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Sergio Martinez, the WBC, HBO, and Boxing’s Mad Mad World

Posted on 12/29/2011

by Hans Olson

“I’m not planning to defend the WBC Diamond belt anymore,” stated a defiant Sergio Martinez at a press conference earlier today in his native Argentina. “I won’t ever represent the WBC ever again, until the WBC makes the fight they ordered at the WBC convention [against Chavez]. They won’t honor their own agreement. I hate the coward [nature] that Chavez Jr. displays, as well as his coach Freddie Roach, and his promoter Bob Arum, for avoiding me every day. I never thought a world champion could avoid someone this way.”

Sergio Martinez has every right in the world to be furious. That he’s standing up to the political nonsense that drives boxing fans crazy, is refreshing.

Now, for a quick refresher on how this mad world started for Sergio.

In April 2010, Sergio Martinez dominated the division’s lineal champion Kelly Pavlik to win the WBC and WBO middleweight championships. Ring Magazine had also recognized Kelly Pavlik as their champion, so Sergio took on that distinction as well. Not long after, Sergio was curiously stripped of the WBO’s version of the title, for then he had still not decided if he would stay at 154 (where he held the WBC’s version of the championship at that weight), or if he would make the permanent move to 160. Considering a bylaw of the WBO wherein that if a WBO champion who wins a “non-WBO championship” in another weight class different from weight class that which he holds his WBO championship, he has to decide within 10 days of the “non-WBO championship” which title in which weight class he will look to continue to retain with the intention to defend. Although Martinez wanted an exception to be made that would give him more time, it wasn’t granted. I wonder if that had to do with the fact that a short time later, the WBO’s vacant belt was ridiculously put up for grabs in a fight between unproven prospects Danny Jacobs (of Golden Boy Promotions) and Dmitry Pirog. Well, Pirog rained on Golden Boy and Danny’s parade, knocking him out with ease, taking the hardware back to Russia. The fact that Golden Boy even thought they had a champion in Jacobs to crown, and
that Martinez was still recognized by Ring Magazine (which is owned by Golden Boy)—was mildly amusing.

OK, are you still with me here?

Martinez now still held the WBC and Ring Magazine championships, but a mandatory was looming for Martinez in the form of Germany’s Sebastien Zbik. This was no problem for Sergio, he was happy to oblige his mandatory. Promoter Lou DiBella even had a nice big money date at HBO all locked up for the bout. Only, the thing was…HBO didn’t feel that the undefeated Zbik was worthy of fighting on their premium airwaves. So what was Sergio to do? He decided to go on with the date that HBO had for him, against an opponent that they deemed worthy enough. That guy was Serhiy Dzinziruk, another fine undefeated European. What made him so different from Zbik though? Maybe the fact that he was guaranteed some HBO dates? This is going back to the negotiations between promoter Gary Shaw and HBO, who had received HBO dates for Serhiy when negotiating Tim Bradley’s fight with Devon Alexander that January.

Confused yet?

So the WBC really can’t be blamed here. This is all HBO, and this is why networks shouldn’t try to act as matchmakers, or promoters.

The WBC needed to honor their rules, which is fine.

What they did then, was “elevate” Sergio to “Champion Emeritus,” and they put their new “Diamond” belt at stake for the fight with Dzinziruk. So Martinez destroys Dzinziruk with ease. As the “Champion Emeritus,” Sergio then had the right to fight whomever would be the WBC’s champion…and that was soon to be decided with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. set to face, you guessed it, Sebastien Zbik. Oh, and it was going to be on HBO. Yep, the same HBO that didn’t feel Zbik was worthy just a short time before. I wonder if this had anything to do with Bob Arum having had at that time taken his meal-ticket Manny Pacquiao to Showtime for a fight with Shane Mosley? Was HBO trying to get back in Bob’s good graces?

Frustrated yet?

OK, so Chavez beats Zbik, and frankly, didn’t look too bad doing it. Still though, would Chavez step up and fight Sergio…the real champ? Oh wait, there was this other issue too. Marco Antonio Rubio had defeated David Lemieux back in April in a WBC middleweight eliminator…so he wanted a crack at Chavez now. Or would he get a shot at Martinez?
At the WBC’s recent convention, they ordered Chavez to fight Martinez in 2012. Recently, it was announced that Chavez would fight Rubio…only the WBC hasn’t officially sanctioned it.

So what is going on here?

Let’s make this even messier. When Floyd Mayweather was given a 90-day jail sentence, many wondered if he would be stripped of his WBC welterweight championship that he won when he defeated Victor Ortiz last April. And just to have a little fun, let’s point out that Selcuk Aydin had been a mandatory for quite a while, but then-champion Andre Berto (who lost to Ortiz) never fought him because HBO wouldn’t accept him on their airwaves either. Oh, and it was also controversial that he was a mandatory to begin with because he got a gift decision in Turkey against Jo Jo Dan (that he recently clarified with another close fight that many feel Jo Jo won).

Is your head spinning yet? And what does this have to do with Sergio?

Well, let’s back to Floyd, whose championship status was put into question due to the fact that he’s going to jail, and that the WBC’s bylaws suggest that an incarcerated fighter be stripped. “(B)eating a lady is highly critical, [but] it is not a major sin or crime,” was what WBC president Jose Sulaiman was quoted (or misquoted depending on who you believe) saying regarding Floyd’s crime, and how it affects his status as champ.

Sulaiman’s comment didn’t sit well with Sergio Martinez, who has been very outspoken in his defense of battered women and bullying, along with other social issues.

So what does all of this mean?

It means Martinez has a right to be angry…at everyone involved in this crazy sport. He has a right to be angry at the WBC (who he has now denounced) at HBO (who he may leave for Showtime) and just about everyone in between.

There are many moving parts here.

The thing is, it’s hard to be a good person in a bad world. It’s also hard when you want to make some money in said world.

One thing that can be certain, is that boxing could use a few hundred more guys like Sergio Martinez.

Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hansolson

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