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Martinez Batters DzinzirukTSS U, please weigh in. Give the suits the benefit of your wisdom…Who do you want to see Martinez fight next? (Hogan Photos)The suits at HBO got some splainin’ to do.

You may recall that the network’s reward for Sergio Martinez’ Fighter of the Year performance in 2010 was (a) forcing the middleweight champion to forego his mandatory against  Sebastian Zbik, effectively getting Maravilla stripped of his WBC title, and then, in defiance of all logic, strong-arming Martinez and promoter Lou DiBella into a fight against the immortal Ukrainian Sergiy Dzinziruk, whom HBO insisted would be a more competitive opponent.

We hold little brief for Sebastian Zbik, but it’s hard to see how he could have been a more unworthy opponent than Dzinziruk. From the opening bell, Martinez treated the WBO junior middleweight champion with utter disdain, battering him from pillar to post for the less than eight rounds Dzinziruk managed to remain erect. Martinez not only thoroughly out-jabbed (147-80) a boxer whose stock in trade was supposed to be his jab. Martinez knocked down Dzinziruk, who had never before been off his feet as an amateur or as a professional, five times in all before referee Arthur Mercante intervened on humane grounds to stop the one-sided rout at 1:43 of the eighth.

Martinez, who also presumably retained his WBC “emeritus” title, was rewarded by becoming the organization’s second “Diamond Belt” champion in running his professional record to 47-2-1.  (Dzinzurik, who retains his Body Odor 154-pound title despite suffering his first loss, is now 37-1.)

For all the heroics he displayed in his stirring wins over Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams last year, Saturday night’s win at the Foxwoods Casino was undoubtedly Martinez’ most impressive win – not because of the opponent, who didn’t offer much opposition at all, but because he beat Dzinziruk at his own game while thoroughly imposing his will upon him throughout the evening.

After dominating the first three rounds behind his jab, Martinez scored the first knockdown of the evening in the fourth when he drove Dzinziruk to his haunches with a left and then caught him on the top of the head with another left, causing the Ukrainian’s knee to touch the canvas just long enough to elicit a count from Mercante.

The second knockdown, a round later, was more emphatic, as Martinez landed two successive right-left combinations to drop Dzinziruk on his backside just before the round ended.

Dzinziruk managed to stay on his feet through the sixth and seventh rounds, but in the eighth Martinez followed a jab with a hard left to the jaw that sent him down again. Dzinziruk arose somewhat shakily, and was shortly dispatched to the canvas yet again by another right-left combination. Mercante allowed the fight to resume, albeit briefly, when Martinez caught Dzinziruk with a short right (he was already on the way down when Martinez missed a sweeping left and then landed another right) the referee took him into protective custody.

The Argentinean champion (fighting for the first time in eight years without trainer Gabriel Sarmiento, who withdrew from his corner on three days’ notice, citing mysterious “personal problems) afterward called out both Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. He will get neither wish, and may have cemented his position as the fighter nobody wants to fight. As spectacular as Martinez’ performance may have been, if there was a lesson to be drawn from all of this it is that HBO should henceforth let promoters promote and leave the matchmaking to the matchmakers.

Ireland’s Andy Lee, who went into his bout against Scotsman Craig McEwan touted as a prospective future opponent for Martinez, didn’t do much that was likely to frighten the champion, and had to rally from the deep hole he had dug himself on the scorecards to score a come-from behind tenth-round knockout.

Lee, who had beaten McEwan in their amateur days back in Europe several years earlier, dominated the first round, wobbling the Scotsman and bloodying his nose.

“It was probably the worst thing that could have happened,” said Lee. “I thought I could take him out after that, and kept loading up, trying to knock him out with one punch.” McEwan, who seemed emboldened by each succeeding round, was consistently backing Lee up as he won the next five rounds in succession. Lee, who seemed confused and dispirited during this interlude, looked as if he were sleepwalking. Having surrendered so many rounds that he had pushed himself to the brink (“I knew I was losing the fight, but I told myself ‘if he’s going to beat he he’s going to have to kill me,” said Lee later), Lee eventually began to punch in combinations, and in the ninth dropped McEwan with a right-left combination.

Although HBO’s Jim Lampley would describe Lee’s coup de grace as a “career-saving punch,” going into the tenth two of the ringside judges had the fight even at 85-all, as did The Sweet Science.  McEwan was already on rubbery legs when Lee landed a huge overhand left. Referee Steve Smoger waved it off at :56 without a count, but McEwan remained on the canvas for nearly a minute. Lee is now 25-1, McEwan 19-1.

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