Photos by Sumio Yamada
SERGIO MARTINEZ TKO end of 11 MATTHEW MACKLIN
Matthew Macklin’s courage and commitment predictably wasn’t enough to overcome the remarkable skills of Sergio Martinez but the St. Patrick’s Day middleweight fight provided lively entertainment for HBO viewers in the States and Sky Sports’ subscribers in the U.K.
It was only in the late rounds that Martinez started to outclass Macklin. By the ninth Macklin’s hopes of victory were fast receding but it looked as if he might at least have the satisfaction of completing the 12 rounds. In the 10th, though, Martinez was really blasting the British challenger (with Irish ancestral roots), and two knockdowns in the 11th ended a gritty challenge.
I’m sure that Macklin wished to continue, but his trainer, Buddy McGirt, did the right thing in retiring his man. Macklin was starting to look bloody and battered — cut over the left eye and on the right side of his scalp, a mouse forming under the right eye. There really was no point in letting the fight continue.
Macklin fought a smart fight as well as an aggressive one, doing his best to use angles and attack in spurts so that it was difficult for Martinez to time him for flush shots. The Argentinean boxer’s handsome features creased in a frown as Macklin shot right hands to the body and brought up some quick right hands around the side. By staying low and moving his head and upper body, Macklin was making himself a difficult target.
In a tactical but lively fight, Macklin was holding his own with one of the game’s master technicians.
When Martinez was given an eight count in the seventh round it seemed as if an astonishing upset just might be possible. Although Martinez was off balance and tripped over Macklin’s leg, a right hand helped him on his way the canvas and referee Eddie Cotton was correct to impose an eight count as Martinez grinned and shrugged as if in disbelief.
The really good fighters, though, the exceptional ones, increase the intensity and level of their boxing when a fight isn’t going their way, and unfortunately for Macklin this was the case on Saturday night as Martinez surged ahead like a finely tuned sports car sliding into a higher gear. Finally, the left hands and right jabs from Martinez’s southpaw stance were hitting the target consistently, and although the fight was still close on the scorecards it was in real terms all over by the 10th — Macklin was getting hit too hard, too often, and Martinez had his timing locked into place.
Although 37, Martinez fights like a much younger man and as late as the 11th round he seemed to be full of energy and, astonishingly, even faster than he had been at the start of the fight. Although Macklin lost, he did so with honour and if anything enhanced his reputation. He lost to one of the sport’s elite fighters but he gave the gifted Argentinean boxer plenty to think about.
In the U.K. earlier in the day we had what will likely be regarded as the upset of the year as +1500 underdog Kerry Hope battled his way to a very close win over Grzegorz Proksa to capture the European middleweight title.
Proksa fought like a man who thought it was just going to be a matter of time before he knocked out his opponent, but Hope stood up to some heavy shots and fought a gutsy, busy-punching fight.
Proksa’s technique fell apart a bit after a clash of heads left him with a cut over the left eye in the second round and he seemed to be tiring rather early. While Proksa landed the heavier blows, Hope’s high punch-volume and steady jabbing was keeping the Welsh challenger right in the all-southpaw fight. Proksa’s frequent big misses, at times throwing himself off balance, possibly made a bad impression on the judges, and when Proksa was backed up on the ropes it made it look as if Hope was in charge of the fight.
It was a debatable decision but certainly not a dubious one. Hope threw so much into the fight that he gave himself a chance of getting the decision if he could avoid getting knocked down by a desperation blow, and his outpouring of effort was rewarded.