I've been doing this long enough to know the value of a contrarian mindset. As NYFightblog mentioned on Wednesday, what people look like on paper can appear radically different in the ring. I wrote, on the topic of Saturday's Sergio Martinez-Darren Barker title clash at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, "It goes without saying, but it should be said anyway, what looks to be on paper can look quite different in person. Maybe Barker fights his face off on Saturday, channels every drop of energy, strength and stamina he possesses, maybe Martinez comes down with a flu bug the night before the fight, maybe Martinez has romantic woes that we don't know about which sap his focus."
Nobody was much giving Barker a sniff of a chance against Martinez, who was answering more questions about whether he'd be able to lure Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao into a tussle than he was about the Brit underdog the last few weeks. But by Round 4, as Martinez's nose was a leaky faucet of crimson, all talk of lottery-ticket fights was dead. Barker was fighting the fight of his life, making a man universally regarded as one of the handful of best fighters on the planet look like an semi-ordinary hitter. But then the skill gap widened. Martinez got more accurate, and Barker's buzz dimmed. By Rounds 7 and 8 Martinez had the edge in volume, and in Round 11, a right hook to the temple landed over Barker's earmuffs. He went down, and tried to beat the count, but was discombobulated. The time of the KO finish was 1:29 of the 11th.
Back to that contrarian mindset -- it's entirely possible that Martinez helped himself in landing a megafight with his sub-stellar showing. He didn't look like a pound-for-pound ace for much of the night, and that might make Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao a bit more likely to give him a crack.