Sergio Outguns Mack the Knife

By Robert Ecksel on March 18, 2012
Sergio Outguns Mack the Knife
It was a terrific fight with give and take from Sergio and Mack the Knife (Damien Acevedo)

Even those who neither appreciate nor understand boxing should be aware and thankful for what Martinez does in the ring…

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, may have had little to cheer about Saturday night. But New York fight fans are still catching their breath.

Matthew Macklin (28-4, 19 KOs), the tough kid with deep Irish roots, gave it his all and then some at the Madison Square Garden Theater last night. The usually one-dimensional Macklin fought three-dimensionally and gave middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KOs) a run for his money. That Martinez’s hand was raised in victory after 11 rounds, when Macklin’s trainer Buddy McGirt had seen enough and stopped it, had less to do with Macklin’s limitations than with Maravilla’s gifts.

Martinez put on an exemplary performance. Although the judges had it closer than some of us, Macklin forced Sergio to dig deep. Whatever his shortcomings as an elite fighter, Make the Knife came to Manhattan to fight—and fight he did.

Fighting out of the blue corner in red trunks with black and white trim, the champ, weighing in at 160½ pounds, looked for all the world like there was no place he’d rather be.

The challenger, wearing shamrock green trunks and fighting out of the red corner and weighing 158 pounds, appeared confident and composed.

The opening round was a feeling out round for both fighters. They traded jabs, methodically taking measure of the man before him. Macklin was fighting from the outside and may have landed more, but Martinez was controlling the action. The first round went to Macklin.

Sergio loosened up a bit in round two. He was circling and feinting, firing off right hand jabs to the face of his slower moving opponent. Macklin’s speed was no match for Martinez. Maravilla was a fancy dancer in there, light on his feet, gliding around the ring as if he were weightless. Sergio the southpaw caught Macklin with a straight left that knocked him into the ropes. Martinez 10-9.

A quick jab by Martinez started off the third. His sixth sense of where he and his opponent were at any given moment was almost uncanny. Macklin was still maintaining control and not going for broke. He had found his rhythm. His jab was finding the mark, but Martinez, who is comfortable both leading and countering, was dictating the pace. It was now two rounds to one for Martinez.

Macklin landed a thudding right to start the fourth. Martinez countered with a jab. Sergio was moving and circling, displaying the footwork and balance for which he is known. He caught Macklin with a solid left to the face. Macklin countered with a right. Mack the Knife landed an uppercut. He was closing the gap. It was beginning to look like we had a fight on our hands.

Maravilla’s quick hands dictated the pace in round number five. He landed a solid left, following it up with a sharp jab fired from his hip and an uppercut. Macklin landed a right, then another, and another. Sergio countered with clean left hand. Macklin shook it off and landed clean right of his own at the bell. It was the most exciting round of the fight so far. It felt like having gone to boxing match and a fight broke out. Macklin’s round 10-9.

Macklin’s momentum in round five carried over into the sixth. He caught Martinez with another right. Sergio countered with a straight left that stopped Macklin in his tracks. Maravilla was stepping it up. Sergio fired off a right jab. Another solid left landed. Macklin caught his breath, only to have another Martinez left hit home again. He kept circling Macklin and landed another left, albeit from a different angle, that caught Mack the Knife looking. Macklin was still in it, but Sergio pocketed the round. I had it four rounds to two after six. HBO’s Harold Lederman had it even.

A big left by Sergio opened the seventh. Macklin caught Martinez with a crisp left hook and followed it up with a short right to the jaw. The two men were going at it. Macklin was getting the better of Martinez, forcing him, perhaps inviting him, to trade. Maravilla was more than happy to oblige. As round seven was drawing to a close the two fighters legs got tangled and Macklin punched/pushed Martinez into the ropes. Referee Eddie Cotton, in a rare lapse of judgment, gave Martinez the count. The crowd didn’t like it. Neither did Martinez. He closed the round with a solid one-two to Macklin’s face, let out a roar of approval and raised his hands in victory. With the knockdown call, the round was even.

Mack the knife came on strong in round eight. His right had found the range, and he proceeded to redecorate Sergio’s features. Martinez, however, liked his features as they were and landed two sharp lefts. Macklin countered with an effective combination. Fleet like mercury, Maravilla was moving around the ring, firing off jabs. Macklin took them and landed a solid two-punch combination. Martinez landed a left, followed by another left. Mack the Knife was landing the heavier blows and won the round 10-9, but it was beginning to look like he was running out of gas. If a punch could resemble an exclamation point, the left by Sergio to end the round was it.

Sergio started the ninth with a sharp left to Macklin’s noggin. The sweat flew from his head like a halo foretelling defeat. Martinez followed it up with two more lefts. Maravilla hands were down by his sides. He was challenging Macklin to come and get him. Matty would have done just that if he had anything left, but it looked like had gone to the well once too often. Sergio landed a jab followed by three straight rights. Maravilla was in complete control. Macklin was gassed. The Argentinean’s left, a lethal weapon, could not miss. Macklin desperately needed a second wind, but it looked like he wouldn’t find it in Madison Square Garden. It was a huge round for Martinez.

