Before nearly 40,000 Argentineans at the Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires, Distrito Federal, Argentina, middleweight champion Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez returned from whence he came a hero Saturday night. The Quilmes, Argentina-born Martinez improved to 51-2-2 (28) by pushing back the challenge of St Helens, Merseyside, United Kingdom’s Martin Murray, 25-1-1 (11) in the championships rounds. Martinez survived Murray’s tough shell defense, a late knockdown that was called and one that wasn’t to retain his WBC middleweight crown. Judge: Nicolas Hidalgo and Alejandro Rochin scored it 115-113 Martinez while judge Rey Danseco had it 115-112 also for Martinez. This writer had it 114-113 for Murray.
The fight started slowly. Martinez moving along the edges of the ring, letting his right jab and left straight go in succession. But his legs looked stiff. At age 38 and coming off a knee surgery perhaps a bit too soon, Martinez looked every bit his 50 years. That included his experience as he handled the pressure of the stadium’s adoring fans and the torrential downpour throughout the fight.
Murray started even slower than the fight. He moved in close behind a shell defense, taking no chances but giving out punishment in very few spots. Slowly but surely, however, Murray ramped up the pressure. By the fourth round, entering the middle portion of the fight where Martinez historically rests, Murray was poised to attack. He dominated the middle of the fight with a straight right hand thrown in various forms form a looping hook from the rear around the guard hand of Martinez to a straight pole-axe, Murray invested in the right hand time and again, letting it go with abandon. His work to the body also seemed to wilt Martinez a bit.
After the seventh which saw Murray assert control of the fight, Martinez’ corner implored to make a stand. Martinez burst with energy, reminding us why, if only for a brief moment, he’s earned the nickname “Maravilla” from a local boxing writer when he was just an amateur. Martinez found his rhythm and range, unleashing long strafing shots from the outside. Murray kept turning and turning, looking for Sergio but the champion let the stadium know the title was his.
In the ninth, Murray found pay dirt and landed a hard right hand following an earlier punch that seemed to stun Martinez. The champion tumbled to the canvas. This was the worst time to be in a torrential rainstorm. But Martinez has a made a career off bucking the odds. Saturday, Martinez did it again. Though found success in the tenth, even dropping Martinez again, thought referee Massimo Barrovecchio ruled it a slip. Per WBC rules, instant replay was used and officials ruled what appeared to be a clear knockdown, was in fact, a slip.
Martinez came on strong to end the fight despite telling his corner that his left hand was badly injured. Murray, for whatever reason, nerves or he had hit a conditioning wall or whatever, stopped being as aggressive as he had been. Martinez, blood running down from his left eyebrow looked like Roy Hobbs in The Natural; the aging hidden gem now in the light but fading fast, fighting through it all towards final glory. While some may disagree with the final tally, Martinez won the final two rounds on this card, showing that he is the champion for at least one more night.
Arreola-Stiverne (Also See Photo Gallery: Bermane Stiverne upsets Chris Arreola)
The reports of Don King’s demise were greatly exaggerated as his heavyweight contender Bermane Stiverne of La Plaine, Haiti dropped beat American heavyweight contender Chris Arreola and busted his nose in the process en route to a unanimous decision at the Citizen’s Bank Arena in Ontario, CA. Scores were 117-110 twice and 118-109 all for Stiverne.
Arreola looked good early on, dipping back and forth, using his jab to set up the right hand. Then at the end of the third, Stiverne slipped to his right and dropped a right hand bomb on Arreola right at the bell. Arreola rose but his nose was badly damaged, pouring blood for the rest of the fight. The moment altered the course of the fight.
From there, Arreola worked the jab in spots but mainly walked to Stiverne who picked his spots long range using fast hands and an up and down attack. Stiverne invested wisely in a body attack and it slowed Arreola while keeping him off balance. The men traded frequently and with aplomb and overall, it’s a match-up I would love to see again.