Matthew Macklin’s title dream died in the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night – for now according to the Irishman.
The 29-year-old, born in England to Tipperary parents, suffered an 11th round technical knockout to Argentina’s world middleweight champion Sergio Martinez but vowed to bounce back.
The veteran Martinez was handed a real test by Macklin in front of a partisan St Patrick’s Night crowd at the Garden.
The challenger even sent the renowned Martinez to the floor before finally succumbing to an 11th round onslaught when he was knocked down twice before his corner asked the referee to stop the fight.
Proud in defeat, Macklin said: “I thought I had the most momentum, I thought I was in the driver’s seat. Some of the rounds were close but I thought I was dictating.
“I was the one that was boxing to the game plan, and I was taking him out of his. I did take a more considered approach to the fight than usual.
“Putting reckless pressure on would have been detrimental so I tried to feint, move my head, box, take him out of his rhythm, upset him a little bit and ease my way into the fight, then start putting the pressure on.”
Macklin’s tactics may have had him ahead on some cards when Martinez went down in the seventh but that proved to be a wake-up call for the gritty Argentinean.
Macklin admitted: “I switched off a little bit upstairs late in the fight, stopped moving my head a little bit.
“It wasn’t extreme fatigue because it wasn’t that sort of fight but I certainly slowed a little bit, stopped moving my head, got a bit heavy on my feet and he caught me square a few times.
“That allowed him to get his confidence up and get into his rhythm.”
Even when his corner had seen enough to stop the fight, Macklin wanted to continue.
“I’ve never ever quit,” said Macklin. “I wanted to continue. I gave it 100%. I think anyone who watched would agree. Hopefully I didn’t let anyone down.”
Winner Martinez said: “It was the right thing to stop the fight. He will now have a tomorrow. He would not have had a tomorrow if they continued the fight.
“It was about being a mature boxer. It was winning on his mistakes.”
Speaking to the written media afterwards, Macklin admitted:
“The better man won tonight. I thought it was a close fight up until the last few rounds when he pulled away.
“I lost my shape a bit. I think I proved where I belong tonight and that is in the top two or three. I don’t think too many could give him this tough a fight.”