On Saturday, April 27, in front of over 40,000 of his countrymen at Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield soccer stadium in Buenos Aires, Sergio Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KOs) will face the UK’s Martin Murray (25-0-1, 11 KOs) for Martinez’s lineal middleweight championship of the world. Martinez also wears the RING and WBC title belts, while Murray is the WBA interim champion.
The bout will headline HBO’s weekend telecast and begins at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT. It will be the television giant’s first-ever boxing event in South America. The two headliners, along with their promoters and managers, met with the media Wednesday via international conference call.
Lou DiBella, promoter for the event, said Martinez was as big a star as any right now in his homeland of Argentina. During the cab ride over from the airport, he said he saw the popular middleweight champion’s face plastered all over the city.
“He really is a rock star here right now,” said DiBella.
HBO’s Kery Davis, Senior VP for HBO Sports, said HBO always looked forward to televising a Sergio Martinez fight because it was always an event. He said he was especially looking forward to this one though because it “really represents a homecoming for Sergio.”
Co-promoter and former world champion Ricky Hatton was on the line, too. Hatton told participants he was very much looking forward to seeing his man, Murray, bring Martinez’s title reign to an end. He said a win for Murray would surpass his 2005 win over Kostya Tszyu.
Advisor to Martinez Sampson Lewkowicz said Martinez-Murray will be the biggest event he’d ever helped promote. He thanked HBO for making history and especially for doing it for someone he cares so much about, someone he considers a son, Sergio Martinez, in his home country of Argentina.
Martin Murray was the first of the fight night participants to speak on the call. Murray said he was ready to shock Argentina and the world.
“It’s a pleasure to be fighting Sergio Martinez in Argentina,” said the upset-minded Murray. “I’ve not come over there to lose. Sergio is a great fighter. I truly think it’s my time. Whatever Sergio brings Saturday, I’ll be ready for him. I’m just looking forward to being involved in a great fight.”
Murray said he learned a lot from his disputed draw with Felix Sturm back in 2011. He said he’d be using the things he learned in that fight to help him have his best performance ever. It’s going to have to be, he said, because of how great a champion Martinez has been.
“I’m going to have to be at my best,” said Murray.
Murray said he used many different sparring partners leading up to the fight. He’s never fought anyone with the same style, he said. Sergio is unique, but he thinks his training camp has prepared him well for the challenge.
“I’m planning for twelve hard rounds,” said Murray. “That’s what I expect it to be.”
Before speaking, Martinez was announced to the call participants by promoter DiBella as the greatest fighter Lou has ever promoted, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world today and one of the greatest middleweights of all-time.
The champion spoke through translator Ricardo Figerora.
“I’m very confident,” said Martinez. “I know the expectations are very high but I trained at a very high level, and I’m confident I’ll put on a great fight on Saturday. This fight will end by knockout. My training and confidence is at a very high level, even higher than my last fight against Chavez.”
Martinez, a southpaw, said he uses a mirror to mimic fighting orthodox boxers like Murray. It gives him the look and feel of what will be in front of him on fight night, said the champ. Martinez also talked about returning to his home country of Argentina to fight, and recognized how much his hometown admiration has meant to him.
“It’s been amazing. It’s very overwhelming.”
Martinez, a former soccer player, said he wasn’t sure how he’d feel fighting in the historic Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield soccer venue on Saturday, but that he knew what kind of opponent he’d be facing and that he was all business because of it.
“This will be a very tough fight,” Martinez said.
Despite his incredible success, Martinez said he and trainer Pablo Sarmiento were always looking at different ways to get better. He said he worked on many things during camp and that he was always conscious of how he needed to improve.
This will be Martinez’s first bout fighting in his native country of Argentina in over 11 years. He said he really felt the love and appreciation from the people since he arrived last week, but that it hasn’t distracted him. He said his training camp was great, including the final week of it in Argentina.
Saturday’s HBO tripleheader will be rounded out by a battle between once-beaten welterweights Argentina’s Luis Carlos Abregu (34-1, 28 KOs) and Montreal’s Antonin Decarie (27-1, 8 KOs), as well as a heavyweights Chris Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs) and Bermane Stiverne (22-1-1, 22 KOs).
Follow @KelseyMcCarson on twitter.