by Cliff Rold
But for the judges, we might view this fight as the two best Middleweights in the world squaring off at the legendary Madison Square Garden. Irish Matthew Macklin left his home in the U.K. to challenge German star Felix Sturm for the WBA 160 lb. belt in his last fight and looked to many observers to have deserved the decision.
He didn’t get it and the fight was close enough to leave Macklin’s setbacks relevant enough to deny him the leading contender slot. That’s all paper garbage. On Saturday night, he is the leading contender because he will be the one in the ring.
Standing across from him will be a capital “C” Champion in the best sense of the word. Martinez has been a formidable force since rising from Jr. Middleweight, thrashing Kelly Pavlik for the crown and adding knockout wins of world-class battlers Paul Williams and Sergiy Dzinziruk. At 37, he appears to be in his prime.
29-year olds likely to have the crowd on their side on St. Paddy’s Day in New York City can age a man.
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: Lineal/Ring Middleweight (2010-Present, 3 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBC Jr. Middleweight (2009-10); WBO Middleweight (2010); WBC Middleweight (2010, 1 Defense)
Weight: 157.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 158.5 lbs.
Hails from: Oxnard, California (Born in Argentina)
Record: 48-2-2, 27 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 3 KO (5-0-1, 4 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams, Sergiy Dzinziruk)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat or Draw: 3 (Antonio Margarito, Kermit Cintron, Paul Williams)
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 158 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 159.8 lbs.
Hails from: Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom
Record: 28-3, 19 KO , 1 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #4 at Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Felix Sturm)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Martinez A; Macklin B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Martinez B+; Macklin B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Martinez B+; Macklin B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Martinez A; Macklin B
Macklin has two big disadvantages in the ring on Saturday. While his knockout record is decent, he’s not a big puncher and is the lesser of the two in that regard. He’s also considerably slower than Martinez. With a pressuring, volume punching style, he could be open to Martinez’s quick counters.
The chance for Martinez to look the part of surgeon exists. Martinez doesn’t throw from the same fundamental base as Sturm, who was able to land his share of straight punches when he wasn’t ear muffing. Martinez makes up for it with greater volume, a more offensive mindset, and all sort of wild, hard to see angles.
Where Macklin has a great chance is if he can get inside and stay there for healthy stretches. Martinez isn’t easy to hit from the outside but he also isn’t unhittable. If Macklin can stay close, he can force Martinez to take some off his fastball and deal with the stream of punches Macklin can let loose. They don’t always land, but with the New York crowd looking to celebrate the Irish on Saturday, Macklin could steal rounds.
Both men have pretty good beards. Macklin’s lone stoppage loss was in a war with Jamie Moore in 2006. It took a lot to break him down. Martinez hasn’t been stopped since 2000 and his lone loss since was hotly debated in the first Williams fight. He’s been down twice, against Williams the first time and against Pavlik, but recovered easily and shown the ability to come on like the dickens.
Even in his last fight, a presumed walkover against Darren Barker where Martinez won in more human, if still easy, fashion than the higher spots of his run, Martinez showed he knew how to close when it was time.
Macklin is going to make for a crowd-pleasing night but victory just seems out of reach. Martinez's speed is a big edge. This could turn into a fairly one-sided affair by the fifth 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.
Report Card Picks 2012: 9-3
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]