After taking out Mack The Knife, Argentine boxer Sergio Martinez has his eyes on a middleweight belt.
In a fight dubbed "Get Your Irish Up" on St. Patrick's night, Martinez dominated Matthew Macklin in an action-packed bout and stopped him after 11 rounds. Macklin, an Englishman whose parents are Irish, was the clear favorite of the crowd at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, but Martinez was clearly the better fighter.
While no major belts were at stake because of sanctioning issues, Martinez kept his reputation as the top middleweight in the world with a late surge. He decked the game but outmatched Macklin twice near the end of the 11th round, then Macklin's corner asked referee Eddie Cotton to stop it before the 12th round began.
"It was the right thing to stop the fight," Martinez said. "He will now have a tomorrow. He would not have had a tomorrow if they continued the fight."
Martinez now is 49-2-2 with 28 knockouts. He struggled early and even had his glove touch the canvas for a knockdown in the seventh round after Macklin connected with an overhand right.
But that was Macklin's final big punch as he fell to 28-4 and ended the fight on his stool, the blood from cuts on his face having stained his green trunks.
Now, Martinez wants one of the official championships; he had the WBC belt stripped early in 2011 without ever losing it in the ring. He targeted Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. as the logical opponent.
"I want the belt. Chavez has the belt," he said. "I want a fight with the champion. I won it inside the ring, they took it, and I want to win it in the ring (again)."
In the Garden ring Saturday night, in the final four rounds Martinez was at his best, looking nothing like a 37-year-old fighter as he bloodied Macklin.
The 4,671 person crowd featured a rooting section for Martinez waving Argentine flags that was dwarfed by the green-clad Macklin supporters.
Macklin's fans vigorously sang the Ireland national anthem, then were invigorated by Macklin's strong early showing.
But Martinez's experience began to show in the eighth round, and the bout never was close after that.
"It was about being a mature boxer. It was winning on his mistakes," said Martinez, who like Macklin weighed 158 pounds.
"The better man won tonight. I thought it was a close fight up until the last few rounds when he pulled away," Macklin said.
Macklin was ahead on one scorecard until Martinez closed him out. Through eight rounds, though, he was ahead on all three cards.
"I lost my shape a bit," Macklin said. "I think I proved where I belong tonight and that is in the top two or three. I don't think too many could give him this tough a fight."
Martinez's left-handed stance didn't bother Macklin early, but when Martinez began connecting with lefty leads, it gave Macklin trouble. And after the quick but undamaging knockdown in the seventh, Martinez rallied with three straight sharp lefts to Macklin's face.
By the 10th round, Macklin lost all pretense of attacking. He was holding on, trying to be defensive, and Martinez pounced.
In the 11th, Martinez carved up his opponent with a succession of lefts, and both knockdowns came on mammoth lefts.
"I knew he couldn't handle that," Martinez said.
Based on Reporting By the Associated Press