Sergio Martinez is Coming Off a Breakout 2009 with Quality Performances Against Cintron and Williams
Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez, 44-2-2 (24), is a top fighter in the junior middleweight class. Despite a recent cameo at middleweight, he is considered along with Paul Williams as the class of 154. The Argentina-born resident of Spain is a longtime veteran only now beginning to get the respect he so richly deserves. He is a flashy southpaw boxer with great speed, ring IQ, and respectable power. Martinez, 34, looks to some potential high profile bouts in 2010.
Martinez did not begin boxing until age 20, formerly a soccer player and runner. At 22, he turned pro in Argentina. In a little over two years as a pro, Martinez had shown promise in building a 16-0-1 record against some of the better young and veteran welterweights of Argentina.
Then in 2000, his management took him to Las Vegas to fight already-feared Antonio Margarito. While not the feared juggernaut he would later become, Margarito was far too experienced and battle-hardened for the neophyte Martinez and stopped him in the 7th round. It was a bad management move in that there wasn’t much for Martinez to gain fighting on the bottom of Barrera-Morales I card in an untelevised spot against a dangerous opponent.
Martinez was dumped by his management and returned to Argentina to rebound.
The Long Road Back
Martinez was in the ring two months later and began a long unbeaten streak. Fighting back in Argentina, Martinez spent most of 2000-2003 getting his confidence back and racking up wins. He began to show some of the skills he is now known for, particularly his speed, skills, and fighting spirit.
After finding new management and basing himself in Spain, Martinez hit a nice groove. He won the IBO Light Middleweight Title against Richard Williams in England, defended against respected Adrian Stone before beating Williams again in a rematch. For the next few years, Martinez bided his time waiting for an opportunity. The rating bodies now began to take notice of the slashing Martinez.
Run To The Title
In 2007, Martinez fought dangerous Saul Roman in a title eliminator semi-final. Martinez crushed Roman in four rounds. Incredibly, it would be another 18 months before he got his title shot. In the meanwhile, he stayed busy with a handful of wins.
In October of 2008, Martinez received his overdue shot on HBO fighting Alex Bunema for the interim WBC Light Middleweight Title. Bunema, coming off a crushing knockout of former champ and highly rated Roman Karmazin was figured to provide stiff opposition against Martinez, but it was no contest. Martinez befuddled Bunema with his movement and angles and overwhelmed him with speed, power, and breathtaking skills, stopping Bunema after eight rounds. It was a virtuoso performance that allowed Martinez to steal the show that night. Sergio Martinez had arrived.
2009: A Hard Luck Year For Martinez
In February, Martinez took on former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron on another HBO slot. Martinez appeared to KO Cintron as he drove him to the canvas in the 7th round. The referee counted out Cintron, waved the bout over, only to be somehow convinced by Cintron’s handlers to continue the bout. How this could have happened is still a source of mystery to most boxing observers. It truly bordered on the absolute bizarre.
Cintron appeared to take some of the latter rounds. Then the referee took a point off Martinez in the 12th round for a rabbit punch. The deduction seemed arbitrary and capricious. The fight went to the judges where Martinez was screwed again, only earning a draw. It was strange night to say the least, where all the stars seemed to line up just right to sabotage Martinez of a rightful victory.
In his most recent performance, Martinez stepped up to middleweight to fight feared pound-for-pound entrant Paul Williams. In his biggest fight, Martinez rose to the occasion. After being dropped moments into the bout, Martinez stormed back to drop Williams in the very same round. He went on to win some of the early rounds, using his guile and movement to time Williams with one right hook after the other.
Williams began to connect with more regularity and what ensued was a fight of the year candidate. Martinez continued to score with the flashier punches, while Williams often times had Martinez drowning in a rainstorm of leather. This continued round after round and there was little to separate them during this time. At the end, Martinez seemed to be wilting, but still fought with strong resistance against the fresher, yet busted-up Williams.
There are those who feel Martinez’ strong beginning, and fighting on at least even terms with Williams the rest of the way was enough to give him the decision. Others feel Williams won enough of the middle and late rounds to shade it in his favor. The majority decision in favor of Williams was not worthy of outrage, perhaps, but the 119-110 score of judge Pierre Benoist cast a sour tone to an otherwise great evening.
Despite going winless in his two appearances in 2009, Martinez made a push to the top. Discriminating fans who can see behind the numbers of his 0-1-1 ’09 campaign see he pretty much had his way with Cintron and fought evenly if not better against a budding superstar in Paul Williams. In going 0-1-1, his stock has managed to rise considerably from this same time a year ago.
Martinez is 34 and has no time to waste. He is a 48-fight veteran who is looking for big fights, as shown by appearing on HBO in his last three outings. The Williams loss makes him a hotter ticket, while also confirming him as a good guy to avoid. With Williams also being an avoided fighter, a rematch might be the next best option for both men.