Martinez Peels Pavlik for Middleweight Title

Kelly Pavlik may have been packing on the pounds, but it was Sergio Martinez who packed the right combination of skill and energy to push forth over the last four rounds and seize the Middleweight Championship.

Coming into the fight, Pavlik was looking to make a statement after an incredibly underwhelming stint as Middleweight Champion. His first three defenses had come against subpar opponents who had no chance of winning. A number of fans and boxing experts alike felt he had purposely avoided his most logical challenger, Paul Williams, by pulling out of a fight with him on numerous occasions.

But in Martinez, Pavlik found a foe all could agree was worthy of the opportunity. Many felt Martinez had beaten Williams in December, though Williams pulled the fight out with a highly-competitive majority decision. To combat Martinez’ speed and skill advantage, Pavlik came into the fight with an eleven-pound advantage.

In the first four rounds, the weight differential didn’t come into play. A natural junior middleweight, Martinez was by far the quicker of the two and had little trouble stepping in with jabs and lead left hands to the head and body. Just two minutes in, Pavlik was bleeding around the left eye. In the final seconds, he pushed down on Martinez’ head, causing him to tumble to the canvas, and that was all the pro-Pavlik Atlantic City crowd had to cheer about.

Pavlik attempted to press the action to begin round two, but Martinez made him pay with two straight left hands to the face. Pavlik responded by making a face, which Martinez hit with a sharp jab. Shortly thereafter, Martinez settled into his routine of dropping his hands and landing lead shots from both hands. Pavlik landed half a dozen right hands himself, but Martinez took them well. With Martinez regularly catching Pavlik clean in the face and body, the crowd grew restless.

Though Pavlik alarmed trainer Jack Loew with an inaudible statement he made in the corner, he had a much better third round. He knocked Martinez’ head back with a straight right hand to excite the crowd, but Martinez got him back with a straight left and a jab to the body. Pavlik next got a right around Martinez’ glove to knock the challenger into the ropes. Again, Martinez slid in and landed a straight left in return. By number of clean blows that appeared to land, it was still Martinez’ round, though it was becoming clear that Pavlik’s pressure and power could even things up in time.

With Williams watching from the crowd, Martinez drilled Pavlik with a straight left, bringing a grin from the champion in round four. Three left hands to the face landed in succession for Martinez and had Pavlik looking befuddled. An increasingly confident Martinez shrugged his shoulders, wound up his left glove and hit Pavlik with a right jab. For the last thirty seconds, Martinez didn’t even bother to lift his gloves above his waist, and the crowd’s uneasiness was deafening.
The Sergio Martinez show hit intermission midway through round five when Pavlik’s pressure began catching up to him. Pavlik landed some flush shots down the stretch of the round and had Martinez shouting at him at one point. Seconds later, Martinez stepped into a stiff jab from the champion that knocked him off balance. Though Pavlik had been standing on Martinez’ foot to create the reaction, he did follow up nicely with some straight rights to take his first round of the fight.

Round five proved to be a turning point as Martinez showed signs of swelling under his right eye. He struggled to land any significant punches in round six as Pavlik began picking off more of his shots and answering with his own. A straight right to the head caught Martinez late, and Pavlik’s pressure won him another round.

The seventh round began with both men scoring with flush shots, but it was one right hand from Pavlik that made the biggest impact. Martinez attempted to strike with his jab but ducked down as he came in. Pushing down on Martinez’ head, Pavlik stuffed in a right to the side of the head, and Martinez, losing control of his legs, went stumbling onto his backside on the canvas. David Fields quickly – and correctly – ruled it a knockdown in spite of Martinez’ protests. He wasn’t hurt, but his flashiness had finally caught up to him and cost him a crucial point.

To try to make up for the ground he had lost over the last three rounds, Martinez stood and traded more in round eight. Both men got in their share of blows, but Pavlik’s produced more of an effect. He stuffed in several right hands to Martinez as the challenger turned sideways in the ropes. Pavlik added a straight right and a left hook as Martinez became more stationary. After landing a left to the body, Martinez had his head snapped straight back by a stiff jab from the champion. Pavlik’s punches, quite literally, carried more weight.

With Pavlik now even in rounds and – thanks to the knockdown – ahead on points, Martinez knew he had to make a stand. Rather than wait until the championship rounds, he came out in the ninth with five or six unanswered left hands, one of which slammed Pavlik’s head back and opened a cut on his right eyelid. Martinez quickly capitalized by blasting away at Pavlik’s face with a two-fisted attack, all the while circling the ring and keeping the champion in the same spot. Pavlik defiantly waved Martinez on for more – and Martinez gave it to him, turning his face into a red mess. Martinez wound up his left glove and laughed as Pavlik frantically tried to hit back, landing just enough to avoid dropping a 10-8 round to the challenger.

On his way back to the corner, Pavlik must have told Loew he couldn’t see because the trainer admonished him, telling him to keep quiet. The corner couldn’t stop the bleeding, so Pavlik marched into round ten no better than he left the ninth. Martinez again had a field day with him, doing whatever he wanted. Left hand after left hand dropped on Pavlik’s face as the round ended. While his corner tried to stop the blood coming from both of his eyes, Pavlik may have suggested pulling out because Loew quickly told him whatever he had said was not an option.

Feeling his title being pried away, Pavlik gave an honest effort in round eleven, landing some quality right hands, but he couldn’t keep pace with Martinez, who had been energized by the sight of the blood. By the end of the round, he had Pavlik backing up and shielding himself from the shots coming at him from both hands.

Loew made it no secret to Pavlik that he needed a knockout to win. Pavlik came out for the twelfth and appeared to inadvertently clock Martinez with a forearm but ended up stumbling back into the ropes. Martinez strolled around with his gloves down a moment but, keeping in mind that he had come out on the losing end of his last two decisions, went after Pavlik once more, snapping his head back with a left. After another left landed flush, Martinez pumped his fist, knowing the title was his. At the bell, he mounted a corner to celebrate. Pavlik didn’t bother trying.

The fight had been an easy one to score, with only one real toss-up round. And the judges confirmed that, turning in scores of 116-111, 115-111 and 115-112 all for the new Middleweight Champion Martinez.

Thus ends Pavlik’s reign as Middleweight Champion – without question, the worst in decades. Though he never successfully defended his title against a legitimate threat, never let it be said that, when his critics came at him, he didn’t try to answer the challenge by taking on his most stylistically-difficult opponent in Martinez.

It would not be surprising to see Pavlik and Loew part ways, not only because Loew has failed to develop Pavlik to deal with boxers but because Pavlik legitimately seemed to want out of the fight. If that was the case, and Loew repeatedly refused to pull the plug, then Pavlik might feel he can no longer work with the man he’s spent his entire career with.

With the victory, Martinez becomes Argentina’s first Middleweight champion since the great Carlos Monzon, considered by some to be the best Middleweight champion of all time. For Martinez, there will be opportunities to make his reign as Middleweight champion one to remember, beginning with a rematch with Williams. There is no question Williams will want the fight. Pavlik, however, had a rematch clause in the contract and will have the right to exercise it. Either bout would give Martinez the opportunity to make a real statement in his first defense of the title.

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