Maravilla Squeaks by Martin Murray

By Robert Ecksel on April 27, 2013
Maravilla Squeaks by Martin Murray
"I hurt my hand. I hurt my left hand. It might be broken. We have to work to get better."

For Argentines not interested in boxing, the former soccer player’s exploits in the squared circle were of as little of interest as they were of consequence…

On a rainy Saturday night at the open-air Club Atlético Vélez in Buenos Aires, Argentina, WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (51-2-1, 28 KOs) successfully defended his title by squeaking by WBA interim middleweight champion Martin Murray (25-1-1, 11 KOs), handing him his first loss as a professional.

Martinez had not fought in the country of his birth in over a decade. He earned his stripes first in Europe and then in the U.S. For Argentines not interested in boxing, and maybe even those that are, the former soccer player’s exploits in the squared circle were of as little of interest as they were of consequence.

But all that changed when Martinez crushed Paul Williams in their second bout and was awarded Fighter of the Year honors. He was suddenly no longer just a former soccer player. He was a world champion, and his countrymen woke from their slumber.

When Martinez arrived in Argentina earlier this week, the local media treated him like a conquering hero. The media has been known to get it wrong now and then, no matter the country, but this time they got it right.

It was a homecoming in the truest sense of the word.

Club Atlético Vélez, appropriately a soccer stadium, sold out in no time. The pro-Martinez crowd was an estimated 50,000 strong and delirious at the return of their native son. But the delirium waxed and waned, as delirium tends to do, as Sergio’s advantage waxed and waned over 12 competitive rounds.

The southpaw Martinez, fighting out of the red corner in black trunks with red trim, came into the fight weighing 159.4 lbs. All the Martinez hallmarks were on display. The grace, speed, and movement were there for all to see and the Argentineans loved it.

Murray, from St, Helens, Merseyside, United Kingdom, fighting out of the blue corner in white trunks trimmed in red, weighed in at 159.6 lbs. Martinez hand-picked Murray as his opponent on this night. He must have seen something in the 30-year-old that he liked. Maybe he figured that Murray would put up a good fight, but lacked the skills to walk away with the win.

Sergio was right on both counts.

At the opening bell, Martinez controlled the action. He was feeding off the crowd’s enthusiasm, firing jabs and moving about the ring as if he owned it. Sergio was helped in no small part by Murray, who refused to let his hands go in the first two rounds. His defense was impeccable. His offense was nonexistent. That started to shift slightly in round three.

Murray finally opened up and took the next three rounds. Martinez wasn’t moving as well as we’ve seen him move in the past. It could have been the sopping wet ring that impeded him. It might have been age. But the younger fighter, for whom the Marquis of Queensberry and his quaint rules seemed an afterthought, was having his way with the champion and drew first blood (from a headbutt) in round six.

Round seven was a pick ‘em round, augmented by another clash of heads. The Merseyside lad knew that he had to take Sergio into the late rounds, where he has tired in the past, if he had any chance of winning a decision.

Murray caught Martinez with a right hand in round eight and dropped him to the canvas. The knockdown was legit, but Sergio wasn’t hurt, and he turned things around in the ninth. At the bell to end the round, blood was trickling from Murray’s nose. Second blood and the round went to Martinez.

Maravilla went down again in 10th. The referee, the always capable Massimo Barrovecchio, ruled it a slip. The HBO commentators didn’t agree, but instant replay proved them wrong. Martinez did take his time getting to his feet. But what smart fighter under the circumstances would not?

The crowd sensed an upset. A hush descended on Club Atlético Vélez. Murray, for some inexplicable reason, stopped fighting in round 11. With the fight close and Martinez fading, it seemed the exact wrong time to take a breather. But who knows what was going on, who knows what he was feeling, as the fight was slowly slipping away?

Murray started the 12th and final round with another headbutt. He was tired. But so was Martinez, who dug deep enough to snatch the round from Murray and victory from the jaws of defeat.

The three judges scored it 115-112 for Martinez. It might have been closer, but no matter. The better man won.

After the fight, with his rain-soaked countrymen going wild, Martinez was both jubilant and restrained.

“This is the most fantastic, the most marvelous thing I could have experienced as a sportsman,” he said. “But today, I hurt my hand. I hurt my left hand. It might be broken. We have to work to get better, but the superstars are like that. We always get better, against any odds.”

