LAS VEGAS – Sergio Martinez put on a masterclass on Saturday, using a blistering jab and blazing speed to easily handle Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. before an enthusiastic sell-out crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center.
It was no contest from the first moments of the fight until the waning seconds of the final round, when Chavez somehow knocked Martinez down and created drama.
Chavez, who had been routed throughout the fight, landed a big right and three lefts that floored Martinez in the final 30 seconds of the final round. But Martinez somehow hung on for the win.
"He's now a superstar," Promoter Lou DiBella said of Martinez.
Judges had it 118-109 twice and 117-110 for Martinez. Yahoo! Sports scored it 118-109 for Martinez, giving him the first 11 rounds.
Until that final sequence, Chavez seemed to have no game plan and no idea of how to cut off the ring. Martinez used the ring to move, create angles and generally befuddle his younger foe.
As the fight moved into the second half, Chavez's aggressiveness slowed and it was Martinez doing the bulk of the work. He bloodied Chavez from the nose and mouth with his jab and the left that he frequently brought behind it. Chavez's right eye was but a slit by the eighth round and he had welts all over his face.
In the 11th, Chavez finally trapped Martinez in a corner, where he could use his supposed punching advantage. He landed several good body shots, then came upstairs and ripped Martinez with a right to the chin.
The partisan Chavez crowd roared its approval, but Martinez landed a four-punch combination to the body and head that forced Chavez to back off.
"I was 20 seconds away from knocking him out," Chavez said. "I started way too late. I thought I could do the whole fight what I did the last round. I didn't get started until the eighth round."
The win enabled Martinez to reclaim the WBC middleweight belt he was forced to surrender in 2010. It was his title that Chavez won by defeating Sebastian Zbik for the vacant belt.
"The speed was the difference," Chavez trainer Freddie Roach said. "I told Chavez to go out and exchange with him in every round. He just couldn't catch him. I knew Martinez was good, but I didn't know he was that good. Chavez can do better. This was a good lesson. I kept asking to let his hands go. I told him in the 10th round he better start fighting or I was going to stop it."
It seemed a no-brainer as the fight moved into the final seconds, but then Chavez out of nowhere stepped it up and nearly pulled out one of the most dramatic wins ever.
He landed a crushing right to Martinez's head that wobbled the Argentinian. Chavez threw three left hooks in succession and Martinez went down.
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The sellout crowd of more than 19,000 went wild, jumping to its feet and roaring. Chavez pursued the finish, but couldn't get the big shot in he needed before the bell sounded to end the fight.
"He fought a great fight and he was tougher than I expected," Martinez said. "He showed great heart in the ring. It's great for boxing to have a champion who is willing to fight anyone. It was a tough fight for Julio to have his first loss.
“We are two professionals and if Julio wants a rematch and the public wants a rematch, we'll do a rematch."
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