Pickering Schools Martin To Retain European Crown

13.05.04 -By Elliot Worsell: Ever improving European super bantamweight titleholder Esham Pickering 26-3 (10 KO’s) continued his impressive recent winning streak with a comprehensive eight round injury stoppage of unknown Spaniard Juan Garcia Martin 11-1 (6 KO’s) last night in Reading. Pickering, a cute switch-hitter who fights out of the famed Wincobank stable in Sheffield, claimed the prestigious European title last time out against the rugged Italian Vincenzo Gigliotti whom he bludgeoned to defeat in ten rounds. After such a gruelling championship winning effort, it appeared from the outset that Martin, who had not fought anyone of previous note, had been brought in as a comfortable first defence for the newly crowned Euro king. This assumption proved to be correct as Pickering out mastered and outclassed the tough Spaniard in every possible department for eight rounds, befuddling and confusing the challenger who had never encountered such a polished and classy performer in his eleven previous contests.

The opening rounds of this European title affair were all about Pickering and his ability to outmanoeuvre Martin without too much difficulty. Martin would march forward in straight lines, his arms cupped loosely around his face, and Pickering would roll to the left, picking him off with cute jabs and left hooks en route. Pickering was feeling Martin out in the opener, not intent on putting too much behind his shots, but ensuring there was enough there to keep the rugged challenger honest.

In the second round, Pickering began to stamp his authority on the contest. The champion would fire off left jabs into the face of Martin, and then to highlight his superior strength, would push Martin back, or turn him to set him up for follow up attacks. Martin, who had jumped several notches up the class ladder to get this title opportunity, was being bullied around the ring by the stronger champion and didn’t appear to have anything within his artillery to change this fact. Pickering has previously fought as high as featherweight, and it told.

Martin continued to roam forward and stalk the elusive target in front of him, but to no avail. The Tenerife native was loading up on right hands, in an attempt to shoot some over the top of Pickering’s occasionally low left hand. In short though, Martin just wasn’t quick enough. At times he was chasing shadows. Pickering appeared to be introducing something new to his weaponry as each round passed by. In the 3rd, sensing Martin was already becoming frustrated, Pickering began to work his way inside with the jab, and fire off some sharp looking right uppercuts that were connecting with regularity on the challenger. At times Pickering was doing as he pleased in there and Martin had no substantial answer to it. A straight right, left jab, right cross combination from the Sheffield based stylist drove Martin back to the ropes, where he planted his gloves in front of his face and prepared himself for the follow up onslaught. It never came though, and one could sense that Pickering was in no mood to take chances, or take risks in there. He knew he had the talent and shot picking to make this an easy night’s work, and wasn’t going to jeopardise that by becoming reckless.

The 31-year-old challenger couldn’t be found wanting in the heart and tenacity departments, but Pickering just had too much polish for him at this stage of his career. Martin had previously barely fought anyone with a winning record, let alone an established European titleholder. In the 4th and 5th sessions Pickering was more content to throw combinations and stand and trade with Martin. Not only was his foot speed too hot for Martin to handle, but when on the inside, the Spaniard couldn’t cope with the fast clusters of shots Pickering was unleashing. One well-picked right hook in particular caught Martin square on, and the challenger looked unsettled momentarily. He had taken a lot. ‘Brown Sugar’ was playing his own, original tune in there, and Martin just couldn’t understand the lyrics. Martin was occasionally slipping and tripping over, further emphasising the fact that Pickering had confused the hell out of him, and also highlighting the fact that he was becoming increasing frustrated with how events were unfolding.

His frustration was further evident in round seven as he began complaining that Pickering was doing too much pushing and shoving for his liking. He had a point. Esham, whenever snapping out his sharp jab or right hand, would do further damage by leaning in with his shoulder and forcing Martin back. The referee picked up on this, and was quick to issue Pickering a warning for such tactics. Not that it took anything away from a solid, polished, workmanlike Pickering performance. The former WBO title challenger was forcing out the bigger shots in the 7th, sensing that Martin was not only annoyed and perplexed by the box of tricks in front of him, but also hurt and jaded. Pickering caught Martin on the ropes with a cluster of left hooks and right hooks that brought about a rueful look from the novice challenger.

The Spaniard never stopped throwing that right hand in vain, and now and again had momentary success with it, but on the whole Pickering was controlling events in there with consummate ease. The finish came about in the eighth round when Pickering’s dominance just became too much for Juan Garcia Martin. Pickering was catching the tough challenger throughout the round, with right hooks, right uppercuts and raking jabs, and with Martin constantly complaining to his corner and referee, the ending looked inevitable. As it happened though, the finale was far from conclusive. Martin, following an attempt to throw a punch of his own, retreated to his own corner, indicating to the referee that he had hurt his arm. For some bizarre reason the referee decided this was a due opportunity to pick up the standing eight count, despite the fact that Martin never touched down. The referee reached ten, Martin continued to protest in pain, and predictably the fight was waved off. Perhaps an unsatisfactory ending for the European champion Pickering, but his performance tonight was one of a newly appointed champion brimming with confidence and panache. Pickering did a real number on Martin, and although the Spaniard’s qualifications hardly warranted a European title tilt, the Sheffield switch-hitter could only school whoever was in front of him. Last night, he did just that.

Article posted on 13.05.2004

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