ATLANTIC CITY — Nobody could deny Sergio Martinez this victory.
The junior middleweight champion dominated Kelly Pavlik in the final few rounds Saturday, winning a bloody and impressive unanimous decision to claim the WBC and WBO middleweight belts at raucous Boardwalk Hall.
When the final bell sounded, Martinez ran for the corner and leaped onto the ropes, thrusting his arms into the air. Pavlik solemnly raised his own arm before retreating to his corner, his face awash in blood — just as it had been at the end of the last four rounds.
Judge Roberto Ramirez scored the fight 116-111, Barbara Perez scored it 115-111 and Craig Metcalfe had it 115-112, all for Martinez. The Associated Press also scored it 115-112.
“It was a 12-round fight, and I knew it would go the distance,” the new middleweight king said, “and I knew at the end I had to close strong.”
Martinez (45-2-2) moved up to 160 pounds to challenge Pavlik, who had never been beaten at his natural weight. The 35-year-old from Argentina put on a marvelous display of speed and footwork, rallying from a questionable knockdown in the seventh round to batter and frustrate the pride of Youngstown, Ohio.
“He was a smart fighter,” said Pavlik, his face a gruesome mess of bruises and cuts. “He doubled up on the jab a lot after he cut me. I just couldn’t get anything going.”
It was a refreshing change for Martinez to finally win a clear decision, because judges sure haven’t been kind to him lately.
The charismatic fighter with the Hollywood looks appeared to beat Kermit Cintron in February 2009, dropping his opponent in the seventh round and watching the referee count him out. But after a lengthy commotion, the fight was allowed to continue and Martinez wound up with a draw.
Then in December, Martinez battled feared puncher Paul Williams in the smaller ballroom at Boardwalk Hall in a Fight of the Year candidate. Both of them hit the deck in the first round, and they stood toe-to-toe the rest of the way, but Williams got the debatable decision.