It was Badou Jack’s first title defense, and he was prepared to keep his World Boxing Council super middleweight belt no matter what it took.
It took 12 rounds at the MGM Grand Garden, but Jack did just enough to retain his title, winning a 12-round split decision over George Groves on Saturday on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Andre Berto welterweight title fight.
Jack, a Las Vegas resident who won the title April 24 when he defeated Anthony Dirrell, scored a first-round knockdown of the Englishman, and it certainly helped. Judges Glenn Trowbridge and Guido Cavalleri scored the fight in Jack’s favor, 116-111 and 115-112. John McKaie had Groves winning 114-113.
“Groves is a hell of a fighter,” said Jack (21-1-1). “I thought I could go to the body, and I should have done more of that. I try to break my opponents down, and I thought I eventually wore him down.”
Groves (22-3) shook off the knockdown — which resulted from a pair of right hands by Jack — and fought his way back into the bout. But Jack appeared to get his second wind in the eighth round and did enough to win.
Groves obviously disagreed, saying, “I thought I won the fight decisively. All credit to him, though, scoring the knockdown in the first round.
“I thought I controlled the fight with my jab and that I was in control throughout. It appeared closer to the judges.”
Jack enjoyed 2-1 edges in total punches connected, 42 percent to 21 percent, and power punches landed (52 percent to 26 percent).
In a World Boxing Organization super featherweight title rematch, Orlando Salido and Roman “Rocky” Martinez battled to a 12-round draw.
Judge Glenn Feldman scored the fight 114-114, Patricia Morse-Jarman had Martinez winning 115-113, and Burt Clements had Salido ahead 115-113.
Neither fighter was happy with the decision.
“I thought I won the fight,” Martinez said. “They counted a knockdown that wasn’t really a knockdown. He threw a lot of punches, but a lot of them didn’t connect. “
The two fought April 11, when Martinez won a 12-round decision and the belt. On Saturday, it was as if they picked up where they left off. Both fighters were knocked down in the third round and went back and forth over the next two.
But Salido (42-13-3) threw and landed more punches in the second half of the fight. The Mexican veteran kept coming forward, and Martinez (29-2-3) was starting to tire.
“I thought the first couple of rounds were even, and then I felt like I took control of the fight,” Salido said. “I definitely thought I won the fight. For the judges to take it away from me is not fair. I definitely want to have a third fight.”
Martinez agreed, saying, “There definitely will be a third fight.”
Las Vegas junior middleweight Ishe Smith was knocked down for the first time in his 16-year pro career and lost a 10-round majority decision to Vanes Martirosyan.
Martirosyan (36-2-1) dropped Smith (27-8) late in the third and eighth rounds, both times with right hands. Judges Ricardo Ocasio and Max DeLuca had Martirosyan winning 97-91, and Lisa Giampa scored it 95-95.
“I knew it would be a tough fight,” Smith said. “He had his turns, and I had my turns.
“He was long and rangy. I wanted to get inside, but I didn’t want to get caught. He’s a good fighter, one of the best. But I still thought it was a closer fight than 97-91.”