Sergio Martinez may never get chance to prove greatness
Sergio Martinez is generally considered the world's No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter
The middleweight champ has pursued fights with Mayweather, Pacquiao to no avail
With Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. also avoiding a meeting, what's out there for Martinez?
NEW YORK -- I feel bad for Sergio Martinez.
Yeah, I know: I should feel bad for his opponents. On Saturday night, inside a sold-out Theater at Madison Square Garden, Martinez lay waste to another would-be challenger to his middleweight throne, finishing off Matthew Macklin with an electrifying 11th-round knockout. It was the fifth consecutive win for Martinez -- fourth straight by knockout -- reestablishing himself as the top 160-pounder in the world.
So why do I feel worse for the virtually unblemished Martinez than the battered and bloodied Macklin?
Because Macklin will move on. He's a crowd-pleasing Irish fighter with a fan base that should not have any trouble getting another title shot.
Martinez? Who knows where he goes next.
Sure, there are options. There are plenty of middleweights wearing gold around their waists who want a shot at Martinez. WBO titleholder Dmitry Pirog has been chomping at the bit for more than a year for the fight. IBF champion Daniel Geale has been defending his belt overseas waiting for his chance. Gennady Golovkin, Andy Lee and Felix Sturm are all on the radar.
But those are not appealing options to Martinez. Nor should they be. "They bring no money to the table," Martinez's promoter Lou DiBella said. "They bring nothing but risk." Martinez is, by most estimations (including SI.com), the third-best fighter in the world, right behind Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. He fights an aggressive, entertaining, television-friendly style. DiBella calls him the best closer in the game.
What DiBella wants -- what everyone wants, really -- is for Martinez to be in super fight with either Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao. And it's not like Martinez hasn't tried. He has said he is willing to drop down to 150 pounds to make either fight happen while DiBella is willing to settle for an 80-20 split of the revenue. Team Martinez has no delusions about their fighter's box office appeal; there was a reason he was fighting an Irishman on St. Patrick's Day, after all.
But those fights are not going to happen. Top Rank's Bob Arum isn't interested in putting Pacquiao in with another oversized fighter, not after Pacquiao and Freddie Roach complained about the wear and tear that came with fighting Antonio Margarito. And Mayweather will continue to talk about making the biggest fight before settling on the biggest money fight, which will probably mean a showdown with Saul Alvarez in the fall.
It has been suggested that Martinez should move up in weight and challenge super middleweights Andre Ward or Lucien Bute, a suggestion that seems a little nuts. Ward and Bute are big, six-footers who walk around in the 180's. Martinez is a natural 154-pounder who, DiBella said, ate steak and potatoes all week and still weighed in at 157.
"I'm sick of listening to bull---t from commentators and press about Sergio fighting Bute or Ward, two guys who walk around 25 or 30 pounds heavier than him," DiBella said. "The advantage that [Darren] Barker had, that Macklin had, that [Kelly] Pavlik had for the first few rounds [against Martinez] is that they are bigger and stronger. This guy is superhuman. He's a 154-pound freak. Guys like this don't exist anymore. There is a reason people are ducking him. They are ducking a great fighter. They are ducking a likely loss."
There is, of course, one opponent DiBella, HBO and the media agree on: WBC titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. On paper, it's a natural fit. Chavez has the title Martinez was stripped of when he refused a mandatory defense against Sebastian Zbik last year. Both are well known in the U.S. with straight-ahead styles that would make for an exciting fight.
But Chavez-Martinez is unlikely to happen either, not with Top Rank collecting big gates in Mexico, Texas and California and cashing fat HBO checks matching Chavez up with Peter Manfredo, Marco Antonio Rubio and Martin Murray, whom Chavez will likely face in June. And not with the Mexican-based WBC blindly supporting his every move, coming up with excuse after excuse not to strip him of the title.
"[WBC President Jose] Suliaman is like his f---ing godfather," DiBella said.
Indeed, another win, another dynamic performance from Martinez on Saturday will likely go to waste. He will continue to chase the top challenges and, in all likelihood, continue to come up short. Which is why I feel bad for him, a great fighter who may never get his big chance.
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