BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Sergio Martinez retained his WBC middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Martin Murray on Saturday despite being sent to the canvas several times by the Englishman.
The three judges all scored the fight 115-112 in favor of the Argentine, a decision sure to be controversial but pleasing to the home fans in Martinez’s native Buenos Aires. It was his first fight in his hometown in 11 years after fighting mostly in Europe.
Martinez, known as ‘Maravilla’, improved to 53 victories in 55 fights. It was Murray’s first loss in 27 fights.
The bout attracted 40,000 fans despite constant rain at the outdoor football stadium of Buenos Aires club Velez Sarsfield. Fans got soaked though, but the boxers fought under a canopy.
“Thanks Argentina. Thanks for following me. I love you a lot,'” Martinez told the fans from a ringside microphone.
The decision likely went the way of Martinez because judges did not see enough in the opening rounds from the defensive-minded Englishman.
Martinez explored for openings in the first three rounds, dropping his hands and dancing and daring Murray to break out of his conservative, defensive stance. Murray stayed covered up, but caught Martinez with a powerful right hand late in the third round.
Murray began to go on the offensive in the fourth round but stayed covered up, making it difficult for Martinez to land a punch squarely. In the sixth he pinned Martinez up against the ropes and seemed to taunt the champion before the partisan fans.
Caught by a right hand early in the seventh, Martinez began to change his strategy — dancing less and boxing more.
Murray knocked down Martinez midway through the eighth with a left-right combination, which silenced the home fans and kept the Englishman on the attack.
Murray put more pressure on the in 10th, putting Martinez down again, and repeated the dose in the 11th, but Italian referee Massimo Barrovechio ruled were slips rather than knockdowns.
Martinez has been nursing an injured right knee and, at 38, this is likely to be one of his final fights.