Sergio Martinez survived a late knockdown to reclaim the World Boxing Council's middleweight belt this morning (WA time) when he defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. by a unanimous points decision.
Martinez, 37, dominated and was leading comfortably on the judges' scorecards when he got into trouble in the 12th and final round, and the Argentine had to survive a late onslaught by Chavez as they went toe-to-toe.
Chavez knocked Martinez down in the final round but the veteran was able to hang on in front of a sold-out crowd at the Thomas and Mack Center arena in Las Vegas.
“He caught me with a good left hook and I lost my balance,” Martinez said.
Judges Stanley Christodoulou (117-110), Adalaide Byrd (118-109) and Dave Moretti (118-109) all scored it in favour of Martinez.
Martinez, who came into the fight as a 2-1 favourite, improved to 50-2-2 with 28 knockouts.
The 26-year-old Chavez, son of one of the greatest boxers in Mexican history, was making his fourth defence of the WBC middleweight crown, which at one time belonged to Martinez.
“I had him hurt, but I couldn't finish him off,” Chavez said. “I think a rematch is justified.
“I hurt him like no else before.”
Ringside officials said Chavez landed 37 power punches in the final round while Martinez connected with just eight.
But overall, Martinez landed 390 of 908 punches compared to 178 of 322 for Chavez.
Asked if he would give Chavez a rematch, Martinez said: “Of course, I'm ready to start training again.” Martinez was stripped of his WBC title belt two years ago.
The scrap was watched by a sell-out crowd of more than 19,000 at the UNLV campus, which included Australia's WBA and IBF middleweight king Daniel Geale.
Elsewhere in Vegas, upcoming Mexican superstar Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez stopped Josesito Lopez in the fifth round to keep his WBC light-middleweight title.
Alvarez knocked down the challenger three times at the MGM Grand Hotel and had Lopez bleeding from both the nose and mouth as referee Joe Cortez stopped the one-sided fight with five seconds remaining in the fifth.
The 22-year-old Alvarez, who is notable for his red hair, freckles and thunderous punching power, made his fifth title defence against a gritty but overmatched American opponent.
“I am very happy with what I showed today,” Alvarez said.
“In boxing you are always learning and I still have a lot to learn. But I will be better next time.”
Alvarez was the more aggressive fighter from the opening bell in the 154-pound (70kg) fight as he kept his perfect record intact, improving to 41-0-1 with 30 knockouts.
He continually trapped Lopez on the ropes where he battered the challenger with multiple punch combinations that led to the knockdowns.
He floored Lopez down with a left hook to the body in the second round, again in the third and fourth and then put the finishing touches on with a right to the head in the final round that forced referee Cortez to step in.
Californian Lopez was fighting for a title for the first time and his underdog status was confirmed in losing every round on the judges’ scorecards.
Lopez, who moved up in weight to fight Alvarez, dropped to 30-5 in his career. He said fighting at 154 pounds was too much for him.
“He proved he is a better fighter,” Lopez said.
“It is way out of my weight. I felt good, but the size was different for me.”
On the undercard, IBF bantamweight champ Leo Santa Cruz retained his title by stopping two-time world champion Eric Morel in the fifth round.
Daniel Ponce De Leon also claimed the WBC featherweight belt by taking a unanimous decision from former champ Jhonny Gonzalez.