Sergio Martinez headed into his fight with Kelly Pavlik as the underdog in his quest to obtain the WBO and WBC middleweight belts. Martinez overcame the odds with a strong performance in the later rounds and bloodied the former title holder to win a unanimous decision at Boardwalk Hall. Judges scored the fight 116-111, 115-111, and 115-112.
“It was a 12-round fight and I knew it would go the distance,” said the new middleweight king, “and I knew at the end I had to close strong.”
The unanimous decision over Pavlik was refreshing for Martinez after the judges had not scored him favorably in his previous few fights. He fought to a controversial draw with Kermit Cintron in February of 2009. After dropping Clintron in the seventh round and watching the referee count him out, commotion came about and the fight was allowed to continue. Also in December, he lost a decision to Paul Williams in a Fight of the Year candidate. Martinez was determined not to let it happen once again.
“He sliced him up,” Martinez promoter Lou DiBella said. “I thought Kelly showed a lot of heart, but he was much faster. He’s the best athlete I’ve ever promoted, in terms of a pure athlete.”
Martinez, who is now 45-2-2, got the fight with Pavlik after moving up to 160 pounds. He was knocked down in the seventh round but his speed and footwork carried him on Saturday, not to mention his powerful punches that bloodied the face of Pavlik.
“He was a smart fighter,” said Pavlik. “He doubled up on the jab a lot after he cut me. I just couldn’t get anything going.”
Pavlik went on an attempt to make a move in the middle rounds and landed a few shots that startled Martinez, even sending him to the floor with 90 seconds left in the seventh round. But in the ninth, Martinez made his move. He opened up a cut over Pavlik’s right eye that after every round from then on, sent him to his corner with a bloody face.
“In the last third of the fight, in the eighth or ninth round, he began touching me a lot,” Pavlik said. “I tried, but it was very hard to come back after him. I couldn’t see out of my right eye after he cut it in the eighth or ninth round. I could not see his left.”
Pavlik had been criticized recently about the lack of talent he faced in his only title defenses last year against Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Espino. In addition, many of his fans had lost faith in Pavlik after rumors were spreading that he was an alcoholic or having other problems. Despite having most of the crowd in his corner on Saturday, he was not able to get the win. Martinez is the one who now can hold his head up high.
“There is a lot of pride and emotion for me,” Martinez said. “When the last bell rang, I knew I was the new world champion.”