Photos by Anna John
by Gautham Nagesh
NEW YORK, NY—We live in a society programmed for instant gratification, a world where armchair pundits rush to spit opinions in real-time via social media. These days we are so eager to pronounce verdicts, we often don’t wait for the final bell. That may work in other venues, but rushing to judgment is usually a mistake in boxing.
For most of Saturday night’s main event at the Theater in Madison Square Garden, Twitter was afire with talk of how middleweight champion Sergio Martinez had slipped, simply because his opponent Matthew Macklin was still standing. But Maravilla corrected that oversight a few rounds later, turning up the heat on Macklin after a questionable knockdown call and forcing the Irishman’s corner to stop the fight before the start of the final round.
For seven rounds “Mack the Knife” gave Maravilla all he could handle, culminating in a sweeping right hand in the 7th that forced the off-balance Martinez to put a glove to the mat to steady himself. While the knockdown ignited the fiercely partisan crowd clad in green, it also served as a much-needed kick to Sergio’s rear end. Down on our scorecards at that point, Martinez began landing his left hand with aplomb in the 8th and poured it on in the 9th. By the 10th, Sergio was catching Macklin cleanly with lefts and forcing his legs to wobble.
One round later, a straight left sent Macklin backwards and to the mat. The Irishman gamely rose and came forward, but Martinez caught him with beautiful counter-left that dropped him again before the bell. The damage done, Macklin’s trainer Buddy McGirt elected to throw in the towel before the 12th. Despite some murmurs from the cheap seats, it is hard to fault the decision. Martinez was well on his way to obliterating the courageous Macklin.
Afterward Sergio said Macklin had proven tougher than he expected, which should double as an explanation for why the final result took so long. Macklin handled WBA middleweight belt-holder Felix Sturm on his home turf last year and came into this fight as the third-ranked fighter in the division. He more than acquitted himself in front of a spirited St. Patrick’s Day crowd, but Martinez still stands head and shoulders above the competition at 160 lbs. No fight against a world-class foe like Macklin should be easy and Martinez ended it decisively, so any talk of his decline is premature at the least.
Macklin admitted he stopped moving his head toward the end, but the pressure and power of Sergio had also taken its toll. Like compatriot and fellow Martinez victim Darren Barker, he must content himself with knowing that his performance will only look better once Sergio makes short work of less worthy opposition.
The chief support of the evening on HBO featured super middleweight prospect Edwin Rodriguez of Worcester, Mass. winning a comfortable unanimous decision over Chicago’s Don George. George has shown some pop in the past, but he was clearly less comfortable in the big stage than the highly-touted Rodriguez. Edwin pumped his jab steadily and picked his spots to throw the looping right hand. George landed some of the biggest shots of the fight himself, but not enough to put Edwin in serious trouble until the final round.
Rodriguez shows promise but he’s a long way from being ready for the likes of Andre Dirrell or Andre Ward at 168; perhaps Allan Green would be a more appropriate test. George has probably found his ceiling fighting in the Midwest, but he has a fan-friendly style that could make him a good opponent for TV.