For fans of lineal and now WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, the one area of concern heading into his fight against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was that his anger and disdain towards Chavez Jr. would lead to a breakdown in tactics and a loss of composure.
Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KO), however, appeared en route to painting his masterpiece for 11-and-a-half rounds until near-disaster struck.
In an incident that recalled his famous father’s last second victory over Meldrick Taylor, Chavez Jr. (46-1-1, 32 KO) mounted a furious rally in the 12th round, knocking Martinez down and badly hurting the Argentine champion in one of the year’s most memorable stanzas.
Surely, Martinez should have done more holding after the knockdown, but his admirable if foolish hubris is what ultimately provided the finishing touch to what now stands as his signature win.
While the HBO crew heaped praise on Chavez Jr. as the fight concluded and immediately brought up the prospect of a rematch, make no mistake that this victory should be about Martinez.
For 11-and-a-half rounds, Martinez dissected a lethargic Chavez Jr. with surgical precision, and it was Martinez’s movement and psychological blows that proved as telling as the damage he inflicted with his fists.
In the second round, Chavez Jr. resorted to his tactic of showboating by extending his arms and mocking Martinez’s supposed lack of punching power.
While this strategy seemed to work against Andy Lee, Martinez was able to dismiss Chavez Jr.’s petulant bravado with effective responses to every burst of offense from Chavez Jr.
Should Martinez and Chavez Jr. have an immediate rematch?
Of course, one must give Chavez Jr. credit for absorbing so many precise shots and rallying late in the fight. A lesser fighter would have crumbled under the weight of being so thoroughly dominated, and it appears likely that Chavez Jr. learned a valuable lesson as he now shifts into comeback mode.
That said, Martinez essentially had the perfect response to everything Chavez Jr. had to offer. When Chavez Jr. stalked aimlessly, Martinez made himself a moving target and peppered him from the outside; when Martinez backed Chavez Jr. up and noticed openings, he went on the offensive with combinations; and most impressively, whenever Chavez Jr. had sustained success, Martinez made sure that he answered with a more telling offensive burst.
The fight became a case of “anything you can do, I can do better,” and Martinez’s sustained punch output, stunning accuracy and dominant ring generalship were the stuff of genius.
But what about Chavez Jr.’s 12th-round rally and the possibility of a rematch? It seems unlikely that a second encounter between Martinez and Chavez Jr. would be wildly different, though one must concede that a rematch would be closer.
If Chavez Jr. garnered anything from this defeat, it is that he has proven his resolve and knows he can hurt Martinez.
Despite Chavez Jr.’s late success, Martinez would not feel the same amount of pressure to administer such a thorough thrashing in a second fight.
This fight was as much about Martinez knocking Chavez Jr. off of his pedestal than it was about any sort of championship, and it is reasonable to suspect that Martinez would be more content to box intelligently for the entire fight, having already proven his worth tonight.
After such an arduous road to the pinnacle of the sport, Sergio Martinez deserves the bulk of the attention for this win. Before a rematch is even discussed, celebrate his skill and craftsmanship.
Give “Maravilla” the moment he deserves—the moment he earned through skilled boxing and a stubborn fighter’s instinct—before getting back to business.