I’ve been going down the rabbit hole every so often and rewatching the careers of certain fighters – covering Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather thus far – and I would be remiss if I didn’t shine a little love on ‘Maravilla’, former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. Martinez was, during his heyday, my favorite active fighter, and though his reign as middleweight king was short, he was exciting, flashy and dynamic. Join me down the Maravilla rabbit hole, starting with his 2009 matchup with Paul Williams:
December 5, 2009: Paul Williams (USA) MD12 Sergio Martinez (Argentina)
STW Scorecard: Williams 114-114 Martinez
This was a really high level, fun fight broadcast on HBO. Funny enough, Max Kellerman starts the broadcast by saying these were “the two best junior middleweights fighting at middleweight”. Williams was a nasty bastard, tall and lanky with a mean punch, with Sergio’s signature frenetic style bouncing in and out and tagging with a left hand. They both hurt each other in a great R1 (both getting knockdowns). Sergio owns the first part of the fight with his speed and power and Williams is having trouble avoiding that right hound. R4 was a phenomenal round that’s worth going back and watching – Williams is bleeding badly at this point and both of them are just throwing hard leather and landing.
The fight continues like this, with both fighters hurting the other one and snapping each others’ heads back. Kellerman compares the fight to Ward-Gatti and while it didn’t quite get there it was fun and high level throughout. A draw would have been a fair outcome, and one judge (Julie Lederman) had the same card as me. The second judge scored 115-113 for Williams, which is acceptable, but the third judge scored it 118-110 (or 10-2 in rounds) for the American, which is gross. Another example of boxing judging marring a great fight.
April 17, 2010: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) UD12 Kelly Pavlik (USA)
STW Scorecard: Martinez 116-111 Pavlik
Immediately after facing the much avoided Williams, Martinez jumped into the ring with the middleweight boogeyman Kelly Pavlik, a big, heavy hitting strongman and lineal middleweight champion. Martinez put on a masterclass here of boxing – landing quick shots and getting out, making Pavlik follow him aimlessly around the ring, even clowning him a bit.
Pavlik finally reaches him and scores a knockdown in Round 7 – a balance shot more than anything, but still counts as a knockdown and swings the momentum of the fight. Martinez shows heart though, standing and trading and Kelly has both of his eyes cut badly by R10 and has withdrawn into a bloody shell of himself, tired and out of ideas, Martinez moving and boxing his way to a title.
Sergio Martinez (Argentina) KO2 Paul Williams (USA)
STW Scorecard: Martinez 10-9 Williams
Now with a title, Martinez immediately launched into a rematch with Williams. Expecting another tough battle after their Fight of the Year contender the first time around, this one went, well, a bit differently.
After a close first round, Martinez just fucking crushes Williams with an upstairs left hook that turns the American’s lights completely off. Knockout of the Year without question, and one of the best straight one-punch KO’s I’ve ever seen. Go look this up, right now.
March 12, 2011: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) TKO 8 Sergiy Dzinziruk (Ukraine)
STW Scorecard: Martinez 70-61 Dzinziruk
Martinez made this challenger look like a basic ass statue. He’s so fast and unconventional that he just tagged circles around him while Dzindiruk throws slow, basic, helpless punches. I believe Martinez knocked him down on five occasions before the referee stepped in and finally stopped it in the 8th. That nasty left hook again!
October 1, 2011: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) KO11 Darren Barker (England)
STW Scorecard: Martinez 99-91 Barker
An admirable effort from Darren Barker, who came in really game but Martinez was just a couple of levels above. I rewatched this on YouTube and saw a British broadcast and I just don’t know wht the fuck they were watching – they had Barker winning through six which is absurd – but anyway, Sergio just beats Barker to the punch at every turn and in the back half of the fight literally just receives a beating. In R10 Martinez lands a nasty short right to the body that doubled Barker over in half and it’s frankly incredible that he didn’t go down from it. Halfway through the next round Barker goes down like a sack of bricks and doesn’t come close to beating the count – turns out he had a busted eardrum. Admirable effort from Barker but just totally outclassed by Martinez.
March 17, 2012: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) TKO11 Matthew Macklin (England)
STW Scorecard: Martinez 104-102 Macklin
I was at this one live at the MSG Theater and I have fond memories of this. This was a good, competitive fight, with Macklin landing well and actually winning the fight at the halfway point, and then scoring a knockdown in R7 when Sergio’s glove touched the canvas. Martinez doesn’t have him figured out at all though in R8, but right then he starts coming on. He picks up a string of rounds and then at the end of R11 Sergio lands a perfect left hand that has Macklin down on his ass, his face swilling up and bleeding badly. Sergio puts him down one more time before the round ends, and Macklin’s corner stops the fight between rounds, not wanting to send him out there for even one more round. Great fight, great finish.
September 15, 2012: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) UD12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (Mexico)
STW Scorecard: Martinez 118-109 Chavez Jr.
This was a big fight in the career of Sergio Martinez; simultaneously his coronation and the beginning of his downfall. His first PPV fight against the highly popular (and much, much bigger) young Mexican, Martinez boxed the massive Chavez’s ears off for 11 rounds putting on a masterclass performance. After pretty much sweeping every minute of the fight, Martinez gets macho in R12 and decides to trade. Big mistake.
This round was exciting, insane and absurd in so many ways. Halfway through Chavez hurt Sergio BADLY and started landing multiple shots flush upstairs. Martinez had blood streaming down his face and was seriously injured. He goes down, but when he gets up instead of holding or running he stands his ground and fights back until the bell.
Sergio took a win here, but he blew his knee out in that last round, an injury that would ultimately end his career.
There has been rumors on boxing media that Sergio and Chavez have been in talks on a potential rematch this year (2018) a fight that nobody wants and nobody should see. Just say no.
April 27, 2013: Sergio Martinez (Argentina) UD12 Martin Murray (England)
STW Scorecard: Martinez 113-115 Murray
I don’t know about this one. Martinez, clearly still compromised by that knee injury, took this homecoming fight in Argentina and probably lost it to the tough challenger in Murray. The fight was close enough that there was no way they were taking Sergio’s title from him in his home country, and let’s not speak of this fight ever again as a hobbled Sergio Martinez winning an undeserved hometown decision over a lifetime contender is not how I want to remember Maravilla.
June 7, 2014: Miguel Cotto (Puerto Rico) TKO10 Sergio Martinez (Argentina)
STW Scorecard: Cotto 90-77 Martinez
The bitter end for the lineal champ. This fight- which I went to live – makes me sad. Sergio, injured, inactive and approaching 40 years old, came in to this fight at Madison Square Garden with a massive knee brace and a brave face and not much else.
Turns out Martinez was cashing out, in what would be his final fight. He just had nothing for Cotto, who looked great, though it was a little hard to judge as Sergio was badly, badly compromised from the jump. His leg was unstable and he could barely move. Cotto came out quick and aggressive and Martinez just couldn’t handle it, getting knocked down three times in the first round alone. Cotto continued his assault as the rounds wore on, and Martinez showed heart to stay in it, but Cotto just dominated him every second. Cotto scored another knockdown in R9 when he caught Sergio with a jab coming in. After the round, his corner tells him his knees aren’t working and they have to stop it, ending the champion’s career. Great performance from Cotto, but with, unfortunately, an asterisk.