by Fox Doucette
Most of the time, your columnist finds these days that any “who would beat whom?” discussion on social media’s been answered here on this show. I’ve linked a ton of Historical Fight Night episodes in those comment threads; it’s like a self-perpetuating form of marketing.
Other times, there’s a eureka-moment “wait, I haven’t done that one yet.” Tonight’s main event is that kind of a fight; Alexis Arguello, whose sole participation in this series so far has been a dualogy with Arturo Gatti where Thunder won at 140 then summarily got his ass kicked in a 130-pound rematch when the comments section flipped its collective lid, takes on Azumah Nelson, last seen on this show getting whupped at 130 by Floyd Mayweather.
Tonight’s co-feature set the social justice warriors on fire, as “abducting women to use them in bloodsport” is apparently considered a moral Bad Thing™. Who knew? But since we’ve got the girls in the arena, might as well let ’em fight; Christy Martin takes on Holly Holm. Holm’s not allowed to kick Martin in the neck. Not allowed…
From the Historical Fight Night Arena Presented By You, If You Donate On Patreon, in San Dimas, California, these fights are scheduled for 12 rounds using the Unified Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Scoring is on the 10-point must system, there is no three knockdown rule, no standing eight count, only the referee can stop the fight, and a fighter cannot be saved by the bell in any round including the twelfth and final round.
Now, for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching from around the world…
Let’s Make History.
Holly Holm (1/15/2016, 33-2-3, 9 KOs) vs. Christy Martin (9/16/2005, 49-7-3, 31 KOs)
The hard part of getting women onto Historical Fight Night has always been that just about every major female boxing match that could be made already has; to wit, Martin comes into the time machine from a loss to…Holly Holm. Holm beat Martin by unanimous decision over ten two-minute rounds, and the fight wasn’t close; Martin got her ass kicked.
Of course, Martin was also 37 years old on that day in 2005, while Holm was still practically a girl, a month shy of her 24th birthday. We’ve dispensed with the time machine and picked the version of Holm who’s been hanging out in MMA for the past two and a half years, the one who just kicked Ronda Rousey in the neck, the one who just turned 35.
A look back through Holm’s boxing career is a who’s who of women in the sport; she’s beaten Martin, Chevelle Hallback (twice), Anne Sophie Mathis (avenging a loss in the rematch), Mia St. John…if you want to make an argument that Holly Holm is the greatest woman boxer of all time, there’s plenty of evidence in your favor and not much against.
As a bit of added motivation for Martin, she’s been given the Sexism Package by the Temporal Commission: Her fight purse has been reduced (“adjusted for inflation”, they said) to the 2005 equivalent of the money today. She wasn’t exactly willing to get in that time machine in the first place. And she trained in the same gym as the men for this fight…while being given none of the attention because “the crowd’s there to see the boys.”
By the time the opening bell rang, Martin was in no mood to play nice…
Holm is four inches taller than Martin, and while her reach is unlisted on Boxrec, she’s got long arms (we saw that against Rousey) and clearly enjoys a significant advantage.
Throughout the first round, Holm used that edge to keep Martin away from her, and to be almost Klitschko-like about it, shoving when punching might have been better called for. Holm’s recent time in MMA was on display here, as she was less refined but still well able to use her physical gifts to gain an edge.
Two minutes ticked by (the women are fighting ten two-minute rounds per custom for women’s boxing title fights) with Martin unable to get a shot in. The same continued for the first three rounds; it wasn’t that much different in its way from their historical fight in 2005.
Martin saw which way this was going, and she was having none of it. Twenty seconds into the round, Martin kicked Holm, or tried to; Holm dodged the clumsy kick and slammed Martin to the ground. Referee Mills Lane, rather than disqualify the women, instead took a look at the bloodthirsty crowd, which had for the first time shown an interest in this co-feature (they had otherwise looked about as lively as the dead guy in Weekend at Bernie’s)…
…and Mills said “I’ll allow it.”
