Sergio Martinez literally escaped the Thomas & Mack Center as middleweight champion.
For Sergio Martinez, it was 11.5 rounds of a boxing clinic and 1.5 minutes of sheer terror.
Martinez defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. by unanimous decision on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. With the victory, he claimed the WBC middleweight championship and retained The Ring Magazine title.
For the first 11 rounds, the issue was never in doubt.
Martinez outboxed, outpunched and outclassed his younger opponent. He used movement to frustrate him and gave him no openings to get into a rhythm,
Chavez, known as a slow starter, struggled to find openings, and when he did, he seemed reluctant to let his hands go. Heading into the final round, it was totally justified if you had scored all 11 previous rounds for Martinez.
And then, it happened, or at least, came close.
With the fight seemingly out of reach, Chavez nearly channeled one of his legendary father's finest moments when he stunned, knocked down and nearly knocked out Martinez in the 12th round.
It was an absolutely stunning turn of events, given how one-sided the previous rounds had been. It was nearly a direct replay of Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., who was well behind on the scorecards going into the last round, knocking out Meldrick Taylor in 1990.
"I was 20 seconds away from knocking him out. I started way too late," Chavez told Max Kellerman in the ring after the fight.
"I didn't really get started until the eighth round."
But, it wasn't to be as a badly hurt Martinez, who showed his guts by refusing to hold and continuing to fight, stayed on his feet to meet the final bell.
The scorecards were never in doubt with Martinez winning 117-110, 118-109, 118-109.
Both fighters showed tremendous class toward each other in the post-fight interviews, especially in light of how personal and heated the promotion had been.
"He fought a great fight and he was a lot tougher than I expected," Martinez told Kellerman. "He showed great heart."
Martinez and Chavez both stated their desire for a rematch which could take place early next year.
"If Julio wants a rematch, we'll do a rematch," Martinez said.
One thing is for sure, if there is a rematch, Julio better fight for more than a minute and a half.