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Sergio Martinez: After #1 and #2, There’s a Big Dip to #3

by Charles Jay

During Saturday’s HBO telecast of the Sergio Martinez-Matthew Macklin fight, blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley made mention of the proposition that Martinez was listed as the #3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world “on most credible pound-for-pound lists.”

Well, I don’t know that the pound-for-pound rankings are rampant out there, even on the vast internet, nor that Lampley has really done extensive research in that area, nor that he has the orientation to determine who is “credible” or who isn’t. There might be other candidates for such a position; surely Wladimir Klitschko, who’s held a heavyweight title for quite a while, or Juan Manuel Marquez, who most recently gave Manny Pacquiao life and death, come to mind.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Martinez is a wonderfully athletic fighter, and at age 37 he makes an argument for waiting a while before taking up the sport, because he clearly has not been a victim of wear and tear. No one is being facetious in saying that; the guy looks fresh as a daisy in there, and he did not show any signs of fatigue even though he was in ten competitive rounds with Macklin before putting him away.

The point is that if Martinez is #3 in the world, pound-for-pound, it means there is quite a drop from the top two.

That, of course, proceeds on the assumption that Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao, or, if you prefer, Pacquiao and Mayweather, are the #1 and #2 fighters. When it comes to the caliber of opposition, the championship fights won, and the range of challenges accepted and conquered, there is quite the chasm between that golden pair who can’t seem to get together with each other, but might, if the stars align just right for Martinez, afford him the opportunity to make a huge payday.

Then there is the “eye test.” How does the guy look? Well, as mentioned, Martinez is a physical marvel, and as is discussed every time he fights, part of it comes from his athletic background before turning professional. At his best, he is able to frustrate opponents and is able to put together combinations. He’s got power, as Paul Williams found out rather painfully, and Macklin ultimately discovered last weekend.

But if he is #3, – and we have no doubt that he has a claim on it – then we may be experiencing a bit of a shortage.

Judging by Saturday night’s fight, he may have a ways to go, as they say. We actually heard comments like “win this time, look great the next time,” or words to that effect, which meant that he was having a hard enough time putting one in the win column to look like, well, the #3 fighter in the world. Why was that? Admittedly, he had a game opponent in front of him. And there wasn’t much reason for Macklin to be intimidated, because at least he had fought for a “world title” before, the one held by Felix Sturm.

But Macklin, who had achieved success by being a fighter moving straight ahead, changed his approach a little; not necessarily to someone who was elusive, but one who was less aggressive. He even said in the post-fight interview that if he had fought HIS fight, he would have been too banged up to make a difference late in the fight. The “number three fighter in the world” couldn’t even succeed at making the challenger, a much less experienced opponent, fight HIS OWN fight. He was being elusive against an opponent who wasn’t even being very persistent.

The “number three fighter in the world” needs to be more of a ring general than that. He made this fight much tougher than it had to be. Had he stood there a little more, Martinez would have been able to catch Macklin coming in more than Macklin had intended, because he’d have had no choice. Let’s put it this way; if Macklin had been put in a position where he tried to evade Martinez, he would have been in deep trouble much earlier. But our “Diamond Belt” champion (Martinez) looked, for most of the fight, to be confused by a fighter who, by rights, shouldn’t be confusing in the least.

Eventually, Martinez stood his ground a little more (more to the point, Macklin was made to be more stationary) and started to catch Macklin with more and more left hands. That’s something that could have been happening more often. He came out of it with an eleventh-round TKO (or rather, a TKO after eleven rounds) after turning up the heat, but you saw the potential danger of his lack of strategy.

In case you didn’t, the HBO telecast showed the scorecards after the fight was over. It was quite possible that going into the eleventh, one judge had Macklin up by three points and the other two had Martinez ahead by only a single point. So the underdog was in striking distance.

That’s the hazard involved in waiting too long. What if Macklin had not been fatigued enough to go down from a couple of straight lefts? You’re leaving the matter in other people’s hands.

I have little doubt that Martinez has the raw ability to wipe the floor with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the “official” WBC middleweight champion, if and when they do fight. But that’s a lot different than wiping the floor with Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. One would think that if Martinez was able to get away with fighting Macklin the way he did, he might be able to do it with Chavez too. Then again, he may not.

We shouldn’t have to be having discussions like that about the “number three fighter in the world.”

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