By Steve Marzolf
A sold-out crowd of St. Patrick's Day revelers packed the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, and though the Irishman of the night didn't walk out lucky, 4,671 green-clad boxing fans got what they came for: non-stop action ending in an impressive knockout.
Sergio Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KO's) successfully defended his World Middleweight Championship title against the Irish (by way of Birmingham, U.K.) challenger Matthew Macklin (28-4, 19 KO's), ending the night with a TKO in the eleventh round.
Martinez is known for spending the early rounds stalking his adversary, and this bout was no different. Hands at his waist, the Argentinean cyclist-turned-pugilist leaned in from varying angles, sizing up his opponent. But Macklin was hardly content to jab gamely while being deconstructed. The challenger unleashed immediate intensity to solidly win the first round, landing straight rights that continued to give Martinez trouble throughout the night. Even the champ's dreaded left hand didn't seem to be making a dent, as Macklin shook off the punch, smiling.
Macklin won over all three judges in rounds 3, 4, and 5 - the last of which ended in an intense exchange of combos that Macklin got the better of. At the sound of the bell, the challenger raised his arms triumphantly as Martinez strode back to his corner scowling. Round 7 turned out to be the most frustrating yet for Maravilla. An inside punch while he was off-balance knocked him down enough for his glove to touch the canvas (and put him behind on all three judges' cards).
That's when Martinez got going. "I made an adjustment," he said. "From that point, I used more pressure and tried to finish the fight."
In the eighth round Martinez found Macklin several times with a hard left as the Irish fighter started to lose some of his energy. The signature punch landed more and more through the later rounds, and Macklin, starting to bleed, was no longer laughing.
With 15 seconds left in the eleventh round, Maravilla found his spot, landing yet another straight left to drop Macklin in the corner. The Irishman managed to gain his feet before the end of the round, but Martinez tagged him yet again with the left hand, leaving him on the canvas as the bell sounded. With his man sitting bloodied in the corner, Macklin's cornerman Buddy McGirt called for an end to the fight.
"It wasn't difficult, but it was a complicated fight," Martinez said after the final bell. "He's a tough fighter. He didn't come out and attack like I expected him. He wasn't open. But I knew it was a matter of time."
Earlier in the night, during the televised undercard bout, Edwin "La Bamba" Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KO's) continually disarmed Don "Da Bomb" George (22-2, 19 KO's) through 10 rounds of super-middleweight action. Rodriguez fought most of those rounds backing up, neutralizing George's right hand and ducking his left.
Rodriguez' stiff jab kept George at bay, and he more often than not followed it up with a powerful right to the chin. He secured the judges' unanimous decision by out-throwing his opponent, 718 to 560, and out-landing him as well, by a slimmer margin of 2%. The most telling figure, however, was the 136 power punches Rodriguez planted, as opposed to George's 77.
"I feel great. Tired but happy," Rodriguez said. "Ronnie [Shields, trainer] gave me a 10 tonight. We've been working on my defensive game, and I'm showing another dimension."