On Saturday, March 17, in front of a sold-out crowd, universally recognized 160 lb king Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez (49-2-2, 28KO) defended his lineal middleweight title against Matthew Macklin (28-4, 19KO) in The Theater at Madison Square Garden, in a barnburner that would have had the patron saint of Ireland himself on his feet. 4,671 roaring fans were treated to a competitive bout in which both men scored knockdowns. Only one would be victorious however, as Martinez once again showed why he is called “Marvelous.”
The opening rounds were close with both fighters showing each other respect, neither willing to trade too much leather. Martinez certainly seemed to have an advantage in speed, landing his lightening-fast jab from the opening bell. He fought with the same unorthodox style that has stunned previous opponents and made him a star in the sport. Martinez kept his hands low and capitalized on his speed advantage to attack and get back to safety, using lateral movement to stay away from Macklin's dangerous right hand.
A counter-left cross connected cleanly in the second round, sending the Irish fighter, raised in Birmingham, England, backpedaling into the ropes. Macklin, under the tutelage of renowned trainer, Buddy McGirt, adapted well however. The middle rounds saw Macklin out-landing the Argentinean southpaw, with solid power punching. Macklin appeared to find his rhythm in the fourth round and with confidence building let his hands go. Much to the delight of the predominantly Irish crowd, Macklin pressured his opponent. After chasing the defending champion around the ring and winning several rounds by being the aggressor, Macklin landed a chopping right hand in the seventh that knocked Martinez off balance, which forced the champion's right glove to touch the canvas. While replays showed that Martinez tripped over Macklin's left leg, Referee Eddie Cotton ruled it a knockdown, giving the Birmingham-born fighter a 10-8 round and presumably a lead on the judges' scorecards. An annoyed Martinez got up quickly and went on the offensive, punctuating the round with a blazing-fast flurry of punches.
Martinez' momentum continued into the later rounds. Perhaps nervous about leaving the fate of his title in the judges' hands, the southpaw out-paced the slower Macklin. By the ninth round, Martinez was comfortably fighting his fight once again. His jab began to land and was followed by his signature straight left hand. This proved to be the turning point in the fight as Martinez began to land his power punches almost at will. By the eleventh round Macklin's face began to show significant damage as his eyes began to swell and a cut opened under his left eye. Martinez slipped a slow jab and countered with another devastating left hand that floored the Irish fighter. Macklin, hurt badly by the punch, got up quickly but Martinez pounced on him, looking to finish the fight before the end of the round. He quickly landed another straight left hand that sent Macklin down the second time in the round. Macklin, perhaps invigorated by the roaring St Patrick's Day crowd, once again made it back to his feet and was saved by the bell as the eleventh round came to a close.
Macklin would not make it out for the last and final round however, as trainer Buddy McGirt decided his fighter had been through enough punishment. McGirt informed the referee in his corner that Macklin could not continue, awarding Martinez a TKO victory. Martinez, who landed 50 percent of his power punches, said of the performance “He didn't come out and attack like I expected and his defense wasn't open. It's a 12 round fight so I took my time and won the last rounds.”
In what was expected to be an all out war between to power-punchers, New Jersey native Edwin Rodriguez (21-0, 14KO) demonstrated excellent ring generalship and vastly improved defense. “La Bomba” cruised to an easy victory against Donovan “Da Bomb” George (22-2, 19KO). Rodriguez used his jab effectively, doubling and often even tripling it up. In rounds three and four, George began to land some solid shots, but Rodriguez defended himself and adjusted well. Rodriguez boxed intelligently instead of brawling with the Greek fighter, circling to the left away from Greek-Irish fighter's right hand. The flat-footed George had no answer as he spent the majority of the fight chasing his opponent around the ring throwing wide looping punches. Rodriguez threw his punches in bunches, stopping the always-coming-forward George in his tracks. Compubox punch stats showed Rodriguez connecting at a more frequent rate, landing 45 percent of his power punches to George's 35 percent. Judges scored the bout 96-94, 99-91, and 97-93 all in favor of the young Dominican fighter.
An ecstatic Rodriguez, trained by the legendary Ronnie Shields, said of his performance “Since I've been with Ronnie, I've been working on my defensive game and showing other dimensions.” The pugilist and father of two, is likely to become another rising star for Lou Dibella who promoted the event.
Kevin Rooney Jr, son of the legendary trainer by the same name, advances to a 4-1 (2KO) record after stopping Anthony Shuff (0-2) in just 1:27 of the first round.
Local favorite, “Irish” Seanie Monaghan (13-0, 8KO) earned a unanimous decision against Eric Watkins (6-2, 3KO). Watkins was aggressive in the opening round but a series of powerful shots from the Long Island native put an end to that early and Watkins was continually broken down for the remainder of the fight.
Magomed Abdusalamov (14-0, 14KO) made short work of Jason Pettaway (11-1, 8KO) in a match up between undefeated heavyweight prospects. The Russian fighter, who fights out of Oxnard, California and is trained by Pablo Sarmiento, connected with monstrous left hands early that bloodied his opponent's nose and had him backing away for much of the fight. A short left hook sent Pettaway to the canvas in the 4th round. Rocked by the blow, Pettaway managed to beat the ten count but Abdusalamov continued to land hard shots forcing the referee to stop the bout at 1:20 of the fourth round.