Martin Murray spoke next.

“I knew it would be difficult to get a decision in Argentina. When the final bell rings, I knew he just got it. It wasn’t that wide or anything, but he won fair and square. Sergio’s a great fighter, a great champion.”

There’s nothing like a good loser, unless of course we have a good winner.

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  1. Sam 1969 03:51pm, 04/29/2013

    This was a really soft version of my paesano Sergio, unfortunately this guy Murray (according to HBO) is a natural middleweight and Sergio as usual looks smaller as he is struggling against bigger guys like chavez and murray, doesn’t look like has the same power but if having a bad night he can still pull a victory on a good night he could beat anybody but I think issues with his knee and now hand must be check very closely.

  2. FeRoz 06:23pm, 04/28/2013

    The Sergio that fought last night was the personification of a fighter suddenly getting old right in front of our eyes. Given that he hand picked Murray, one would have to assume that he believed he was the perfect opponent to fight in front of his hometown fans. Either he and DiBella are lousy matchmakers, which I don’t think is the case, or the tools that have taken him to the top are no longer in his box.

    He needs to be very thoughtful and very careful about what he does next and if and who he fights. I agree with those who believe that Junior will have no fear in a rematch and that GGG might hurt him badly.

    I almost never say this but if last night was indicative of what lies ahead, now is the time for Sergio to bow out gracefully. My guess is that he takes the Chavez rematch for the money.. They almost always do.

  3. Rick 11:34am, 04/28/2013

    I agree that if last night was any indication of the future for Sergio he should definitely stay away from a rematch with Jr. nevermind GGG. Chavez knows he can take his punches for 12 rounds and that he can hurt Martinez. He didn’t know that going into the first bout and I bet he had his doubts. If Jr came in prepared and ready to win he could seriously injure the Sergio Martinez that fought in Argentina last night.  But its lkely his most lucrative prospect now so we’ll what happens.

  4. Ted 09:52am, 04/28/2013

    Irish, few boxers ever do. Holmes did and so did Monzon, Jofre, Hagler and Marciano, but Martinez will fight on until he gets butchered by some beast like GGG or in a rematch with Chavez.

  5. NYIrish 06:36am, 04/28/2013

    Martinez was a caricature of himself last night. Murray is a fighter of limited ability. He can keep his hands up and throw 1-2s. Martinez reflexes are those of a 38 year old. He traded on speed. It’s going. Ego can get him hurt at this stage of the game. He should know what time it is.

  6. Ted 03:36am, 04/28/2013

    I agree Clarence, he should consider retirement and leave with his dignity fully intact. This version of Sergio was struggling.

  7. Clarence George 03:00am, 04/28/2013

    I agree, Ted.  I never thought Martinez would fight Golovkin, and I’m now even more confident he won’t…he knows he can’t beat him.  In fact, I’d be surprised if Martinez doesn’t announce his retirement relatively soon.  And why not?  It’s time, and he’s earned it.

  8. KenM 02:10am, 04/28/2013

    Credit to Martinez for digging in & pulling out a close fight (I had him up a couple of points), but he didn’t look good tonight. To me it appeared as if Murray had been able to push a little harder & thrown more punches he would of been able to take over the fight.

    Has Martinez’s fast reactions finally gone as it appeared tonight, or was this just a bad night in pretty awful conditions after coming off injuries? I guess we get our definitive answer next time out…

  9. Mike Schmidt 12:43am, 04/28/2013

    Part of the Sergio legacy will be, old school, of taking any and all. This is another undefeated fighter, 20 plus wins, that he has beaten along with a host of others. The real question now becomes GGG and if he takes that fight at his advanced age and mileage. First up is the benchmark fight for GGG. If GGG cuts thru Mack the knife impressively then HBO is going to want GGG and Sergio. All credit to a great Champ in Sergio who can walk away in retirement anytime in greatness secured.

  10. Ted 09:13pm, 04/27/2013

    Once again Max created a storyline to wit: will Sergio’s 38-year-old body give out tonight, And then he worked the story throughout the fight trying to insert suspense, etc.  This kind of stuff is really insulting because the technique is shopworn and obvious. He drove me to the mute button for a bit, but then I went back to sound because I loved listening to that crowd sing soccer songs.

  11. Ted 09:03pm, 04/27/2013

    He had best stay away from GGG

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