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Sergio Martinez and the Fight Against Time

sergio martinez crown - Al Bello/Getty Images
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Sergio Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) is recognized as the undisputed Middleweight champion of the world. He has earned that title with big wins against the likes of Paul Williams, Kelly Pavlik and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.—to name a few.

Aside from holding the WBC Middleweight title, Martinez is also the lineal and The Ring champion.

But at 38 years of age—and with his 39th birthday coming up in February—Martinez now faces an uphill battle against father time as well as some tough decisions regarding his career.

For a fighter who turned pro at the age of 22—after only 41 amateur fights—Martinez spent stretches of his career fighting tomato cans and really didn’t break onto the scene until he was in his mid-30’s with a fight against Alex Bunema in 2008.

It was that fight in which Martinez won the interim WBC Light Middleweight title after Bunema retired after eight rounds.

After earning the interim title, Martinez proceeded to fight a number of top contenders and champions, winning fans over with his heart and determination with each subsequent performance, no matter if he won or lost the fight.

But as we have seen numerous times before, the changing of the guard can happen rapidly in boxing and fans’ devotion can wane quickly. Instead of what you’ve done overall in your career, people become more enamored with what you’ve done lately.

Unfortunately for Martinez, injury has been a big part of what he’s done lately.

Maravilla has suffered hand injuries in his last two bouts and more devastatingly, he’s had to undergo surgery for a right knee injury twice as well.

Trying to uphold his status as the best Middleweight in the world now becomes harder with each fight.

In 2013, as the weeks and months rolled by following his close decision win over Martin Murray in April, it was the younger up-and-comers of the Middleweight division that began to capture the public’s attention as Maravilla remained sidelined, recovering from surgery.

One man in particular took advantage of Martinez’s absence and picked up a large number of followers; his name is Gennady Golovkin.

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Photo by Naoki Fukada

Not only did GGG stay busy with four fights in 2013, he also won each bout in exciting knockout fashion.

In June of 2013, Golovkin made easy work of Matthew Macklin—a man who fought Martinez tough and knocked him down a year before—dispatching of the supposed step up in competition in just three rounds.

Although 2013 gave many fans the nudge they needed to anoint Golovkin as the new Middleweight kingpin, GGG’s trainer Abel Sanchez gives Martinez his rightful credit, recently telling Boxing Scene:

I think Sergio has proven enough in the division to claim the supposed lineal title. But in our opinion, Sergio wouldn’t go seven rounds with Gennady Golovkin but if we never get the fight, we’re never going to be able to prove that.

It’s apparent that Sanchez and team Golovkin respect what Martinez has done in his career, but they also feel that his best days are behind him and that they are next in line as far as reigning over the Middleweight division.

So will 2014 give birth to a super fight between Martinez and Golovkin?

Unfortunately for boxing fans, most signs seem to be pointing to no.

Lou DiBella—Martinez’s promoter—told Boxing Scene the following regarding GGG in June of last year:

Sergio will be out for at least a year. You saw his last fight, he won it on guts and will and balls alone. He had no knee, he had no hand, and I’m not sending a champion who is 38-years-old – after a year plus layoff – into a ring with this guy. I’m not saying they will never fight. I’m not speaking for Sergio, who is a grown as man and controls his own career. The successor to Sergio Martiknez has already been determined and the next great middleweight is Triple G.

DiBella also said the following after GGG dismantled Macklin—who DiBella also promotes:

So if one thing is clear, it’s that Martinez’s next fight won’t be against Golovkin.

Enter Miguel Cotto.

No, not a new Middleweight fighter who has the same name as the guy who fought Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.

It’s the same Miguel Cotto, only this time he’s been “reborn” with another new trainer—Freddie Roach—and a new style.

After looking like a machine against out-of-his-league challenger, Delvin Rodriguez in his comeback bout, Cotto was courted by both Top Rank and Golden Boy.

Golden Boy offered Cotto a lucrative deal to face Mexican star Canelo Alvarez March, while Top Rank offered him a shot at Martinez in June for a large sum of money as well.

Cotto mulled over his options and ended up turning Golden Boy and Canelo down for the opportunity to face Sergio Martinez and take a stab at a title in a fourth weight class.

After watching Cotto’s last performance, one could say that Martinez is not taking his “comeback” fight lightly.

Martinez-Cotto
Photo edit by John Garita/Round By Round Boxing

But, at the end of the day, if this fight does happen and the Middleweight title is on the line, it will be fought at 160 pounds and Miguel Cotto is not a 160-pound fighter.

It’s hard to question the merit of a gutsy fighter like Martinez, but a fight against anyone less than a true Middleweight is difficult to justify.

The need for a comeback fight is certainly understandable, but why against a smaller man?

Will a bout versus Cotto help prepare Maravilla for Golovkin or even Peter Quillin—who has his own title at 160 pounds and is a viable contender?

Probably not.

What a fight against Cotto will likely do is give Martinez a huge payday and a good excuse to ride off into sunset—whether he wins or loses.

According to World Boxing News, the latest on a potential Cotto vs. Martinez bout leaves many questions unanswered.

The WBC executive secretary and interim chief, Mauricio Sulaiman, says that if and when Cotto vs. Martinez is officially agreed upon, the sanctioning body must rule whether or not the WBC strap will be on the line.

Seeing as how Cotto would be jumping up and over the top two ranked Middleweight contenders in Marco Antonio Rubio and Domineco Spada—who face off in March—there is a strong possibility that Cotto vs. Martinez may not be approved by the WBC.

Cott’s team also told WBN that if an agreement with Martinez is not forthcoming, they are prepared to move on.

That would certainly throw a wrench in Martinez’s plans and leave him with a less than lucrative fight against the winner of Rubio and Spada.

As for Golovkin, the Kazakh killer returns to action on February 1 in Monaco against Osumanu Adama in a stay busy type of fight.

Regardless of if Cotto and Martinez can agree to terms, if Golovkin starts 2014 off the way he ended 2013, it may be wise for Martinez to look towards greener pastures and move one step closer towards retirement.

The passing of the guard is inevitably coming, but what remains to be seen is how the current king decides to react.

Will Martinez choose to gear up for one last battle against one of the most prolific knockout artists in the game today in Gennady Golovkin?

Or will he decide to ride off into the sunset with no final showdown, knowing that his best days are behind him. Expect an answer in 2014.

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