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What in the world happened to Sergio Martinez?

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Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Miguel Cotto’s resounding victory over World Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez this weekend did more than likely secure Freddie Roach another Trainer of the Year award, but also became an instant candidate for Upset of the Year as well. Few saw Miguel Cotto winning the fight, let alone winning in such a dominant fashion.

Our staff picks were typical of the expectations in boxing circles, in that most of our staff thought Martinez would win in some fashion, with only Steven Shumansky picking Cotto, and by late TKO at that (double kudos to Shumansky for coming so close!). The celebrity poll is another example, because once you discount the Puerto Ricans rooting for their guy you are left with just Sugar Ray Leonard picking Cotto, and that by a narrow decision.

Some might not call Cotto knocking out Martinez a major upset, not when he had a fighting chance to win in the eyes of so many (myself included), but it was certainly a classic example of how boxing can produce shocking results, straight out of the clear blue sky. That begs the question of how so many of us got it wrong.

Martinez: Old, Injured And Damaged 

For my own part, I got Cotto more or less right, but overestimated Martinez. As I pointed out in March, Cotto would be the slugger in the fight and the two men were roughly the same size. I even mentioned Martinez might be damaged goods, but discounted that when making my ultimate call as to who would win. Now it is clear that Martinez’s chin was permanently dented in his clash with Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., and that at age 39 the Argentine boxer can’t come back from it.

As I watched it unfold, Cotto vs. Martinez reminded me greatly of Froch vs. Groves I. Both Martinez and Froch were drilled by hard shots in the very first round of the fight, and in both fights that would reverberate right through to the very end. Yet Froch hadn’t almost been knocked out the way Martinez had been against Chavez, nor had he been knocked down and struggled the way Martinez did against Martin Murray.

So Froch, still ringing from being nailed by Groves in the 1st, was able to hang on and stay in the fight. Martinez stayed hurt, and if he was still in the fight it was on pride and guts alone.

Worse than a dented chin perhaps is a body which seems to have betrayed him one too many times. The sturdy, explosive athleticism, the darting in and out movements, even the hand speed, all of it seemed zapped from Martinez. There’s only so many knee surgeries and rehabilitation journeys you can expect to go through at his age and come away unscathed when so much of your success is predicated on pure athleticism.

Retirement?

I doubt a man with Sergio Martinez’s pride wants to go out on such a crushing defeat, and in prevailing over Martin Murray last year he can make a sound case to himself that he still has the stuff to beat world class middleweights. Yet at the same time, Martinez has always carried his hands at his waist and relied on his reflexes, foot work, and machismo for his defense. While not exactly easy to hit, he was never the hardest guy to connect with either.

Given Martinez’s fight style, his age, and his recent track record of injuries, along with what now appears to be perhaps a permanently dented chin, I would be remiss if I didn’t say Martinez should now be looking for a well-chosen, credible fight to stage in Buenos Aires, and make that his swan song.

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