Middleweight champion Martinez tweeting, then beating, all comers
Sergio Martinez defends his middleweight title against Darren Barker on Oct. 1
Martinez is active on Twitter and uses the site to call out his potential opponents
A potential meeting with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. could help Martinez unify the belts
NEW YORK -- It's tough not to like Sergio Martinez.
He's good-looking, charming and has a magnetic smile. He actively campaigns against domestic violence and bullying, even dedicating his win over Sergiy Dzinziruk last March to a battered 13-year-old girl who was forced to leave her middle school due to excessive bullying.
But there is one place where the Argentine -- currently ranked No. 2 in SI.com's pound-for-pound ratings -- will show a piece of the surly side of his personality: Twitter. Martinez, 36, is one of the most active athletes on the social network. And while he regularly (and at times, hourly) interacts with fans and tweets out information about his upcoming fights, Martinez also uses Twitter to talk a little trash.
Example A: Miguel Cotto. The reigning 154-pound champion, Cotto drew the ire of Martinez earlier this year when he refused to shake Martinez's hand at a function in Mexico. Since then, Martinez has routinely issued challenges to the Puerto Rican, tweeting that Cotto has been ducking him for years,
Example B: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Martinez has repeatedly taken shots at the middleweight titleholder, who is contractually obligated to face Martinez after his next title defense or be stripped of his alphabet belt. Martinez has called him a "shame to his country" if he refuses to take the fight.
"I like Twitter," Martinez said. "Instead of going through an intermediary, you can go directly to the fighters."
It's fitting then that the negotiations for Martinez's upcoming fight against European champion Darren Barker -- whom Martinez will defend his alphabet title against on Oct. 1 in Atlantic City -- took place almost exclusively on Twitter. It was Barker (@DarrenBarker82), who first started yapping that he wanted a shot at Martinez. Then Martinez (@maravillabox) accepted the challenge. Soon after, promoters Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) and Lou DiBella (@loudibella) settled specifics like site, split and television rights in a series of direct messages.
Martinez (47-2, 26 KOs) isn't taking the unheralded Barker (23-0, 14 KOs) lightly ("He has a lot of power and he is slick," Martinez said), but much of the talk at Wednesday's press conference focused on who was next on his hit list. Martinez said he offered the fight to Cotto, Chavez and Felix Sturm before settling on Barker. He said Chavez is his "No. 1 target" after Barker and said he was frustrated that "none of the other champions want to fight me."
"We went with Barker because he wants to fight," DiBella said. "Everyone else in the business is running away from him."
Then there is Paul Williams, who picked up a win over Martinez in 2009 and suffered a skull-rattling knockout loss to him last November. Martinez had been interested in a rubber match with Williams next year but Williams' lackluster performance in a controversial win over Erislandy Lara earlier this month ("A robbery," Martinez said) has changed that thinking. Though industry sources say HBO is still interested in Williams-Martinez III -- provided Williams looks good in his next fight, likely against a orthodox opponent -- Martinez says he is ready to move on.
"He's not at the same level he used to be," Martinez said. "He looked like he was affected by my knockout. It's very sad but he's not the same. I don't think he is there anymore. I don't think he has the killer instinct."
Said DiBella, "I don't think [Williams] is shot but I don't think he's a 160-pounder who should be going up against the strongest 160-pounder in the world."
In the meantime, Martinez will soldier on. He is predicting a seventh-round knockout against Barker and says he is optimistic that Chavez will face him early next year. Why? Because Chavez (@jcchavezjr1) accepted his challenge on Twitter.
"He told everyone he would fight me," Martinez said. "And you can't take back what you say on Twitter."