Photo courtesy John James, taken following Martinez' TKO win over Matthew Macklin on March 17, 2012 at the Madison Square Garden Theater
I LOVE SERGIO MARTINEZ. Let’s face it. Besides being middleweight champion of the world and the man whom other boxers in his weight class most fear, the boxer many in the know believe is third on boxing’s pound-for-pound list . . . he is HOT.
I admit it. I have a celebrity crush on him. I like his style. I like that he fights fearlessly with his hands down. I like that he came into boxing late in life. I like that he has used boxing as a platform to make a difference in the world and has taken a stand against bullies and has lent a helping hand to women who have suffered domestic violence. All this AND he is drop-dead gorgeous. Boxing can take a toll on a man’s looks, but Sergio’s stunning face and perfectly chiseled physique have, if anything, been enhanced by his ring altercations.
Almost always when I go to a boxing match, I have a clear rooting interest in mind. As silly as it sounds, I most often like the boxer who is the nicer of the two. It’s easy to like Sergio Martinez or Miguel Cotto or Andre Ward. It is not as easy to like Floyd Mayweather Jr or Paul Spadafora or Antonio Margarito. While I admire their skill, work ethic, and perseverance . . . to cheer for you, I better damn well like you too. It’s a girl thing.
Despite the romance of an Irish fighter getting the opportunity to take home the belt on St. Patrick’s Day, Madison Square Gardenon March 17th was all about Sergio for me. I didn’t care a whole lot about his opponent, this Irish Englishman, Matthew Macklin. His credentials didn’t impress me, and the sea of green humanity clogging the streets and calling his name all day did not impress me.
A few days before the bout, I found the only seat left in my crowded hotel bar. Coincidentally, the people who were so kind as to let me invade their seating area were a couple who had flown in from Dublin to support their fighter. I asked if they were going to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. They had not even heard of it. They were die-hard fans and they were truly lovely people (despite the fact they were rooting against my favorite fighter).
When I entered the arena, I thought the fight would be over early. I was seated behind some of Macklin’s people. I’m unsure if they were family or friends, but they had a personal relationship with him. They were not boasting green or exhibiting day-long celebrations of drinking green beer. Like the Dubliners I met in the bar, they were soft-spoken in their support and I could see the genuine love they had for this man I hadn’t known at all. I watched Matthew enter the ring, interact with his corner, appreciate the opportunity he was about to have, and could swear I even saw the determination in his eye. In the end, he put up quite a fight. I not only liked him; I found myself secretly cheering for him . . . just a little.
It took eleven rounds for Sergio to look like Sergio. I’ve seen this before with him and know he delivers. Macklin kept coming and stayed in the fight for eight or nine rounds longer than I thought he would or could.
I’ll always have a crush on Sergio and I am happy that he won. But I am a girl after all (or woman, if you prefer). And I couldn’t help falling just a little bit for Macklin. I’ve learned that in boxing, more than any other sport, I find myself admiring the men who are trying to put away the man I’m pulling for. I see their valor, their commitment and bravery. The next time I see Matthew Macklin fight, it will be irresistible not to cheer for him. Unless it’s a rematch against Sergio, of course.
Nice is nice. But even though I can allow myself to be slightly fickle, I‘ll always be true to my man.