Which, of course, was all the excuse Holm needed to bust out that Chuck Norris roundhouse kick of hers, which caught Martin right in the head (and oh by the way, the foot had a boxing shoe on it, not an MMA wrap), smacked her stupid, and dropped her to the ground. That was anticlimactic…
RESULT: HOLM KO4 (BOOT TO THE DOME) MARTIN.
Alexis Arguello (6/22/1977, 48-4, 40 KOs) vs. Azumah Nelson (3/1/1992, 35-2-1, 26 KOs)
The consummate boxer-puncher against an opportunistic fighter who always seemed to be able to capitalize on an opponent’s mistake. Arguello comes into this fight after clobbering Cocoa Sanchez in his debut fight at 130 pounds, a little ways before he stepped into title shots at that weight and began his championship run.
Nelson’s at the other end of his career, coming in from the second fight with Jeff Fenech, after a run through the middle of the 1980s atop the featherweight and junior lightweight divisions.
Nelson is the much smaller man here, and that could be a problem; he gives up five inches in height (5’5 vs. 5’10 for Arguello) and four in reach (68 vs. 72 inches.)
Right away, Arguello knew how he wanted to conduct this fight. He was going to make Nelson pay for every inch of real estate, “make him walk through a bad neighborhood” as Teddy Atlas says, and administer a constant barrage of punishment at minimal risk to himself.
Nelson, for his part, had the opposite problem, and would have to work behind his jab, try to take away the body of Arguello, and land a big shot on the inside to take the Nicaraguan’s legs out from under him.
Unlike Jeff Fenech, Alexis Arguello was plenty able to control the range and avoid those incoming right hands; there would be no powerhouse knockdowns in this first round.
Salvador Sanchez was able to pound Nelson like cheap steak with the left hook in their contest, and Arguello was able to make use of that weapon in this fight. As Nelson continued to come forward, Arguello began to be able to time him a bit better, and after about two minutes of this, a left hook found its mark absolutely perfectly on the temple of Nelson. The Ghanaian may have been a tough nut to crack, but he wasn’t invincible—Salvador Sanchez had proven that well enough in their contest.
Nelson slowed down, and that crisp jab he used to control range came out a little slower, a little lazier, a little more perfunctory, and the rout was on.
One other difference between Alexis Arguello and Jeff Fenech is that Arguello was never the sort to just stand in one place and let the fight degenerate into a contest on a postage stamp-sized stretch of in-ring real estate. Arguello moved; nay, he practically danced, the way he used his movement to make himself hard to hit in so many of his title fights. He didn’t need to take risks. Hell, it may have looked like he was going for the home run, but it was more like all nine guys in a baseball lineup just stringing together singles and line drives into the gap to accumulate runs steadily in a big inning, the kind of inning where the pitcher never gets to face a guy where there aren’t runners in scoring position.
This was getting out of hand.
There was some debate whether the stoppage was too quick; when Nelson went down from about the 95th left hook of the fight thrown at him by Arguello, referee Mitch Halpern didn’t go into a count. It was like he was looking for an excuse, and after seeing Nelson get beaten like one of Adrian Peterson’s kids, the African’s protest that he could continue fell on deaf ears.
Arguello had carried the day, and it hadn’t taken him nearly as long as it took Salvador Sanchez. Sometimes towering over your opponent and fighting a range war is all the edge you need; other times, landing a honey of a hook that would be a one-punch knockout against a less durable fighter just brings on a 12-minute trip to the end rather than doing it in ten seconds.
Either way, this fight was over, and Arguello ran his record to 2-1 with 2 KOs on Historical Fight Night; Nelson drops to 0-2, this going in with his loss to Floyd Mayweather.
RESULT: ARGUELLO KO6 NELSON.
It’s a Mayweather spectacular—but not quite in the way you’d think. The main event pits Roger Mayweather up against Ben Tackie in a 140-pound showdown, while the co-feature gives us Floyd Mayweather Sr. taking on Zab Judah at welterweight. Neither uncle nor father were anywhere near the caliber of their legendary next-generation family member, but that doesn’t mean they can’t put on a good fight, so that’s what you get next week!
As always, thanks for reading, and keep it tuned to the Boxing Tribune for Historical Fight Night!