Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012 | 12:35 a.m.
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- Las Vegas Sun Fighting page
Boxing fans will be talking about this 12th round for years to come. That includes Dallas Cowboys owner and boxing fan Jerry Jones.
Sergio Martinez dominated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for the initial 11 rounds Saturday in the WBC world middleweight championship fight at the Thomas & Mack Center, winning every round on two of three judges’ scorecards, and 10 of 11 rounds on the other.
He was faster than Chavez, landed more punches and seemed to toy with an overmatched opponent in what could easily be classified as a dull fight.
That all changed in the 12th round. It’s a round that Jones would love to see duplicated at his Cowboys Stadium.
Chavez saved his best for the final three minutes, electrifying the sold-out crowd of 19,000-plus fans with a pair of knockdowns against Martinez in nearly doing the unthinkable of stealing the fight at the end.
Martinez, the 37-year-old from Argentina, twice rose from the canvas in avoiding being knocked out in a dramatic sequence that will surely be classified as one of the best final rounds in the sport’s history. Martinez, despite the flawed ending, easily claimed the unanimous decision victory. Adalaide Byrd and Dave Moretti scored the fight 118-109, and Stanley Christodoulou had it 117-110 all in favor of Martinez, who was the aggressor for virtually the entire fight and had bloodied Chavez with a series of jabs and other punch combinations.
Martinez left the ring at the Thomas & Mack Center with the championship belt to a chorus on cheers from his fan base from Argentina. Chavez, son of legendary Mexican fighter Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., left with the respect of the pro-Mexican crowd on Mexican Independence Day weekend, and with the satisfaction of finally living up to his famous last name.
It didn’t take long for fans to start talking about a rematch. That includes Jones, who often competes with Las Vegas arenas for marquee fight cards at his state-of-the-art facility. He immediately called Top Rank Promoter Bob Arum to over his facility for the sequel.
While the first 11 rounds weren’t anything to write home about, the final round is something everyone wants to see again. Jones included.
During the post-fight press conference, Arum commented that Jones had already reached out with interest of hosting a rematch. The fight had been over for about 40 minutes.
A rematch is something both sides — Arum promotes Chavez Jr. and Lou handles Martinez — seem interested in.
“Boxing deserves a rematch for the fight at some point,” DiBella said. “That was high drama. You watch the first 10 or 11 rounds and you may not think rematch. But, that 12th round, I sweat through everything I was wearing.
“These two guys probably sell out Cowboys Stadium,” he continued. “It’s the biggest fight in boxing right now. If the fans want a rematch, that is what they will see.”
You can’t blame Jones for wanting the excitement of Saturday night at his facility. Thirty minutes after the fight ended, fans from Argentina were still singing and dancing in celebration in the arena. It was the same drill two hours before the fight with the fans of both fighters waving flags and chanting patriotic songs — similar to the Olympics or soccer’s World Cup.
Chavez, who before his gutsy showing in the 12th round, lived in his legendary father’s shadow and had the reputation of not being as passionate about the sport. It was his first loss in 49 fights, but arguably the best result he’s had.
Finally, Chavez Jr. answered his critics. And, indirectly, became an even bigger draw.
“I started (fighting) a little late. That is why I gave away so many rounds and why I lost the fight,” Chavez Jr. said through a translator. “I recognize he beat me correctly. He outpointed me. But I proved I could knock him out. He knows where to put the punches, but he never hurt me.”
The promotion leading up to the fight often became heated with the fighters and their handlers exchanging verbal blows. Chavez Jr.’s efforts in finishing strong changed at least one person’s opinion.
“(Chavez) never backed up. He kept coming forward,” DiBella said. “He never quit in 11 rounds in what was really a boxing clinic and an ass-whooping. In the 12th round, when Sergio wasn’t content to just walk away with a 12-0 decision and tried to end the fight with a knockout, he almost got himself knocked out because that is the kind of (courage) Chavez Jr. has.”
In addition to a rematch with Chavez Jr., DiBella said he would be open to pitting Martinez against a few other fighters. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was even mentioned.
Immediately after the fight, Martinez said he was willing to fight Chavez one more time. That was surely music to Jones’ ears.
“We are two professionals and if Julio wants a rematch, and if the public wants a rematch, we’ll do a rematch,” Martinez said in the ring.