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Sergio Martinez: Entering the Mayweather/Pacquiao Club

by Hans Olson

On Saturday night, Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez (48-2-2) defeated the previously undefeated Darren Barker (23-1); an 11th round rally putting an exclamation point on what many felt to be an off night for the champ.

Boxing fans are a fickle bunch.

Sure, it wasn’t the dominating Martinez who put Serhiy Dzinziruk on the canvas no less than five times before stopping him earlier this year…

Sure, Sergio wasn’t the knockout artist who ruined Paul Williams in two rounds last November…

Heck, it wasn’t even the Sergio Martinez that bloodied and battered Kelly Pavlik en route to becoming the true champion of the Middleweight division in early 2010.

Still though, “Maravilla” impressed. He showed the qualities that only elite fighters show. He was able to adapt, adjust, and execute. When Barker gave him little to hit, he eventually broke through. When Sergio was bloodied—he fought through.

So the sense of disappointment many fans are showing is somewhat puzzling.

Has the relationship between Sergio Martinez and the hardcore boxing fan already moved past the “honeymoon” stage? Is Sergio Martinez just the latest super fighter to be built up just to be torn down by the general public? Sergio is already starting to receive criticism for calling out the two fighters universally ranked above him pound-for-pound, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…if Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao don’t fight each other, one of them should fight Martinez.

Is it because both Mayweather and Pacquiao are naturally smaller guys?

Sergio Martinez is already fighting a weight division over HIS natural size. He’s willing to go down further than that, to 150 lb. just to make a fight with Mayweather or Pacquiao happen. The Mayweather camp hasn’t made much noise one way or the other, but that fight, on paper…is an excellent match-up. I think there is a better chance of Mayweather taking Sergio’s challenge than Pacquiao. Everybody knows that Top Rank is planning on matching Manny Pacquiao with Tim Bradley after Juan Manuel Marquez…the recent signing of Bradley to Top Rank and his subsequent placement on the undercard to Pacquiao/Marquez affirms this.

If Floyd Mayweather took Sergio Martinez up on his challenge, it would put to rest much of the unwarranted criticism directed at Floyd.
The same criticism that Floyd gets (and to a lesser degree—that Pacquiao has been getting as well) could come Sergio’s way if he can’t find a dance partner worthy of the public’s perception. Hardcore fight fans have an obsession with not only their favorite fighters, but the fighters they root against. This fosters message board ridicule, bar room arguments, and general heated discussion.

Where Sergio Martinez was viewed a year ago could—and likely will be—very different next year. It’s already starting to change.

Build ‘em up, tear ‘em down.

It’s not just the fans, and the press…even promoters themselves are getting in on it….attacking not just the other fighter, but the other fighter’s promoter. Bob Arum was quoted by Boxing Scene’s Michael Marley last week:

“They’ve got the clay (to mold Martinez into stardom), they’ve got plenty to work with,” said Arum. “First, he is a real quality fighter. Second, he’s a real good looking guy, and in the little time I’ve been around Sergio, he seemed to be a nice fellow.”

Arum continued on with advice on how to market Martinez, essentially suggesting that Lou DiBbella is doing a poor job.

DiBella surely didn’t appreciate it.

Marley then posted a rebuttal from Lou.

“It’s all denigration, and Bob is the king of denigration,” said DiBella.

In actually…most people involved in boxing are all about denigration. Let’s take that a step further…most people in society as a whole are all about denigration. This is the culture we live in. You tear down what you’re afraid of.

In that regard…do you hear the Mayweather camp tearing down Sergio Martinez?

But that would be too easy for fans to acknowledge.

The best thing Lou DiBella and Sergio Martinez can do is exactly what they’ve been doing. If a mega-fight comes, it will come. If Mayweather or Pacquiao don’t take Sergio’s challenge, life will go on for the talented southpaw. He may just have to do what both Floyd and Manny did on their way up…win, get fans, and be hated by others.

Because being hated is a sign you’re doing something right.

America is a sucker for a good story. We’re a sucker for a better celebrity. We’re a sucker for a great fighter…and Martinez may now have entered his way alongside Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao as it relates to boxing fans and their vitriol and ire toward those at the top.

As is often attributed to the legendary P.T. Barnum, there’s an old saying “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

Martinez has now reached beyond the honeymoon, past his 15 minutes.

He’s here to stay…and regardless if he fights Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao…we’re all sucked in.


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