With a massive lead built by years of attention to developing his jab, speed and quickness, Sergio Martinez decided he still wanted to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in the 12th round.
The rookie move nearly cost Martinez a victory he’s longed for, as Chavez knocked Martinez down in the 12th and forced him to find a final skill — fortitude — to survive and claim a unanimous-decision victory in the World Boxing Council middleweight championship bout.
Judges Adalaide Byrd and Stanley Christodoulou scored the bout 118-109 and Dave Moretti had it 117-110 for Martinez (50-2-2) as Chavez (46-1-1) suffered his first loss in surrendering his belt.
“I hurt him; I thought I was going to knock him out,” Chavez said after an effort that raised memories of his legendary father’s final-seconds knockout of Meldrick Taylor in 1990.
“I tried to knock him out, but he kept holding on.”
The left-handed Martinez, 37, dominated the fight until its dramatic ending by unleashing a precise, skilled performance that relied on heavy use of a crisp jab, along with timely defense and sharp lefts.
Chavez was a mess after 11 rounds.
Both eyes were swollen. Two judges had awarded Martinez every round. And the champion was repeatedly beaten to the punch, with blood streaming from his nose.
As the 10th round ended, however, Martinez gave a clue he was going to remain engaged until the end, when he closed the round by urging Chavez to fight and raising his arms to a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center crowd of 19,186 fans.
Chavez had irked Martinez by taking over as middleweight champion in 2011 after the WBC effectively stripped Martinez of the belt. Martinez despised how Chavez relied on his father’s legendary name to gain lucrative pay-per-view fights against suspect foes, andhe vowed to punish the 26-year-old.