By Jake Donovan
The fight is being billed as “The Real Middleweight Championship of the World,” referencing the lineal championship status of Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez, who defends against UK-based middleweight contender Matthew “Mack the Knife” Macklin this weekend at MSG’s The Theatre in New York City.
Martinez won the true middleweight crown with a unanimous decision win over Kelly Pavlik nearly two years ago. Saturday’s bout will mark his fourth title defense, knocking out all three challengers to his throne.
None was more emphatic than his revenge-fueled 2nd round knockout of Paul Williams in Nov. ‘10, avenging a controversial split decision loss from 11 months prior and cementing his status as 2010’s Fighter of the Year. Last year was a water-treading campaign, scoring stoppage wins over Sergei Dzinziruk and Darren Barker in fights that barely caused a ripple beyond the sport’s hardcore base.
More news was made of the fighters unwilling to face Martinez (48-2-2, 27KO), particularly current unbeaten middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. That the popular second generation star is holding hostage the alphabet belt that Martinez was encouraged to vacate serves as the motivation for the show’s tagline of the middleweight crown at stake this weekend being the only one that matters.
If not for the sport’s politics, Martinez would actually have two alphabet belts to go along with the one that should be in his challenger’s possession. Macklin (28-3-1, 19KO) has not fought since landing on the wrong end of a highly disputed split decision against defending titlist Felix Sturm in Germany last June in a bout where many believed the belt at stake should have changed hands.
Though the fight ranks as the best performance of Macklin’s career, the hard-luck contender still boasts a fairly thin resume overall and faces an uphill battle even with his Irish supporters on hand for the St. Patrick’s Day-themed show. It’s part of the reason why he’s a massive underdog heading into Saturday’s main event, coupled with Martinez’ recognition as one of the best five fighters in the world.
Still, Martinez showed signs of vulnerability in the past. Plus, it’s bracket season and March Madness (though an entirely different sport of course) is always peak upset.
Is any of that enough to convince anyone that the unlikely can occur this weekend?
Read on to see what the Boxingscene.com staff believes will take place.
PREDICTIONS – MARTINEZ/MACKLIN
“I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb and say that Martinez cracks Macklin early while rushing in, say KO 2.”
- Mitch Abramsom (Martinez)
“I think Martinez will via UD. I don't see him being too inspired for this fight. I think it will be similar to the Barker fight but Macklin will make it to the final bell.”
– Ryan Burton (Martinez)
“If you’re searching for a historical parallel in selling an upset, Ireland’s Steve Collins was a huge underdog when shocking the world in his first win over then-unbeaten Chris Eubank on this very day 17 years ago. Macklin will require far more luck of the Irish to pull off the improbable here. I like Martinez – even the slightly declining version - by mid-rounds KO in a fight similar to his last one.”
– Jake Donovan (Martinez)
“Martinez UD12. The best fighter in the world not named Manny or Floyd has a beatable foe against whom he might be able to look spectacular, but the guess here is that he'll simply do enough with superior tools to ride out a decisive, if not breathtaking, win. After all, another one-punch cold-cocking might keep the aforementioned welters from wanting to do business with him.”
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Martinez)
“Martinez UD in a tough fight where it's closer than the actual cards read out.”
– Ernest Gabion (Martinez)
“I am going for Macklin to pull off a shock in this one. Martinez has been in fine form, but his slight dip in the Barker win suggests that he may have been flattered by his results against Williams and Pavlik. Martinez isn't so vastly improved as to be P4P material and a serious challenge to Mayweather, he lies somewhere in between - a solid fighter who can be beaten. Macklin spoke to me at length about what he needs to do to win this contest. The challenger has had a good look at his performance against Sturm and feels one or two things needed to be tweaked to take decisions at the highest level. The British challenger believes he has made the adjustments required and has the beating of Martinez. Macklin on points after a tough battle in which the crowd takes his side and roars him through some rough patches.”
- Terence Dooley (Macklin)
“Sergio Martinez W12 Matthew Macklin. Macklin outworked Felix Sturm only for the cards not to reflect his performance. He'll also likely enjoy the support of the crowd, and Martinez looked good but not great against Darren Barker. However, I still think the Argentine's movement will make him hard to find over 12 rounds, and his signature ambushes will put points in the bank en route to the decision.”
– Ryan Maquinana (Martinez)
“I think every fight with Sergio Martinez because a little more interesting at this point simply because he turned 37 this year, has 52 fights under his belt, and it's only natural to wonder when he will start to slow down. He didn't look spectacular against Darren Barker in October and I just have a feeling that he may have another off night with Macklin. Still, I like Martinez to pull out a comfortable decision.”
- Chris Robinson (Martinez)
“Martinez KO9 Macklin: Macklin is tough and will bring the fight but Martinez's speed is a big edge. This could turn into a fairly one-sided affair by the 5th or so if Martinez doiesn't catch Macklin coming in early. I think the Irishman stays up and gets beat up in the last few rounds en route to a stoppage around nine.”
– Cliff Rold (Martinez)
“I have seen Macklin in the ring several times and the only time he has impressed me was his close (and arguably controversial) loss to Sturm. He looked s***ty in his fights against Ruben Varon and even Shalva Jomardashvili, though. I can't see him being a harder opponent for Martinez than Barker. My prediction - TKO 7-9 - for the Argentinean or a one-sided points victory.”
– Alexey Sukachev (Martinez)
Total picks: Sergio Martinez 9, Matthew Macklin 1
The HBO World Championship Boxing doubleheader – which includes a 10-round super middleweight bout between unbeaten Edwin Rodriguez and bubble contender Donovan George – airs live at 10:00PM ET/7:00PM PT.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]