It's funny how life works out. Had Matthew Macklin been awarded the decision many say he deserved against WBA middleweight titlist Felix Sturm last June, he might not have gotten Saturday's fight against Sergio Martinez, regarded by most as a top three pound-for-pound entrant and the rightful WBC middleweight champion. That's because unification bouts are so difficult to arrange politically and logistically One could say that for Macklin, a short-term setback has yielded a career-defining opportunity that could reap untold fortune should he seize it.
Will the gritty Brit score the major upset or will Martinez take another step toward Canastota? The oddsmaker's overwhelmingly favor Martinez, who's a 10-1 favorite. Their CompuBox pasts provide these informational nuggets:
Martinez's Trade-Off: For most of his career, Martinez was a mobile slickster who won consistently but saddled himself with the "high-risk low-reward" label. But since his dynamic eighth-round TKO of Alex Bunema in his HBO debut, Martinez has fought a succession of big-name opponents. Though he has gone 5-1-1 in that stretch, many believe he should've been 7-0 as they thought he decisively beat Kermit Cintron (D 12) and edged Paul Williams in their first fight.
Since those back-to-back blemishes Martinez has adopted a more aggressive style to win over fans and judges. It has worked beyond all imagination -- he's gone 4-0 (3 KO), vaulted toward the top of the pound-for-pound rankings and scored a rare double in earning Ring's Fighter of the Year and KO of the Year in 2010.
His style change has also created a statistical trade-off -- higher output but leakier defense. When one compares Martinez's last four fights to his three previous efforts, Martinez is throwing more punches per round (62.0 now to 53.6 then) and is facing less fire from better quality opponents (54.0 then versus 44.2 now). Martinez is also landing a higher percentage of power shots now (41.5 percent) than in the past (40.8 percent) and each of those connects carry far more impact, as his recent KO string proves.
But here's the flip side: Martinez is landing at a lower overall percentage (33.5 now, 36.0 then) and his jab percentage is down (29.9 then, 26.0 now). Plus, he's fielding a far higher percentage of his opponents' power punches -- 30.5 percent then and 43.9 percent now. Is that a result of his riskier attack or the slowing reflexes of a 36-year-old 15-year ring veteran?
The Mack Attack: Macklin's high-octane offense has produced five wins (and arguably a sixth) in rising to world prominence. His statistical dominance over longtime WBA titlist Sturn was eye-popping: His 1,102 punches were the fifth highest ever recorded by CompuBox among middleweights and his connect gaps of 314-187 (overall) and 255-111 (power) seemed enough to wrest away the belt. But for all of Macklin's offensive success Sturm was the more accurate puncher. He led Macklin 35.8 percent to 28.5 overall, 28.0 to 15.0 in jabs and, most importantly, 44.0 to 36.0 in power shots.
Macklin uncorked 74.2 punches per round in stopping Shalva Jomardashvili in six, 64.2 in decisioning Rafael Pintos and 63.8 in out-pointing Ruben Varon. He'll need to duplicate -- if not exceed -- those levels to maximize his chances against Martinez.
Macklin's defensive numbers are all over the board. He was accessible against Sturm and Varon landed 41 percent of his power shots to Macklin's 34, but Pintos landed only 23.2 percent of his, Jomardashvili connected at a 19.2 percent rate and Wayne Elcock clocked in at 14.3. If Macklin can combine dynamic output with responsible defense fans may bear witness to a massive shock.
Prediction: Macklin is younger, stronger and harbors plenty of ambition. However, one has to note that Macklin's only KO loss came against southpaw Jamie Moore in September 2006. Martinez will be Macklin's first left-hander since then. Macklin is a much better fighter now, but Martinez is a much better fighter than Moore. Martinez by decision.