NEW YORK — The bright lights of fighting on a major card easily could distract any boxer.
Not Ryan Martin.
Fighting at the "World's Most Famous Arena," Martin was dialed in, displaying skills that soon could land him a lightweight ranking in the top 10.
The Chattanooga native and 2011 Central High School graduate systematically broke down Bryant Cruz, stopping him in round eight at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Martin, who successfully defended his WBC Continental Americas title, improved to 17-0 with 11 knockouts. Cruz, from nearby Port Chester, N.Y., fell to 17-2.
The 24-year-old Martin had fought on nontelevised portions of major cards, where only a relatively few spectators in person would see him perform. This time he was in the first televised fight on an HBO pay-per-view telecast.
Martin, who is managed by Tim VanNewhouse, has spent significant time in the last several months training at Big Bear Lake, Calif., sharing camp with middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, who faced Daniel Jacobs in the main event Saturday.
The 5-foot-11 Martin had a four-inch height advantage and a significant reach edge over Cruz, who was on the defensive as Martin began finding a rhythm in the opening rounds. Martin found himself in range to consistently land two-three punch combinations to the head. The impact of the punches began to take their toll on Cruz's face, as a noticeable swelling began to develop below his right eye.
Cruz was game, but his punches had little impact as Martin did not seem to be fazed by them.
"He came out a little different than I expected, so it took me a while to figure him out," Martin said after the fight.
By the midway point Cruz was receiving multiple punches to the head and began fighting even more defensively.
A right hand in round five shook him. Martin followed up with a barrage of punches, but Cruz was able to weather the storm and make it out of the round.
Another combination by Martin near the end of round six looked as though it was going to be the end for Cruz. The end did come at 45 seconds of round eight when Martin trapped a defenseless Cruz in a corner and landed a flurry of punches until referee Harvey Dock stepped in and stopped the bout.
Cruz has lost two of his last three bouts.
According to CompuBox, Martin threw a total of 572 punches, landing 233 of them (41 percent). Cruz connected with 129 of 366 thrown punches (35 percent).
"I give myself an 8 out of 10. I'm very happy with my performance," Martin said.
"I want to be back in the ring as soon as possible, whenever my team tells me. It was great to fight on such a huge card. Training in Big Bear really paid off dividends with my conditioning."
"I'm ready (to fight) a top-10 fighter in the lightweight division."
Francisco A. Salazar covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV and Boxingscene.com. He has covered the boxing beat in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He can be reached on Twitter @FSalazarBoxing.