“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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
“It is indifferent to me,” said Martinez. “Kelly Pavlik was the same size. He was bigger. It doesn’t matter.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Call me sentimental. I have Martinez winning someway, somehow.
You can email Gabriel
at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.