Sergio Martinez and the Moment of Truth
By Gabriel Montoya, MaxBoxing (Sept 15, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
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Sergio Martinez
It’s a long road that has no turning.”
 
An old Irish saying.
 
“Many a time a man’s mouth broke his nose.”
 
Another old Irish saying.
 
The road to the middleweight championship of the world and beyond has been nothing but twists and turns for Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez. Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV, in front of a sold-out crowd and an HBO Pay-Per-View audience, Martinez is either defending his lineal title or challenging for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s WBC belt (which belonged to Martinez before he was stripped for not fighting the guy Chavez won the belt against). Long story. maxboxing/uncertain-future-of-martinez
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Sergio Martinez is a man familiar with change. In his first and only Las Vegas fight when he was a mere 16-0-1 welterweight from Argentina with high hopes and no clue how the elite levels of the sport worked, he lost to a young but well-seasoned Top Rank contender named Antonio Margarito. The fighter was big for his division, rugged in his approach, often eschewing the jab in favor of crowding in close and digging relentlessly to the body. Martinez was stopped along the ropes in the seventh.
 
After the loss, Martinez returned home briefly then set off for Spain where he found fellow countrymen Pablo and Gabriel Sarmiento, joined their team and honed his awkward southpaw style that is equal parts athleticism and smart boxing.
 
Twelve years later, Martinez is now an HBO fighter and the middleweight champion of the world with a record of 49-2-2 with 28 knockouts, wins over Kelly Pavlik (a bit of revenge as Pavlik is a Top Rank fighter), Paul Williams, Kermit Cintron and, most recently, Matthew Macklin.
 
However, whether as a fresh-faced prospect in the U.S. for the first time, an unknown taking out Alex Bunema on HBO to capture American fight fans’ attention or the smallish middleweight put in front of Kelly Pavlik as cannon fodder, Martinez has always been the outsider, the proverbial little guy throwing himself into the works to gum them up.
 
In a road of twists and turns, Martinez’s has brought him full circle back to Las Vegas for yet another “biggest fight of his life.” This time, he is a 37-year-old seasoned champion heading to “Sin City” for the second time under greater media scrutiny and more pressure than ever.
 
“I am prepared for all this,” the champ told Maxboxing.com in regard to the cameras, HBO’s “24/7” film crew and the constant barrage of questions and autograph requests since the fight was announced.
 
He will be facing the “Son of a Legend” named Chavez in an arena largely filled with Mexican supporters. The future of a franchise is at stake. In essence, this fight is the last piece of the puzzle pertaining to taking Martinez’s middleweight title. But Martinez is unflappable. His normally long answers give way to one word sentences as he appeared relaxed but ready to fight at Fortune’s Gym in Hollywood, CA for a media day this past Monday.
 
Martinez is something of a nomad. He lives in Spain when he is not fight training but makes his home near Oxnard, CA when in camp. For this camp, he trained in three separate gyms in the area, constantly changing up things to keep himself balanced and sharp.
 
“Every change motivates me. No, it was not a distraction at all,” he told me of the three gyms, Extreme Boxing, Knuckleheadz and the World Crown Gym, he has used since moving training to the California coast. “It helped me feel three different types of rings.”
 
There will be only one ring on Saturday, September 15 and inside it will be a giant Mexican WBC champion named Julio Jr. trying to break Martinez in half. Chavez Jr. is a growing boy, so much that when he weighs in at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, the following night when the lights come on, he will be likely 20 pounds more than that. Martinez will weigh under the limit likely and weigh just five to eight pounds more come fight night.
 
“It is indifferent to me,” said Martinez. “Kelly Pavlik was the same size. He was bigger. It doesn’t matter.”
 
The two men are a contrast in styles in every way. Julio is the impudent prince who is getting angrier every day about being treated as such in the press. He seems to understand his limits as an athlete and fighter as well as his strengths. Chavez Jr. appears to be a man coming into his own.
 
Martinez is a little out of character in this promotion. He is talking angrily about Junior. Though he has promised the knockout before and has delivered four consecutive knockouts, this time feels very personal.
 
“It’s the one thing I know I can do,” Martinez told leaveitintheringradio.com. “It’s the one thing I am sure of.”
 
Since the day Chavez Jr. won his belt against Sebastian Zbik, Martinez has wanted the chance to get his belt back. He has talked endlessly about it. He willed this fight to happen through his words - and here it is. But to use a third old saying, “Watch what you wish for,” Martinez is the smaller man. He is the independent which is as popular in boxing as it is in politics. He is the older man who is not considered to be a future pay-per-view star for the next 10 years. If ever a knockout was needed, it is now.
 
When he knocked out Paul Williams in two rounds, Martinez talked about an opening Gabriel Sarmiento saw the night before, a tendency. They prepared for that moment and it worked to perfection. This time out, with a fighter who is slow of foot but long on toughness and physicality, Martinez was asked if he saw anything similar.
 
“Yes, of course but I am not going to say it,” he laughed. “There’s a lot of things that I see and a lot of things we are working on. We’re going to see if his chin is as good as it stands and if he can put up with my punches.”
 
Fate is cruel, boxing even more so. It’s hard to believe a man who started out in Vegas getting worked over by a man slower but with relentless aggression could come full circle years later against the same company, only to be fed to a future franchise while pursuing his personal destiny. But this is boxing. Happy endings are rare and the little guy almost never pulls off the great upset. Make no mistake; Vegas odds be damned, Martinez is the underdog here. He has called for a moment of truth between him and Julio for some time. Saturday, it arrives.
 
Will Martinez complete his circle with success or will fate squash him at the moment of his redemption and greatest glory?
 
It’s great when no one can answer that easily.
 
Monty’s Pick
 
Call me sentimental. I have Martinez winning someway, somehow.

You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

* Special Thanks To MaxBoxing.

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