There’s life in the old dog yet.
Sergio Martinez proved on Saturday night that, at 37, he still has the agility to match a powerful left hand but he was made to work for it by Matthew Macklin in an enthralling contest at Madison Square Garden.
Roared on by a vocal Irish support, Macklin had the edge on the scorecard going into the 10th round when a torrent of Martinez pressure forced the Birmingham-born boxer’s corner man, Buddy McGirt, to call a halt to the fight at the end of the 11th.
And while Macklin was disappointed with how it ended, he backed his experienced trainer’s decision.
“My corner probably saved me for another day and I definitely have a world title in me,” a battered and bruised Macklin said afterwards.
“I got robbed in Germany and I fought one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world tonight and came off second best. I will improve again and I am not going to stop until I win a world title. One judge had me ahead and the other two just a round behind going into the 10th but I felt he had just got his nose in front. I took chances and got caught.”
Martinez was extremely cagey with his younger opponent throughout the opening rounds and although he always looked like he’d cause damage with his quick left jabs, Macklin never looked overly troubled and was deemed to be level or ahead by the three judges going into the seventh, when a controversial knockdown was credited to him. This forced the Argentinean champion’s hand and he increased the urgency, taking the eighth and ninth rounds with a flurry of shots inside as Macklin started to wane.
At this stage McGirt warned him not to get caught up in the crowd, a show of emotion which both men would rue later on.
“I think I lost my shape,” Macklin admitted. “My plan was to stay light on my feet. But I probably was thinking too much about offence and not enough about defence in those later rounds. I probably should have been more patient and have the confidence to stick to the boxing and close out the fight instead of getting a bit desperate and reaching for shots. That’s when he was able to bring me into punches.”
Towards the end of the 10th, Macklin was in trouble on the ropes and Martinez’s intensity finally became too much in the 11th. A straight left jab with 20 seconds left sent Macklin sprawling and another similar punch at the bell made McGirt’s mind up.
“You could see he was coming apart at the seams, I’m not going to allow that continue,” said the former world welterweight champion afterwards.
“We had one more round to go, he was starting to get hit with clean shots. So why take a chance for three minutes? You live to fight another day.
“He understood, he didn’t object. He fought a hell of a fight, he did better than anyone thought he would.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen (for Macklin to take a few more shots). I was watching his legs, he was starting to get heavier and heavier — so I knew it was only a matter of time. (Sergio) stepped it up and Matt was getting all excited. Then it just drained him. I knew he was gone from the second knockdown. He’s healthy now. He’ll go home and rest and come back and win a world title.”
New York-based Irish light heavyweight Seanie Monaghan had an unanimous points victory over Eric Watkins in the undercard. Dublin-born heavyweight Tommy Hardwick notched a pair of knockdowns in a four-round points win against TJ Gibson.
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