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01 NOVEMBER 2014

 

SecondsOut Fighter of the Year: Sergio Martinez


Martinez goes after Williams: Sumio Yamada
Martinez goes after Williams: Sumio Yamada

By Michael Norby: The pursuit of an athletic career was always on the cards for Sergio Martinez but, for a long time, it seemed that the Argentinean would make a living using his legs.

Whether it was pedalling his racing bike through the hills outside of his hometown, dreaming of Alpe d’Huez and the legendary mountain stages of Le Tour de France, or dribbling a soccer ball, endeavouring to one day pull on the blue and white stripes of Argentina in a world cup match, it didn’t matter…either would do.

After finally conceding that he was a little south of having what it takes to fully realize either his cycling or soccer dreams, at age 20, Martinez turned to boxing. Two years later he turned professional and carved out a solid early career – his first taste of defeat coming at the hands of Antonio Margarito in his 18th professional fight.

Still, though, it would be a stretch for anyone’s imagination to predict that this late blooming pugilist, who only turned to the sport because he was unable to fulfil his other ambitions, would leave more than just a modest ripple in boxing’s storied waters.

Fast-forward a decade and two months from his February, 2000 stoppage loss to Margarito.

Martinez, by then a bona fide contender, climbed through the ropes to face Kelly Pavlik, the middleweight champion of the world. After suffering controversial decisions against Kermit Cintron (draw) and Paul Williams (loss) in 2009, Martinez was determined to kick-off 2010 with a no-doubt performance against a younger, taller, and much heavier opponent.

Indeed, after carving through a bloodied and beaten Pavlik, using superior technique, accuracy, and speed to pull away in the later rounds, Martinez left Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall ring with one of boxing’s most treasured titles.

He was now the legitimate middleweight world champion – a crown once worn by Carlos Monzon, an Argentinean sporting hero. With sincere modesty, Martinez was quick to distance his success from the late Monzon’s before admitting the scope of what he had just accomplished.

“I could never be Carlos Monzon,” he said. “But the middleweight title is the queen of accomplishments (in Argentina).”

With Pavlik electing against an immediate rematch, Martinez was forced to look elsewhere for the second opponent of his banner year. He didn’t have to look long.

Up stepped Paul Williams – the man who squeaked a majority decision victory over Martinez in December 2009, in a barnstorming, back-and-forth contest that began with the fighters trading knockdowns in the opening round.

Their second meeting, on November 20, 2010, promised to deliver more of the same. Round one fed those who bought into that promise as both fighters exchanged serious punches throughout the three minutes. Round two, on the other hand, well that was a different story altogether.

After round two, Martinez went from being an extremely talented champion, to being a true boxing star. After round two, his earning power shot through the roof of Boardwalk Hall, and, after round two, his name was on the lips of every sports fan from Buenos Aires to Birmingham.

Just one minute had elapsed in the frame when a jarring, picture-perfect left hand exploded against the right side of Williams’ jaw. As soon as the punch met its target, the previously unsinkable American, sank in record time. Williams was knocked out before he hit the floor, his eyes coldly staring at the canvas as he lay motionless in defeat.

In one perfect year, through 13 and one-third rounds of boxing, Sergio Martinez saw his brand rise from respectable to illustrious. Now, as he scribbles his plan of attack for the next calendar year, he can estimate that, by the end of 2011, he will most probably be an enormously wealthy man.

That’s what happens to athletes at the top of their respective sports. Tour de France winners and soccer greats get their rewards, not only in plaudits but in lucre. Sergio Martinez proved in 2010 that he is one of the top fighters in the world. At 35-years-old, he may not be able to boast that for too much longer but, for now, he can, and he deserves it.

“2010 has been a wonderful year for myself, my team, and my family,” Martinez said in a year-end statement to his fans. “I have made tens of thousands of new friends and proven myself as one of the greatest fighters in the word.

“I want to thank each and every one of you for the love and support you have shown me. I would do it in person if I could.”


WINNER: Sergio Martinez

Previous SecondsOut.com Fighter of the Year Awards

2009: Manny Pacquiao
2008: Manny Pacquiao
2007: Joe Calzaghe
2006: Manny Pacquiao
2005: Ricky Hatton
2004: Glen Johnson
2003: James Toney
2002: Vernon Forrest
2001: Bernard Hopkins
2000: Felix Trinidad


January 1, 2011
Williams was flattened by Sergio Martinez
Williams was flattened by Sergio Martinez


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