ATLANTIC CITY - Sergio Martinez kept his WBC middleweight championship with a devastating second-round knockout over Paul Williams at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night.
Martinez (46-2-2, 25 KOs) uncorked a left hook that thudded against Williams' temple. Williams' face bounced off the canvas and he remained there with a blank stare as referee Earl Morton counted him out at one minute, 10 seconds.
While Morton was counting, Martinez leaped atop the turnbuckle in a neutral corner and thrust both arms skyward as a stunned crowd of 5,502 watched in stunned silence.
Williams (39-2, 27 KOs), who won their first bout by majority decision, remained motionless on the floor for several minutes before getting helped to a stool.
"I just got caught with a good punch," Williams said. "That's all. I knew it was going to be a tough fight."
Martinez, 35, who won the title with a 12-round unanimous decision over Kelly Pavlik last April in the same ring, started aggressively at the opening bell. He attacked Williams at the outset, ripping left and right hooks to Williams' body and jaw.
Williams, a lanky left-hander, landed a few good shots of his own in the first round, but seemed to have a hard time keeping Martinez at bay.
"I started to attack (in the second round) and when I did, we knew he was going to make a mistake because he always makes mistakes," Martinez said through an interpreter. "He left me a lot of room to come in and hit him. So I did. But I was surprised it happened so soon."
There was a bit of controversy before the fight began. According to the official bout sheet, Martinez was supposed to be in the blue corner, which is traditionally reserved for defending champions. He was shifted to the red corner about 10 minutes before the introductions, presumably under orders from Williams' promoter, Dan Goossen. Curiously, all six undercard winners were in the blue corner.
"That's ridiculous," Martinez's promoter, Lou DiBella said while crumping a bout sheet and tossing it on the floor. "Why does my fighter, the champion, have to be in the challengers' corner? It makes absolutely no sense."
The color of the corner didn't matter.
Martinez' powerful left hook took care of that.
"In my heart I thought he was going to win, but that was one of devastating punches I've ever seen," DiBella said. "That punch would have knocked out anyone on Earth. I know what I've got and I've got the best fighter in the world."
Talk of a Martinez-Williams III surfaced immediately.
Before the fight, there was a possibility that the winner may fight Manny Pacquiao or perhaps Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
"I plan to have three or more fights before I retire," Martinez said. "I'd like one of them to be against Pacquiao or Mayweather," Martinez said.
That doesn't seem likely in the wake of Martinez's one-punch victory.
"If you were Manny Pacquiao, would you want to fight Sergio Martinez after that?" DiBella asked. "I didn't think so."
The bout was a rematch of a brutal-yet-exciting, 12-round fight the two waged 11 months ago at Boardwalk Hall's Adrian Phillips Ballroom which ended with Williams earning a controversial majority decision. Both fighters registered knockdowns in the first round and kept throwing and landing powerful hooks and uppercuts for the next 11 rounds.
The crowd paid tribute to them that night with a standing ovation before the final round and remained on their feet while Williams and Martinez exchanged big punches for three more minutes. Judges Lynn Carter (115-113) and Julie Lederson (114-114) scored the fight extremely close. Pierre Benoist (119-110) was roundly criticized for giving Martinez just one round on his scorecard.
"I didn't want the judges to rob me this time," Martinez said after his knockout Saturday.
Martinez was making the first defense of the crown he captured with a 12-round, unanimous decision over Kelly Pavlik at Boardwalk Hall last April 17. Martinez, who was also the WBC junior-middleweight champ at the time, opened cuts above both of Pavlik's eyes that required three dozen stitches to close.
"My life is much different now because of that fight," Martinez said through an interpreter earlier this week. "I have a better life. I used to work very hard, but nobody recognized my talent. Now they do."
Williams' last fight ended with him earning a bizarre victory over Kermit Cintron in Carson, Calif. last May 8. Cintron fell through the ropes in the fourth round, landed on the floor outside the ring, and waited too long to signal officials that he was able to continue. Williams was awarded a four-round technical decision.
Before Saturday's fight could be made, Martinez and his camp had to agree to a catchweight of 158 pounds, two under the normal middleweight limit, to accomodate Williams.
Williams, who had never weighed more than 157 for a fight in the last eight years, had been training for a welterweight fight at 147 before a rematch with Martinez was first suggested. His handlers were concerned that Martinez would have a decisive edge in size and strength, even though Williams put himself through a grueling training camp in Washington, D.C.
"I had a lot of time to prepare for this one and I'm in great shape," Williams said earlier this week. "I'm ready to go big or go home."
Martinez trained in Oxnard, Calif. just a few miles away from where Antonio Margarito was preparing for his Nov. 13 fight against Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao dominated Margarito en route to a 12-round, unanimous decision at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Martinez, who said he sometimes ran into Margarito while doing road work in the mountains, watched the fight on TV.
"It was a massacre," said Martinez, who suffered a seventh-round TKO loss to Margarito in 2000. "They should have stopped it six rounds earlier. This one will be different. I'm ready to prove why I'm the middleweight champion of the world."
PUNCHLINES: One of the best fights of the undercard saw Philadelphia welterweight Steve Upsher Chambers (23-1-1, 6 KOs) earn an eight-round, split decision over Mongolia native and Virginia resident Bayan Jargal (15-1-3, 10 KOs). Most fans thought Jargal won.
Boxing returns to Atlantic City on Dec. 4, when Galloway Township welterweight Shamone Alvarez (21-2, 12 KOs) faces Ghana's Ayi Bruce (17-3, 12 KOs) for the vacant IBA title. Wildwood light-heavyweight Chuck Mussachio (16-1-2, 5 KOs), a guidance counselor at Ventnor Elementary School, will face Theo Kruger (10-10-2), of Port Charlotte, Fla., on the undercard.
Millville junior-middleweight Ismael Garcia (2-0), who earned a four-round win over Cory Preston Friday night at Harrah's Resort, will also be on the card.