By Marc Livitz: There are few sports fans in the world that can compare with the fanaticism of Argentine football (or soccer) devotees. Viewers around the globe will find out this Saturday evening if the same can be said for boxing fans in the South American country. Pound for pound great and universally recognized middleweight king Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez (50(28)-2(1)-2) will return to his home nation to face off with Merseyside, UK fighter Martin Murray (25(11)-0-1) at Club Atletico Velez Sarsfield stadium in Buenos Aires. This will be the first bout for Martinez to be staged in his home country in over a decade. The fight will air live in the United States on HBO’s World Championship Boxing (8:30 PM ET/PT).
The famous (and in some circles infamous) promoter Lou DiBella knows that he found a pugilistic bar of gold in Martinez. The admiration and pride for his client as well as respect for his fighter’s English opponent were evident during an international media conference call this afternoon.
“There’s so much excitement around Sergio Martinez here. Since I arrived in Argentina I have seen several vehicles, buildings and billboards plastered with pictures of him. He’s a huge star here. Martin Murray has never tasted defeat and he’s a very good fighter. Sergio wanted to face him and he doesn’t shy away from any fighter”, said DiBella.
Argentina has produced many of the world’s best soccer players, including Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. As far as boxing is concerned in the land of the powder blue, no name conjures more praise than the late and great Carlos “Escopeta” Monzon. Lou doesn’t think twice to include “Maravilla” in the same breath as the late Argentine great. He added, “You’re getting a chance to see a Hall of Fame fighter. You can mention him with the other great fighter from Argentina and it’s no disservice to include him in the same sentence as Carlos Monzon.”
Martin Murray is himself promoted by a very familiar name in the boxing world. There’s only one of him and throngs of English fight fans followed him across the Atlantic several times over to see him fight in Las Vegas as well as other locations. The recently re-retired and former two division champion Ricky Hatton spoke highly of his fighter and Martinez as well. Martin Murray is the current holder of the interim WBA middleweight title.
“There are so many versions of world titles, but my fighter has one of the big ones. Sergio Martinez is one of the best in the world and I’ve watched him for a long time. Every good fighter’s reign can come to an end at some time and I think that will be this Saturday for Sergio”, said “Hitman” Hatton.
“I’ve seen a change in Martin this week. He has a look in his eyes now. He’s not over awed by the occasion here. He’s never looked so sharp in sparring and he’s got a real nasty streak about him now. He knows he has to be aggressive in this fight. We’re grateful to share the ring with Sergio Martinez.”
Martin Murray knows that he will be in hostile territory this Saturday evening. England and Argentina are not exactly the best of friends, as we all know. Nevertheless, Murray feels that he’s been in this type of situation in the past. Many observers throughout the boxing world felt that the Merseyside fighter was unrightfully robbed in the ring when he fought former titleholder Felix Sturm in Germany in December 2011.
“It’s a pleasure to be here and have the chance to fight Sergio (Martinez) in Argentina. I didn’t come here to lose. I am here to win and this is my time. I’m ready for whatever Sergio brings on Saturday night”, the English boxer said. “The Sturm fight was a learning experience. It’s a big challenge and I know I’ll have to give my best performance. I need these types of fights now. These are the ones where I have to raise my game. “
The undefeated Murray is well aware of the uniqueness of Sergio Martinez’s fighting methods and admits that he’ll look for weaknesses in the middleweight champion’s armor. Murray commented, “I’ve never fought anyone like him. We’ve brought in plenty of different sparring partners in training and we’ve always come up with the right game plan.”
Sergio Martinez admitted that he would not be looking for the fight to be ultimately decided by the three ringside judges. He wants to put on a spectacular performance for his devoted followers.
“Everything is great here. I’m feeling better than ever. I am very confident and I know the expectations are very high. I know I’ll have a great fight on Saturday. This fight will end by knockout. “, said “Maravilla” Martinez.
Martin Murray then invited Sergio to give it his all in his attempts to hand Murray his first professional defeat when he added, “I know that he’ll want to press (the action). He’s a great fighter and I don’t see him changing. He says he’s going to knock me out. If he goes for that too much, then it could hurt him. Believe me. I have the power to hurt him.”
Although his opponent has less than half the amount of professional fights to his resume, Sergio Martinez is in no way looking past Murray. He also acknowledged that he has been in his shoes before as a professional fighter in the past. Sergio knows he has made great strides in his life and that any rough patches in the sporting world are trivial in comparison to his tough times experienced as a young man growing up in abject poverty in Buenos Aires.
“The numbers don’t matter and I don’t take any of it for granted. This guy deserves to be in the ring with me. I never overlook anyone. In this sport, respect is earned. I was once in the same situation as Martin. I have earned everything that I have accomplished”, said Sergio.
“Anything I have been through in my life was never overwhelming to me. Boxing was easy. The changes and pressures have helped me grow as a fighter.”
Martinez not fought in his homeland since February of 2002, quickly after which he relocated to Spain. He expressed his gratitude of the love and respect he has felt in Argentina when he said, “it’s been amazing. The love and the admiration have just been incredible. People have shown me lots of love, but it’s been no distraction at all.”
April 24, 2013