In his lust for giving Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., a sound 12-round whipping, Sergio Martinez learned that a wounded prey is can mount a sudden and dangerous counterattack.
Martinez seemed headed to an obstacle-free win against Chavez (46-1-1) in their World Boxing Council middleweight title fight Saturday in Las Vegas. For 11 1/2 rounds, Martinez proved why he is one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters, bruising Chavez with effective shots from different distances and angles.
The younger but slower Chavez perhaps was too green for this type of ring assignment and Martinez didn’t care about protecting his lead as the fight approached the final three minutes. Martinez (50-2-2) wanted Chavez, son of the legendary Mexican champion, to pay for his ascension through the promotional chain at a perceived convenient pace.
But just as it appeared that Martinez, 37, would have his victory sealed, he encountered an unexpected scare. Chavez found his opening and landed three solid lefts to the head, sending Martinez to the canvas midway through the 12th round. A dazed and bloody Martinez beat the 10-count and converted to survivor as Chavez suddenly was in pursuit of a dramatic, late win.
Martinez converted from aggressor to survivor, clinching and landing weaker combinations to outlast Chavez’s assault. The clock ran out on Chavez and Martinez banked on the previous 11 rounds to win a unanimous decision before a capacity crowd at the Thomas and Mack Center.
“Julio gave it his all tonight, he did more than I expected,” Martinez said. “He showed he had heart and until the end, he never gave up.”
A native of Argentina, Martinez, 37, spent more than a decade striving to reach the event of Saturday’s pay-per-view backdrop. Now that he has reclaimed the WBC belt, Martinez (50-2-2) looks forward to enhancing his brush with fame.
“This win means that I can believe in the sport again,” Martinez said. “That a champion is willing to fight everyone.”
Despite the 12th round scare, Martinez won the bout 119-109 on two judges’ scorecards, and 117-11 on the third.
“It was not my night, I started too late,” said Chavez, who is now 46-1-1. “I hurt him but unfortunately I couldn’t finish him. I just needed a little more time.”
Chavez’s last-minute flurry and near knockout win now solidifies the setting for a rematch and new boxing rivalry.
“Of course, whenever he wants the rematch, we will do it,” Martinez said. “We are two professionals and we will take this with the seriousness it deserves.”
• Other late Saturday bouts: Miami resident Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0) retained his World Boxing Association super-bantamweight title with a unanimous decision over Robert Marroquin. ... Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs) defended his WBC super-welterweight belt with a fifth-round technical knockout win over Josesito Lopez in Las Vegas.
Florida pioneer dies
Don Hazelton, who oversaw the Florida Boxing Commission and Miccosukee Boxing Commission during a three-decade span, died Friday at a Tallahassee hospital. Hazelton was 83.
Hazelton was diagnosed with lung and throat cancer last year.
In 1987, Hazelton became executive director of the Florida Boxing Commission. Hazelton’s tenure was praised for reform enhancement and strict maintenance of rules and regulations. His term expired in 1996. Two years later, when the Miccosukee Indian Tribe broke from the Florida Commission and formed its own boxing regulating authority, Hazelton became its executive director, until 2010 when the Miccosukees disbanded the commission.
A former Florida state representative from 1970 to 1978, Hazelton is survived by his wife and two sons.