(Rances Barthelemy, left, Fernando David Saucedo, right; Amanda Kwok, Showtime)
It had a sad start, a surprisingly exciting middle and a sleepy main event, Saturday’s Showtime card. To wit, in reverse order:
Rances Barthelemy had no trouble with Fernando David Saucedo. Vanes Martirosyan and Willie Nelson waged a mini-war, with Martirosyan coming out on top. And Tommy Karpency got a close decision over a very faded-looking Chad Dawson.
Barthelemy, a top junior lightweight, was in the most mismatched bout of the card, so naturally he didn’t lose much more than a handful of seconds. Saucedo gave a professional effort, stalking and throwing punches, and even caught Barthelemy with a pair of big shots in the 2nd and 5th. The big shot in the 5th really only won Barthelemy’s retribution, however. He had Saucedo hurt at the end of the round.
Barthelemy was simply far too talented for Saucedo. He dodged his punches at will, changed directions a ton, countered and basically did whatever he wanted on offense, too. Why exactly this fight was on Showtime as a headliner, even a “special edition” of ShoBox, is a mystery that can only be answered by “because Barthelemy is promoted by Haymon, and what Haymon says at Showtime goes.” Saucedo was 52-5 with only eight knockouts. How exactly was he going to do anything with Barthelemy? He wasn’t going to knock him out, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to outbox him.
Barthelemy has a certain dispassionate excellence to him, which means he can make for intriguing match-ups if not always exciting ones. It wasn’t even that boring an offensive output from him, since he threw and connected upon a fair number of shots — it’s just that watching him clinically dominate Saucedo over 12 rounds required more patience than most anyone would have. Apparently he wants Mikey Garcia, which would count as “intriguing,” but, different network (HBO), Garcia is tied up by a lawsuit and probably isn’t long for 130 pounds anyway.
At least Martirosyan-Nelson had competitiveness on paper going for it. That it gave us more than that made it the highlight of the card. Martirosyan took a narrow unanimous decision (97-93, 97-93, 96-94) in a fight he needed to win to stay in any kind of discussion at 154.
The two flawed junior middleweights — Nelson’s chin is shaky, his defense leaky, while Martirosyan’s amateur background and ability has been overshadowed by his inconsistent effort — delivered some pretty good action through 10 rounds. Nelson started fast, taking the 1st with some serious commitment on his punches, something we don’t always see from the lanky boxer. Martirosyan did little in the 1st. Inevitably, Martirosyan hurt him, starting in the 2nd, then again in the 4th. From the time he hurt him until the end, Martirosyan gave a consistent effort.
Nelson won almost all of the 4th save the wobble, but the two traded rounds through the middle of the bout, each landing hard shots and bloodying one another. For long stretches of the fight, it was Nelson’s uppercuts and left hook vs. Martirosyan’s body shots. If you were judging it by who was winning the battle inside, you might think Nelson was going to take it, especially since he was better up close despite being the guy who should’ve been trying to keep the battle on the outside. As it happened, Martirosyan’s body shots slowed Nelson enough that, late, Martirosyan had more left and took the last couple rounds.
Afterward, Martisyan — sometimes a figure of great annoyance for boxing fans who have disdain for him calling people out, then turning down big fights or sucking in them when he gets them — spoke of being inspired to win by his promoter, Dan Goossen, who died this week. It was a touching moment, especially with Martirosyan’s trainer, Joel Goossen, standing next to him. Perhaps this inspiration explained his unusually consistent performance. He’s always had the ability to be a player at junior middleweight. He’s just never gotten the job done this well before.
Karpency and Dawson fought the Battle of Who Could Care Less, each not doing nearly enough to deserve to win. I scored the fight a draw. The judges had it a split decision for Karpency, with no judge scoring it more than one round’s advantage for either man.
Dawson always had blazing speed. No more. The two consecutive knockout losses to Andre Ward and Adonis Stevenson have taken a great deal out of him, it would seem. Dawson a few years ago would’ve smoked Karpency. Unlike last fight, his return to the ring following the bout where Stevenson took his light heavyweight championship from him, he came into the fight in proper shape. He started off decently on offense, setting up quality body shots, yet there was evidence of erosion; he was slow, and his jab was an empty gesture. By the 2nd, Karpency began countering well.
For much of the fight, he also outworked Dawson, not that he was doing all that much. Dawson wasn’t posing much of a threat — Karpency could hit him at will, his balance was terrible and he appeared skittish. Plus, he said later that he hurt his left hand in the 3rd round, which was probably true, because he didn’t throw it much as the fight went on. But this was a fight were Karpency could’ve ensured a win against the “name” fighter with just a modicum more effort. As it happened, he got a little lucky that the fight went his way on the scorecards.
Dawson might not be “shot” in the sense that he was able to compete Saturday. Considering that he was once among the handful of the best fighters alive, though, he might as well be finished to have struggled so with a journeyman who didn’t give much of a showing himself. All of Dawson’s anger afterward at the decision couldn’t disguise that even if he had won on the scorecards, he would’ve lost esteem anyway.