Sergio Martinez schooled Julio Cesar Chavez in the art of pugilism, and looked like he'd coast to a wide decision win, until he got caught with a right hand with 1:45 left in the twelfth and final round at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday evening, which buzzed him a bit. "Maravilla" needed to summon all his wits and guts, just to make it to the final bell, as the WBC middleweight Chavez raked him with lefts, and sent him to the mat with 1:23 remaining. With blood trickling from his left eye, Martinez rose, clapped his mitts together, and fought to the end. He didn't run, or clinch, or clutch, to his credit. He was half thrown, and half fell to the mat, but it wasn't ruled a knockdown with 54 seconds left, and he mercifully managed to make the finish line.
Martinez went 322-908, to 178-390 for the loser, who salvaged, about as well as one can, glimmers of hope and honor, in the last round of a mediocre--or worse--outing.
Martinez rose, and yes, had to battle the son of the legend off of him to make it to the final bell. What had been a one-sided drubbing turned into another episode of the Theater of the Unexpected. Martinez, a 37 year-old Argentine who turned in a performance that was 99.5% pure brilliance, took his eye off the prize for a split second, and was a bit fortunate that championship fights are now 12 rounds, not 15. The judges gave him the nod, 118-109, 118-109, 117-110, and after he gets to his dressing room, we can be reasonably sure trainer Pablo Sarmiento will wag his finger in his face, if only briefly, because his effort was majestic, save for that hiccup, and chide him for losing focus. The Lou DiBella-promoted Martinez had promised to punish Chavez, and savor the punishing exercise, and he made good on that, bloodying the kid's mouth and nose, as he stuck and moved, dripping with confidence as he did what he wanted, when he wanted to the kid, who looked overmatched for most of the scrap.
But credit to the 26 year old, who didn't fold, didn't look for an escape hatch, and kept plugging, looking for an opening. There will be calls for a rematch, with some folks feeling that if Chavez has a better training camp, if he shows up for every session with trainer Freddie Roach, that he could duplicate his 12th round fury, and this time, finish the job.
I think business dictates that there be a rematch. DiBella said at the post-fight presser, "The rematch probably will sell out Cowboys Stadium." Some fans will argue that most of the bout was lopsided, but my oh my, that finish. One has to consider that if Chavez is buoyed by the knowledge he can hurt Sergio, the sequel could look a lot like the last part of this fight, only a lot earlier.