“I won every round. In the last round, he hit me right and hurt me but I continued to fight like the warrior I am.” – Sergio Martinez 9.15.12
A crowd of 19,000-plus gathered at the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas to witness perhaps the most anticipated and dramatic fight of the year. The number three pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Sergio Martinez (50-2-2, 28KOs), regained his WBC middleweight strap after being knocked down in the 12th round, only to rise and continue his assault on the son of Mexico's biggest legend, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (46-1-1, 32KOs).
Martinez did what most boxing pundits thought he would do for the first 11 rounds – outbox, out slick and out punch the bigger, slower Chavez. However no one could have predicted the dramatic final scene of the 12th round.
The 37-year-old Argentine Martinez dominated the action from the opening bell with his sharp jab and superior counter punching. For 11 rounds, Chavez tried to find his way inside, only to be met by a series of straight left hands and uppercuts that kept him at bay. As the fight continued Chavez had his moments whenever he was able to pin the much smaller Martinez against the ropes, throwing body-head combinations that looked to have little to no effect on his nemesis.
Martinez was determined to keep the fight in the center of the ring where Chavez was unable to do much as Martinez landed jab after jab after jab. The pro-Chavez crowd cheered their hero on even though he was clearly being outclassed by a much better boxer. In the 12th round they finally got what they paid for.
Chavez looked tired but determined as he rocked Martinez with a left hand followed by a thudding combination that sent Martinez crashing to the canvas. An eruption of cheers echoed through the arena as Martinez beat the count but looked badly hurt. Chavez went in for the kill, but much to everyone's surprise Martinez opted to not hold on with a minute left in the round. He decided to keep fighting until the final bell sounded. Chavez pounded away as Martinez stood his ground while trading blows with his opponent. Chavez landed another huge blow but Martinez looked like a man who decided "I'm not getting knocked out".
The final bell rung and the judges scores were read. 117-111 and two scores of 118-109, all for Martinez. A valiant effort by Chavez but a masterful performance by Martinez.
Much to the delight of a mostly Mexican crowd, Chavez called for a rematch. “I thought I was going to finish him in the last round but I couldn’t. He has heart. In the rematch, I will knock him out.” said Chavez.
A rematch seems like a strong possibility after Chavez promoter Bob Arum claimed to receive a call from Dallas Cowboy's owner Jerry Jones who apparently offered to host a rematch at the billion dollar Cowboy Stadium.
Never the less, Sergio Martinez continues to roll on as boxing's brighest enigma. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Photo Credit: Getty