Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez has trotted across the globe in search of recognition. Yes, he desires some wealth but more than that he seeks universal recognition and one of the best, if not the best prizefighter pound for pound.
It’s that single task that has seen him travel from his native Argentina, to Spain and now to the nondescript suburb of Port Hueneme a small area just west of Oxnard which is northwest of Los Angeles.
One major obstacle in the form of Georgia’s Paul “The Punisher” Williams (39-1, 27 KOs) stands in Martinez’s way like the Rock of Gibraltar when they meet for a second time on Saturday Nov. 20, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. HBO will televise.
Their first confrontation took place nearly a year ago when both met in a quickly assembled middleweight clash that was patched together like a club fight on a small-time show. It was anything but small-time when the first bell finally clanged.
Williams immediately dropped Martinez with one of those long left hands that stretch across the ring. Down went the Argentine and it looked like he was about to be finished. He got up with no trouble. Immediately Williams looked to finish the job and ran into Martinez’s blows and down he went, not once but twice. This all happened in the first round.
“It was one of my best fights,” said Martinez (45-2-2, 24 KOs) while pedaling on a stationary bike inside a workout center in Port Hueneme. “It helped me open the doors to the world of boxing and let people know about me.”
The muscular Martinez and the tall and lanky Williams traded punches almost non-stop for 12 rounds with the fight ending in a majority decision for the Georgia fighter. Both emerged with cuts and bruises and smiles after the fight. It was a lunch pail effort that would have made Rocky Graziano and Tony Zale proud.
“I have a lot of admiration and respect for Paul Williams,” said Martinez, adding that the taunts and jibes the media hear are generated to raise interest. “We both thanked each other for accepting the fight.”
They may not be thanking each other next week in chapter two of their version of middleweights meet.
“The first time we fought I didn’t know a thing about him,” said Williams, 29, who smiled while talking about it. “That’s why I just threw punches.”
Williams says he’s gathered enough intelligence along with trainer George Peterson to coordinate a better plan of attack.
“In the first fight you could see me not doing what I normally do. I was just walking into stuff,” said Williams who trains in Washington D.C. “But this time I got something better in store for him.”
The two southpaws can box and punch but what they really bring to a fight is volume punching. The kind that results in Encyclopedia-like punching from all angles, dimensions and intensity.
It’s the reason that Martinez departed from Argentina to go to Spain, then jumped across the Atlantic Ocean to arrive on American shores with his brand of prizefighting.
“The better boxers are here in the United States,” says Martinez, 35, who from 2002 to 2007 fought in European fight cards. “If a boxer can’t triumph in the United States they haven’t triumphed.”
It was two years ago when Martinez crashed his way to American boxing fans when he brutally manhandled Alex Bunema at Pechanga Resort and Casino. The Congo’s Bunema was riding two big wins over Roman Karmazin and Walter Matthysse when he met the Argentine. After eight one-sided rounds Bunema was unable to continue.
The next moment for Martinez came against Kermit “The Killer” Cintron in Sunrise, Florida. Though Cintron was dropped by the Argentine prizefighter and unable to continue, the referee inexplicably allowed the fight to continue. The fight ended in a bizarre draw.
Last year Williams edged Martinez for a majority decision. And finally, Kelly Pavlik opted to meet Martinez and was decisively beaten for the middleweight title. American fight fans are well aware of Martinez now.
“I’m not nervous but I’m anxious,” says Martinez. “I want to fight today.”
Martinez’s goal of becoming recognized as one of the best fighters pound for pound begins by avenging his earlier close defeat to Williams. Should the Argentine emerge victorious, he would like to fight the man he considers the best in the world today Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
“To be considered as the best you have to beat the best,” Martinez said. “I want to be recognized as the pound for pound best fighter.”
The next stop on Martinez’s trek is Atlantic City and Williams will be there to greet him.