Round 10 started with a sharp jab to Macklin’s face. He countered with a right that caught Sergio. Martinez landed a rare combination. Mack the Knife was continuing to slow down. Sergio caught him with a three-punch combination. Macklin landed two rights. Macklin was having his moments, especially compared to the round that preceded it. But Sergio fired off a solid left that stunned Macklin and knocked him into the ropes. The Irishman was lucky the bell to end the round sounded when it did. It looked like Macklin was in big trouble. The writing was on the wall.

Macklin came out at the start of the 11th and landed a combination. But there was no longer any steam in his punches. Sergio landed a straight right followed a stinging jab. Another jab landed. Martinez fired off a three-punch combination that found its mark. Macklin tried to land his shots, but Martinez’s defensive mastery, in evidence from the opening round, was a thing to behold. Sergio could smell blood and caught Mack the Knife with a hard straight left that was right on the money. Macklin crumpled to the canvas. He beat the count on unsteady legs and caught another left that knocked him down again. The bell rang to end the 11th while Macklin struggled to his feet a second time. He stumbled to his corner. Buddy McGirt looked at his fighter between rounds and determined that he had had enough.

It was another impressive performance by Sergio Martinez. Watching him close the show as emphatically as he did reinforced the notion that he is without question one of the finest fighters on the planet. He moves like a dream, a five-star ring general who use every inch of the squared circle, firing off punches with bad intentions with unerring accuracy and ease. Though Macklin, like Darren Barker before him, took Martinez into deep water, Sergio did what he needed to do and swam like Johnny Weissmuller instead of sinking like a lead balloon.

“He has a way that he turns it up a notch to that superhuman level,” Martinez’s promoter Lou DiBella said after the bout. “He just does it when he is in trouble or in a tough fight. He turns it up a notch and just takes over. I saw that in the eighth round. I said, ‘Here it comes,’ and it came.”

Even those who neither appreciate nor understand boxing should be aware and thankful for what Martinez does in the ring. His athleticism, speed, intelligence, grace and power are qualities that even the casual sports fan can admire. That he finishes he opponents with such aplomb, as he did with Macklin, is simply icing on boxing’s delectable cake.

“I knew I would knock him out,” said Martinez after the bout. “It was a close fight, but I guaranteed a knockout. He fought a totally different fight than I thought he would. I thought he would come to attack me, but he didn’t do that and I was waiting for him to make a mistake.”

Macklin didn’t make a mistake, per se. He simply ran out of gas and fell prey to a better fighter. He paced himself better and fought a smarter fight than we’d accustomed to seeing. But as the rounds progressed, Maravilla’s sharpshooting grew ever more precise. He methodically broke Macklin down. And when he ended it with those two knockdowns at the end of the 11th, it was no less exciting to witness than it was inevitable.

“I knew it was a matter of time,” said Maravilla. “It was like cutting down a tree. It was only a matter of time until it would fall.”

After the fight a bruised, battered, and clearly dejected Macklin said, “I wasn’t particularly hurt. He was landing sharp punches, but not concussive blows. I got straight up, but he’s a very sharp puncher and he has speed and accuracy.

“I wanted to continue. I said I was okay. He (Buddy McGirt) said, ‘Listen, I’m stopping it. You’re a few points down and you need a knockout, and you’re not going to get a knockout the way he is fighting.’”

There’s no faulting Buddy McGirt, who made the right call, just as there’s no faulting Matthew Macklin. It was a thrilling fight with lots of give and take from both noble warriors, but it was simply that, as is sometimes the case in boxing, the best man won.

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Sergio Martinez vs Matthew Macklin - Part 1 of 3

Sergio Martinez vs Matthew Macklin - Part 2 of 3

Sergio Martinez vs Matthew Macklin - Part 3 of 3

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  1. Don from Prov 05:14am, 03/19/2012

    Not only do we get a good write up but also a reference to Johnny Weissmuller—and not to Weissmuller as Tarzan but as the great swimmer that he was!  I agree with the comments about Martinez as a fighter who can adjust.  He is not to everyone’s liking, but I can feel the synapses clicking and formulating when Sergio is in the ring, and I like that.

  2. bk don 03:20pm, 03/18/2012

    He was averaging like 20 punches early in the fight. No way could he win against the version of macklin that he faced last night.

  3. the thresher 10:00am, 03/18/2012

    Martinez fought to his normal style except that he adjusted a bit late.

  4. Teron 09:27am, 03/18/2012

    Good point Mike. It was amazing to see Martinez adept his game to the fighter he was facing. He expected one thing, got another and was able to make the necessary adjustments. I don’t think he would be as great of a fighter as he is if he fought in an orthodox manner. Being able to throw that left hand with such power, from that stance, makes Sergio an extremely difficult out. Mack the Knife was a pretty formidable opponent.

  5. mike Schmidt 08:46am, 03/18/2012

    Great fighters are able to make adjustments in difficult situations—Martinez did that last night. Great fighters have a B plan, and a C plan. Martinez had it, and on the other side, although one hell of a display, only showed an A plan. What makes Martinez special is, aside from being in great shape, his ability to improvise and use ring intelligence. Interesting fights if the big two don’t take place—Quillin, Pirog, Chavez Jr. of course, and perhaps Andy Lee given his size and length. Adios fearless editor.

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