Robson Conceicao bounced back from his first career loss with a comfortable 10-round points win over Xavier Martinez in Tulsa.
The main event on the Top Rank card served as a WBC super-featherweight title eliminator which now ensures the 33-year-old Brazilian remains in the hunt for another title shot. Four months ago, Oscar Valdez defended his WBC title with a unanimous decision win over Conceicao which was shrouded in controversy because of the champion’s failed drug test in the build-up.
Martinez came into this fight unbeaten in 17 starts looking to make the jump from someone with a zero on his record to genuine contender status, but fell wide of the mark in the end. The 24-year-old might regret his performance when he watches the fight back, with the Californian showing on occasions that he at least had the power to stun his opponent, but struggled for consistency throughout the contest.
The first round saw Conceicao looked to establish the jab early to both head and body. Martinez shrugged off anything coming his way as he hunted the mid-section himself which was something that ‘Nino’ didn’t enjoy early on.
Body attacks were an obvious tactic of Martinez while the quicker hands of Conceicao either kept him honest or whizzed by him. And not persisting with his moderately successful plan, which may have paid off had he stuck with it, will be marked down as a regret.
The output and style of Conceicao showed his agility and provided angles for a variety of shots but never once did you think this would be an early night. The Olympic gold medallist got himself into trouble in round 3 by walking into a left-hand flush in the face. Later in the round Martinez would land arguably the punch of the fight with a right which buzzed Conceicao. These were moments that will look good in the highlights package, but the threat was rarely repeated.
This was a fight where you had a feeling Conceicao would win it with ease if he maintained distance and resisted the urge to speed forwards and try to dominate Martinez on the inside. From the fourth round the underdog (Martinez) began waiting to long to play a winning card he played in the round beforehand. The rounds and the fight were beginning to pass Martinez by.
“You gotta work,” the Martinez corner instructed at the end of the sixth. Conceicao was providing some flashy moments and at times it felt as though that would be enough to win a round such was the lack of effort from Martinez.
Mistakes would creep back in to Conceicao’s work in the eighth for example, but his movement and footwork were at his disposal to bail him out. Better fighters will capitalise on the errors and ensure a world title win might always be out of reach.
Martinez left it too late in round 9 to provide his best three minutes since the third. He gave Conceicao something to think about early in the session. The WBC number three contender responded but Martinez countered him with a right hand further down the three-minute countdown to put that round on the board.
The final 180 seconds were frustrating for Martinez who couldn’t get close to Conceicao. The Brazilian closed the show and got back to winning ways after last September’s disappointment.
Judges Henry Ellick, Henry Gueary and David Sutherland all gave the nod to Conceicao 99-91, 100-90, 98-92 which was an accurate reflection.
The likelihood is we never saw Conceicao at his best tonight. From the first round he likely knew that over exertions in his 19th fight were not needed to be victorious. Martinez received an education which he has never received in a ring. Whether or not he learns from it and gets back to title eliminator level remains to be seen. Conceicao stays well in contention for shot number two but may have to rely on a vacant title opportunity to have some hardware strapped around his waist.
Elsewhere on the bill Stephan Shaw, Jeremiah Milton, Dante Benjamin, Nico Ali Walsh and Bruce Carrington picked up wins inside the distance. And there victories on the scorecards for Carla Torres, Haven Brady Jr, Delante Johnson and Giovanni Cabrera.
Feature image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank