His name is Sergio Martinez and he boasts a stellar career record of 49-2-2 (28). He's clearly at the top of the food chain in the middleweight division and is the universally recognized champion amongst his 160 pound counterparts. This past weekend he was tested against the UK's Matthew Macklin 28-4 (19) for eight rounds before making a few adjustments against his tiring opponent and ultimately prevailed when Macklin's trainer Buddy McGirt wisely didn't allow his fighter to come out for the 12th and final round.
Martinez is a natural fighter and he's one of the best conditioned boxers in the world. However, there seems to be a love fest going on between him and the boxing media that can't be explained. In order to plaster-saint him many things have been said about his style and skill level that just aren't there. But since he's been widely accepted as being so terrific it goes unquestioned.
Another thing that is never pointed out is how thin the middleweight division of today really is. Everyone kills the Klitschkos and the heavyweights, but exactly who in the middleweight division today looks like a current or future world beater? If you follow boxing you know the names and in-abilities of the other middleweight contenders which don't need to be rehashed here.
HBO did their best to build up a one dimensional fighter in order for Martinez to look great after he beat him. He should have completely dominated every minute of the fight against Macklin who is somewhat technically sound but neither fast nor much of a puncher. With all due respect to Matthew Macklin who fought to win until he had nothing left, he is a limited fighter at the world class level. He was no doubt greatly aided by the training and wisdom of his trainer Buddy McGirt.
The fact is, if Martinez lost to any of the highest ranked contenders in line to face him it would be a monumental upset. Yet at 154 I'd pick Floyd Mayweather to beat him. It's a shame that Floyd is so insecure and lacks gumption because he could really get over on the public by fighting and defeating Martinez. But instead we know in order to make the fight Floyd will make ridiculous demands like forcing Sergio to come down to 150 so the fight never happens.
It'll never change with Mayweather. He'll continue for the rest of what's left of his career to fight set-ups where he has every advantage so he can retire undefeated. Sure, he's fighting a declining Miguel Cotto at 154 this coming May, but the fight could've been made six plus years when beating Cotto was considered quite a feat.
In regards to Martinez, what makes him so tough to fight is his southpaw style along with his hand and foot speed. He's certainly no ring genius or technician, although he showed something against Macklin that was impressive and of course will be under-reported which I'll touch on later. Sergio's bread and butter punch is his left lead, a rarity for southpaws. An overwhelming majority of left handed fighters use their right jab to set up their finishing left cross. However, Martinez can instinctively throw his left as a lead set-up or finishing punch.
Throughout the entire careers of Muhammad Ali, Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, we saw them consistently disrupt and blunt the aggression of left handed fighters with right leads. Which of course everyone knows if you're good enough to throw it without leaving yourself wide open, it's money against a southpaw. But, how many times did Ali, Hopkins or Jones encounter a lefty that was adept at throwing left leads back at them like Martinez can?
Another thing that Martinez does is give his opponents a lot of herky jerky movement as he draws them to follow and reach for him. When they over-commit and reach to touch them, he counters back, and like Hector Camacho used to do, slides around to their blind side. And this past weekend Matthew Macklin nullified that by just throwing one-twos at Martinez' chest and chin. When Macklin only cut loose with his jab and cross, he froze Martinez, whose instinct was to counter a flurry, only to have Macklin step off after the right landed. This worked beautifully for Mackin and by not fully engaging Martinez he prevented Sergio from really getting some free and open shots at him.
The only problem was Macklin was tiring because the mental pressure of him concentrating on staying with what was working took a lot out of him as a desperate Martinez was looking to raise the rent and turn up the heat. After seven rounds Macklin not only was winning the fight strategically, he was winning it on points as well. Then Martinez's greater experience and natural physical ability kicked in. Sergio, realizing that Macklin wasn't going to chase him all over and miss and allow himself to be countered, began to push the fight by throwing single right jabs at a time that forced Macklin back and caused him to eventually have to open up and try to stabilize the fight. Only he was tiring and easier to hit because once Martinez fought as the attacker, Macklin's instinct to fight back eventually became his undoing. Once Macklin was slowed and incapable of implementing a plan B, Martinez unloaded with everything he had.
During the last two rounds Martinez was hurting Macklin with lead left hands despite his shoulders not being lined up with his fist, hips, legs and feet. In fact, the way Martinez was launching some of those left leads and hurting Macklin is something that you'd admonish an amateur fighting novice for doing. Yet Sergio is such a natural fighter he can even excel when he's technically wrong or out of position. And as everyone reading this knows that cannot be taught or learned.
The most impressive thing Martinez did this past weekend was adjust and become more aggressive behind his right hand when the bout was slipping away. Usually fighters are embarrassed when they get hit by the opponents power hand when thrown as a lead. What that often does is make the fighter being hit with it (Macklin) fight with more urgency as if to say you can't do that with me. Only Macklin didn't fall for it and that caused Martinez to resort to something else. Remember, fighters are not watching the fight as it's happening through a camera from ringside. Things look a lot different to the fighter that the opponent is or isn't doing when he's in front of him. In that regard Martinez gets all the props in the world by changing up and taking the fight to Macklin.
Sure, it can be said that he had to pick it up in a fight he was losing, but how many fighters actually do that? Also, the left leads stopped and the right jab became the dominant punch. The left was basically only used as a finishing punch and as we saw it was the follow up lefts that dropped Macklin twice in the 11th round.
Is Sergio Martinez a great fighter and technician? Not in my eyes. Is he a hall of famer if he were to never fight again, not to me. What he is is a natural fighter who's always in great condition who is stronger and more mentally tough than he gets credit for being. I say he's more difficult to fight because of his instincts and style than he is a spectacular fighter. He's gifted and in great condition which happen to go a long way today.
And no way is he the third best pound for pound fighter in professional boxing. That is as long as Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Andre Ward, Nonito Donaire and Juan Manuel Marquez are still active.
Who will win the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward fight?