(Photo credit: Chris Farina,Top Rank)
LAS VEGAS — For 30 minutes, it looked like a fight that needed no return bout. Three minutes later, the word most thrown around in the post-fight press conference was “rematch.” That was the kind of predictable then surprising fight that Sergio Martinez’s victory over Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. turned out to be Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Martinez was able to outclass Chavez for all but a few seconds of each of the first 11 rounds of the fight. You could call it a virtuoso performance, similar to what Meldrick Taylor did to Chavez’s pops for seven or eight rounds before getting stopped with two seconds left in the fight.
Chavez almost duplicated his father’s Fight of the Century effort as he put Martinez down on the canvas midway through the final round of what was up until that point a lopsided fight. When Martinez rose, he elected to trade, probably due to his immense pride and talk of demolishing Chavez before the fight. That gave Chavez an opportunity to put it on Martinez, and that is exactly what he did, though he was unable to duplicate his father’s feat and wound up losing a decision by scores of 118-109 twice and 117-110.
The fight began with both guys playing it a bit cautious, with Martinez edging things due to his more accurate arsenal. Both boxers were sizing each other up but Martinez was the only guy to really get much done that round. In the 2nd, Martinez landed some solid shots and Chavez. responded by clowning him a bit. Chavez showed where he could excel later on as he landed some good shots in close, though Martinez was able to shake them off at the time.
The 2nd round was perhaps the only point in the fight up until the last stanza that you could make a case Chavez won a round. Martinez began finding comfort in his movement and ability to fire and land 1-2s, and it was like there was a heavy bag in front of him. Like a bag, Chavez did not go anywhere.
Martinez began the 4th by walking to the middle of the ring and waving for Chavez to come to him while the Mexican was still sitting on his stool. Chavez did land his best punch up until that point, a right hand that Martinez took well. Martinez fought himself off the ropes and put the fight back in the middle of the ring where he was vastly superior.
Chavez began looking a bit discouraged in the 5th and his punch output seemed to drop pretty dramatically. Still, he ate a wide variety of punches throughout the middle rounds and kept stalking Martinez, not offering much in terms of combinations, usually going with one shot at a time.
In round 6, Chavez landed some good stuff in the corner for a few seconds, landing a power shot that snapped Martinez’ head back but the Argentine got himself out of trouble quickly.
Martinez dominated every second of the 7th, and it was the first point in the fight that Chavez looked really hurt, Martinez had him reeling a bit before he found his bearings. Chavez got beat up in almost every round into the championship rounds, and you could make the case that his corner could have pulled him out without much of a reaction from the boxing public.
Chavez showed life in the 11th, setting the stage for the dramatic and ridiculous final round that showed just what the young fighter from Culiacan is made of.
It was a devastating left hook that nearly put Martinez out, bending through the ropes and absorbing a number of other heavy shots before crashing down to the canvas at the halfway point. The crowd went nuts as beer rained down from the rafters in response to the crazy turn of events. Chavez went for broke, and Martinez didn’t back down, trading with his nemesis rather than holding on, likely due to his immense pride.
Though he clearly lost the fight, Chavez didn’t walk away empty handed. The countrymen that put their faith in him prior to the fight were rewarded. Chavez proved that he was world class in a couple of categories, notably in the chin and balls departments.
Martinez could have boxed and danced in the 12th round, since his movement was what Chavez couldn’t figure out all night. When Martinez elected to trade, Chavez had moments where he landed some quality shots, though he never really hurt him until halfway through the final round.
At the post-fight press conference, rematch was the word being thrown around. If Martinez fights a whole fight the way he did for 30 minutes, he can win comprehensively. Despite that, his pride in the leadup to the fight and his desire for a knockout makes TQBR think that we could get similar drama if these two square off a second time.