Las Vegas – Talk is one thing. Results are another.
And on Saturday night, Argentine boxer Sergio Martínez delivered on both when he gave Julio César Chávez Jr. the beating he promised.
But while the first 11 rounds were pure domination by Martínez, it was the wild 12th that left people talking.
Bleeding from the nose and his face bruised from the hands of Martínez, Chávez somehow found a way to land a left hook and then another that put Martínez on the canvas before a frenzied capacity crowd at the UNLV campus arena. Martínez would go down one more time in the final round and was taking huge punches when the bell mercifully sounded to end the fight.
Martínez ended up winning a lopsided unanimous decision to regain the middleweight title. But the 12th-round rally by Chávez was one for boxing lore, reminiscent of a fight his father was in 22 years ago against Meldrick Taylor just a few miles away from the Las Vegas Strip.
"I was 20 seconds away from knocking him out. I started way too late," Chávez said. "I didn't really get started until the eighth round."
Martínez was quicker, busier and far more accurate as he won round after round, piling up points as Chávez struggled to do much against him. Martínez said before the fight he didn't consider Chávez a true champion and vowed to give him a beating he would long remember.
He did just that, to the point where trainer Freddie Roach told Chávez after the 10th round he was going to stop the fight if he didn't do something spectacular.
"He fought a great fight and he was a lot tougher than I expected," Martínez said. "He showed great heart."
Martínez won 118-110 on two ringside scorecards and 117-110 on the third. Two judges had him winning every round until the 12th, while the third gave him only one round. The Associated Press had Martínez winning 118-110.
Chávez lost for the first time, falling to 46-1-1, while Martínez improved to 50-2-2.
The wild ending nearly ruined what was a great night for the Argentinian, who used his speed and boxing skills to dominate until the final round. Chávez was bleeding from the nose, his face was marked up and he looked finished until suddenly landing a huge left hook to drop Martínez for the first time.
Martínez got up only to take several more head punches and go down once again. Chávez kept after him when he got back up, trying desperately to land the finisher before the bell sounded and the decision was lost.
"If Julio wants a rematch, we'll do a rematch," Martínez said.
The comeback was reminiscent to the one by his father in 1990 against Taylor, when he came back from seemingly certain defeat in the last round to stop Taylor with 2 seconds left.
"You hit very hard," a victorious Martínez told Chávez afterward.
Promoter Lou DiBella said his fighter wanted to knock Chávez out, and may have taken more chances than he should have in a fight he had well under control.
"You saw a boxing clinic for 11 rounds and you saw an epic last round," DiBella said. "I know how he held on."
Ringside punch stats showed the dominance of Martínez, who was credited with landing 322 of 908 punces to 178 of 390 for Chávez. Martínez was particularly effective with his right jab, landing 140 of them, and often following them with a left to the body or head to keep Chávez away.
Martínez won back the title the WBC stripped from him for not fighting a mandatory challenger, a mission he had said was personal. He said he was going to make Chávez pay a price for holding the 160-pound title he considered his, and for 11 rounds he kept his promise.
Martínez fought his fight in the early rounds, using his jab and speed to keep Chávez off balance. Fighting out of a southpaw stance, he stayed on his toes, moving around on the outside and seldom allowing Chávez in where he could cause damage.
The action picked up in the fourth round as Chávez found Martínez with a good right, only to take a series of punches from his quicker opponent. At one point in the round, just after Chávez complained of a low blow, Martínez landed a right-left combo, then taunted Chávez.
Until the 12th round it was much of the same. Chávez picked up the pace late, but it wasn't until he caught Martínez with the left hook that the fight turned into a brawl that nearly cost Martínez the bout.
"I knew Martínez was good," said Freddie Roach, the trainer for Chávez. "I didn't know how good. This was a good lesson for Julio, he needed to let his hands go sooner."
The fight was part of a big fight night in this gambling city. Just a few blocks away from where Martínez and Chávez did battle, Mexican sensation Saul "Canelo" Alvarez stopped Josesito Lopez in a 154-pound title defense.
Chávez earned his biggest payday, $3 million guaranteed, while Martínez got $1.4 million plus a percentage of the pay-per-view sales.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.