Sergio Martinez: For seven-plus rounds against Matthew Macklin on Saturday in New York, Martinez (49-2-2, 28 knockouts) didn’t look like a fighter who belonged on any pound-for-pound list. For the last four, he demonstrated why he has become one of the most-respected fighters in the world. The Argentine was frustrated by Macklin’s lack of aggression and better-than-expected defensive skills but he also was patient. And that paid off, as he methodically broke down and ultimately beat up his brave foe en route to an impressive 11th-round knockout. Martinez’s two knockdowns of Macklin (28-4, 19 KOs) in the final round were particularly brutal – as was the Englishman’s battered face – and will be the lasting impression of the fight. Great fighters don’t always dominate every minute of every round but they generally find a way to close the show. And Martinez is a great fighter.
Matthew Macklin: Macklin is anything but a loser. I thought he fought too carefully for a challenger trying to win a world championship but he was in a good position to win after seven or eight rounds, which validated his strategy. Mack the Knife, as Macklin is called, gave Martinez fits for a while with his defensive skills and some well-timed counter punches. However, he couldn’t sustain his momentum as Martinez found ways to land more and more hard, damaging punches, ultimately wilting under the pressure. His battered face told the story of the fight in the end. The bottom line is this, though: Macklin was courageous – a quality his countrymen adore – and gave a good account of himself for most of the fight. He proved in defeat that he can compete with the best in the world . He just can’t overcome the very best.
Martinez’s next move: Martinez has fought three solid but less-than-compelling opponents in a row now, Sergei Dzinziruk, Barker and Macklin. He needs to face someone who would stir the masses. The problem is that there are no obvious choices. The Southern California-based Argentine has offered to give Floyd Mayeather Jr. an 80-20 split of the purse to lure Mayweather into the ring, which would be a windfall for Martinez. That matchup remains possible but seems to be a long shot, particularly any time soon. Voters in a RingTV.com poll would like to see him fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. I don’t see Junior taking that risk. Same goes for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. And who wants to see Martinez fight a faded Felix Sturm? Not me. I like a Martinez-Gennady Golovkin fight but it might too early for the Kazakastani. Maybe a rubber match with Paul Williams? Stay tuned.
Edwin Rodriguez: The unbeaten super middleweight prospect is neither the most-powerful nor most-exciting fighter in the world but it’s difficult to find a glaring flaw. Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs) thoroughly outboxed Donovan George (22-2-1, 19 KOs) to win a one-sided decision on the Martinez-Macklin undercard. Rodriguez works behind a beautiful and busy left jab, throws enough power punches to win rounds and has very good defensive skills. He’s the type of fighter who, if he’s at his best, can give almost anyone a problem. Of course, we must reserve judgment until he faces an elite opponent. The former amateur star has been at it for four years now. The time for a serious test is almost at hand. The guess here is that he’ll pass it.
Kerry Hope over Grzegorz Proksa: Proksa, a native of Poland who lives in Surrey, England, seemed to be a complete fighter on the fast track to great success. He was undefeated and had stopped veteran Sebastian Sylvester to win the vacant European middleweight title in his previous fight when he stepped into the ring to face the unheralded Hope (17-3, 1 KO) on Saturday in Sheffield. Hope, a 30-year-old Welshman, stunned Proksa and the boxing world by winning a majority decision and the title. To be fair, Proksa (26-1, 19 KOs) suffered a ghastly cut in the second round that he says hindered his sight from then on. He did his best to fight through it but came up short against an opponent who obviously was capable. Of course, Proksa wants a rematch. If he gets it and wins impressively, he could be back on track fairly quickly.
Martinez, who was stripped of the WBC middleweight title Chavez later won: “I want the belt. Chavez has the belt. I want a fight with the champion. I won it inside the ring, they took it, and I want to win it in the ring (again).”