] judge a fight again.” On a night where the fighters gave (and left) so much of themselves to provide fans with a performance they can be proud of, scorecards of this nature tend to spoil an otherwise great event.
Regardless of the scoring, Maravilla feels that he proved he belongs with the best fighters in the world. “Facing pound for pound caliber opponents like Paul Williams elevates a fighter, especially after engaging in a bout as great as tonight’s fight was,” said Martinez. “I feel very proud to engage in such a great fight, and I thought I landed the hardest punches. All I was missing was that last ‘lucky’ shot to knock him out.” Indeed, Martinez was able to rock and bloody Williams several times during the back and forth bout.
As for his future, Martinez has the option of defending his WBC 154lb title against Mexican maulers Alfredo Angulo or Antonio Margarito, or he may opt to stay in the middleweight division to challenge champion Kelly Pavlik or rematch Paul Williams.
Promoter Lou DiBella concluded with an interesting scenario on the road to setting up a rematch: “If Williams can retire Bernard Hopkins and we knock out Kelly Pavlik, it would make for a huge rematch.” Indeed.
The press conference started off friendly enough, as Chris Arreola praised opponent Brian Minto’s toughness. “Brian was a real tough guy. He took some shots and he gave some shots that I didn’t think he would be able to bounce back from.”
The always tough Minto, who was also absent from the presser, surprised the Mexican-American contender with his “never say die” attitude and ability to return fire. “He went down and he did the smart thing taking that standing eight count. And he came back trying to stop me. I was fortunate enough to catch him with a counter, and that was basically it.”
Promoter Dan Goossen then introduced Tony Thompson, who won an entertaining heavyweight bout against Chazz Witherspoon on the untelevised undercard by ninth round technical knockout.
The once-defeated former title challenger, challenged his popular stable mate in an attempt to reestablish himself in the division. “I hope they consider that the first round of the American heavyweight tournament,” stated the 38-year-old southpaw. “I hear a lot of talk about the best American heavyweights and I never hear my name. So I hope that’s considered the first round and hopefully I can meet Arreola later on. Arreola is a great competitor, I’m a great competitor and I think it would be a great fight.”
Despite the respectful nature of the challenge, Thompson barely finished his last sentence before an emotional Arreola interjected, setting off an entertaining back and forth exchange:
Arreola: “I’m better.”
Thompson: “Hey, that’s your opinion.”
Arreola: “Nope, that’s what I know.”
Thompson: “If Dan and HBO are not afraid to put their baby up, we can prove it once and for all.”
Arreola: “We’ve seen the way you went down against Klitschko. Not me, I didn’t go to sleep.”
Thompson: “A loss is a loss. A lot of people don’t know this, but I was fighting on one leg that night. I had a meniscus tear. I’ll do anything for my family, including fighting on one leg.”
Arreola: “Well, I have a chin. We should make this fight sooner. I ain’t scared, I’m scared of no man.”
The two later reconciled, but Arreola insisted that he is open to fight Thompson in the future.
With the prospect of fights like these, the 2010 boxing schedule cannot be set any sooner.