Sergio Martinez of Argentina celebrates his victory over WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. of Mexico after their title fight at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada September 15, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Steve Marcus)
Argentina's Sergio Martinez survived a torrid final round to defeat Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and claim the WBC middleweight title in Las Vegas on Saturday.
A series of Chavez left hands early in the final round knocked Martinez down, and had him badly hurt but the challenger returned fire and hung on to reach the final bell in a fight that, until the knockdown, he had been dominating.
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"Julio fought a great fight," Martinez said. "He showed he had heart right until the end."
Until the final round, the 37-year-old Martinez, 50-2-2 (28 KOs), was far too fast and skillful for Chavez, 46-1-1 (32 KOs).
He bloodied his opponents' nose and closed his left eye with southpaw right jabs and straight left hands, and progressively weakened him with left hands to the body.
For his part, Chavez seemed intent on attempting to pin the smaller Martinez in a corner or against the ropes and dig to the body with hooks and uppercuts.
But each time it appeared he might be starting to turn the momentum in his favour, Martinez would respond, repeatedly succeeding in spinning away or returning fire.
"I was 20 seconds away from knocking him out," Chavez said.
"I started way too late. Going into the fight, I thought I was going to be able to do all night what I did in that final round.
"A rematch is justified."