A slow month of boxing ended on ESPN from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Robson Conceicao returned from his decides loss to Oscar Valdez with a clear and unanimous victory over Xavier Martinez.
Martinez started well, applying pressure and stunned Conceicao (17-1, 8 KO) late in the third round with a nice left hook.
But Conceicao recovered well by using his excellent conditioning to balance distance with strategic aggression and pile up a lead through the middle rounds. Martinez (17-1, 11 KO) slowed down and could not regain his early success to take the fight to Conceicao. Conceicao marked Martinez’s face as the battle continued, and Martinez could never find a solution and compose any persistent violation of his own.
Conceicao looked resilient and fresh until the last bell. Martinez hung there to place it in the hands of the judges, but in the latter half of the fight never made much of a case for himself. Official scores were 99-91, 100-90 and 98-92 for Conceicao.
Martinez is just 24, and came into the fight as a top 15 contender by three of the major sanctions bodies. He took the defeat calmly, made no apologies and gave credit to the victor. He may have been surpassed by veteran Conceicao, but never looked overwhelmed, and should have many years left to bounce back and put himself back in the mix at 130 pounds.
Conceicao looked good, and much more assertive than we saw in much of the Valdez battle. He’s 33 and fought like a man in his twenties tonight. There is no reason to think that he will not stay long enough to possibly earn another title chance.
Giovanni Cabrera UD-8 Rene Tellez Giron
The second fight of the evening was as sloppy and unimpressive as a child’s first attempts to use toilet paper. A late match after both Rene Tellez Giron and Giovanni Cabrera struggled in the weigh-in for other opponents, which we got, was described by the comments in our live coverage as “like a fight from Guadalajara on a sketchy donkey card in the middle of the night. “
Things started plodding and slowly, and from there it never really improved. Giron (16-2, 10 KO) could not keep the distance closed on Cabrera (19-0, 7 KO), even though he sometimes tried to jump over the ring to him. Giron found his biggest success in round 4, the only one he won on my card, but could not keep himself within reach to put any real pressure on Cabrera outside of it.
Giron tried to lure Cabrera into a foul in round 7 by laying on the ropes, but Cabrera did not fall for it. He just kept his distance and methodically slapped Giron like he did while banging round after round. The judges had it 77-75 and 78-74 twice in favor of Cabrera, who remains unbeaten.
I am not generally inclined to disturb the efforts of the men and women who endanger their health and safety in the ring. But this was a boring show between two guys who blew up the scale. No highlights were made available, presumably because no one pretended to be at any stage during the eight rounds of the fight.
Tiger Johnson UD-4 Xavier Madrid
In the opening game, Tiger Johnson looked like a promising prospect with flaws to improve in his second pro fight.
Our Scott Christus said Johnson (2-0, 1 CO) “clearly has talent and he may be someone better suited to the pro ranks” after Johnson’s retirement in the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics. That talent was seen in the first round, where Johnson moved smoothly and landed clean.
ESPN commentator Tim Bradley showed a weak left hand on defense for Johnson, and Xavier Madrid (3-1, 1 CO) pulled some advantage in the midfield and got some solid right hands. But Johnson stepped up to another level in the fourth and final round, finishing a very productive sting and landing power shots behind it.
Madrid only took up the sport at the age of 24 after a university football career and an unsuccessful trial period for the CFL. He represented well for himself in the middle two rounds, but Johnson moved unbeaten forward on unanimous official scores of 40-36.