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Sergio Martinez Looks to Show Dzinziruk that he is Special
By Jason Pribila: On Saturday Night at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Connecticut, USA, Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez defends his middleweight championship against Sergiy “Razor” Dzinziruk. The 2010 Fighter of the Year looks to continue his personal ascension up the “Pound for Pound” ranks while adding to the most impressive title reign since Bernard Hopkins lost his crown in 2005. He will have his work cut out for him as he faces an opponent who may possess kryptonite in the form of a jab.
It has only been two years since Martinez burst on to the boxing scene. In February of 2009, Martinez defended an interim junior middleweight title against Kermit Cintron. Due to some questionable scoring, Martinez was forced to settle for a Draw, despite appearing to twice defeat Cintron (once by knockout, once by decision).
Martinez’s luck changed at the end of 2009, when Kelly Pavlik was forced to withdraw from a bout against Paul Williams. Martinez stepped in to save the bout and HBO date by agreeing to face Williams above the junior middleweight limit at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
I was personally relieved that I would be able to see a high quality bout from ringside. Especially since I found out that I was unable to get a refund or credit for the hotel room I foolishly reserved.
Williams would enter the bout as the fan favorite and media darling. Martinez was respected, and viewed as a live underdog. Many felt that Williams’ length and volume punching would carry him to victory. Besides, win or lose, Martinez would be able to return to junior middleweight to defend his title.
The weigh-in crowd was pro-Williams, but it was Martinez’ confidence that really stood out. Martinez stepped on the scale to the delight of the two beautiful Argentinian women seated behind me. I halfway expected Martinez to step off of the scale and on to a lawn chair, where he would be fed grapes by his adoring fans.
My ignorance of the Spanish language led me to translate “Maravilla” to “Marvelous” in my notes, rather than the correct definition: wonder/marvel. I was already channeling Billy Crystal’s parody of Argentinian actor Fernando Lamas, who reminded us all that “It is better to look good, than to feel good”.
On fight night Martinez and Williams both looked good. They each hit the canvas in the opening round, only to rise and battle until the final bell. Martinez lost via majority decision, but he managed to impress everyone who watched the bout (with the exception of Pierre Benoist, who turned in a ludicrous scorecard of 110-119 for Williams).
Four months later, Pavlik-Williams again failed to materialize, so Martinez stepped in to challenge for the linear middleweight championship. Martinez dazzled early, withstood a Pavlik rally, and then raised his game to sweep the final four rounds. This time the cards reflected the action in the ring, and Martinez was the new middleweight king.
He was now in a position to take care of the unfinished business between himself and Williams. They would meet in November of 2010, downstairs from where they first faced off eleven months earlier.
Despite being the champion, Martinez did not receive the royal treatment from Williams’ camp, who insisted that the challenger would enter the ring last. Martinez took everything in stride.
When the opening bell rang, action picked up where it had left off. Williams landed more shots, while Martinez seemed to land the harder blows. In round two, both men threw left hands, but only one landed. With one perfect punch, Martinez got his revenge.
“It definitely wasn’t a lucky punch,” Martinez confirmed last week. “Anybody who has seen the tape – it’s not too long – can see me throwing the same punch six times and landing five. And then I knock him out. It was a premeditated punch, not lucky.”
Press row agreed with Martinez. Earlier that day the Boxing Writers Association of America met to discuss nominations for their annual awards. Due to the unusual amount of high quality fights that still remained in 2010, many of the races were yet to be determined. In less than five minutes Martinez made his case for both Fighter and Knockout of the Year.
“I’m very happy and content that I finally got my dues to be recognized,” Martinez said of his accolades.
One would have thought that entering the ring three straight times as an underdog would warrant Martinez a soft touch. Surely, HBO would want to showcase their newest star by getting him on the air waves as quickly as possible. However, rather than being fed a Gary Lockett or Kassim Ouma, Martinez was given one choice: Sergiy Dzinziruk (37-0, 23 KO)
Dzinziruk won his junior middleweight title in 2005 by outpointing Daniel Santos. He had defended his belt five times in Germany before making his American debut last May against Daniel Dawson. Dzinziruk stopped Dawson in ten, and displayed his powerful right jab; a weapon some think could derail the Martinez Express.
James “Buddy” McGirt has been impressed by what he has seen in his first camp co-training Dzinziruk.
“Sergio Martinez is a great fighter with great hand speed. The key to defending an opponent with hand speed is to nullify it, not out-speed ‘em. Sergiy has the perfect punch to nullify – his right jab. I heard about it, but didn’t believe it until I saw it.”
Martinez promoter Lou DiBella was equally impressed by what he has seen from Dzinziruk. “He (Martinez) has another beast in front of him for the fifth time in a row. Since the beginning I’ve said I didn’t like this fight,” DiBella admitted during a conference call last week.
“Technically, he (Dzinziruk) is one of the best I’ve seen. This is his toughest fight, and probably the toughest fighter Sergio has faced. I’m worried, but I have faith in my champion who understands the challenge.
What Martinez also understands is that at age 36, there is no time like the present to face the best opponents out there. He also understands that his biggest challenges migrated north to the super middleweight division, and the sport’s biggest stars make too much money to move up to face a bigger man.
“I never want an easy fight. I want to fight the best,” Martinez said. “Mayweather cannot fight me; Manny Pacquiao cannot fight me. So I need to fight somebody very challenging and the best opponent. Sergiy Dzinziruk, nobody else is left.”
Including Dzinziruk, the combined record of Martinez’ last five opponents is an amazing 179-5.
DiBella added, “From Kermit Cintron, to Paul Williams, to Kelly Pavlik, to Paul Williams, and now Sergiy Dzinziruk. There’s not a single fighter in the sport, not one, that’s gone through a ‘Murderer’s Row’ like that in recent fights. It’s just unfortunate that with a fight of this degree of difficulty, that the public doesn’t know the opponent.”
Dzinziruk realizes that all that could change on Saturday night, and if he needs an example of how to make the most of an opportunity at the age of 35, he only needs to look across the ring.
“I want to thank HBO for making this fight happen. It’s a lifetime opportunity for me. I’m looking forward to fighting Sergio Martinez,” stated a confident Dzinziruk.
“We have watched (tapes on Martinez) in the past and more recently of Sergio’s fights. He is a great fighter and a great champion, but there’s nothing special. He is just another fighter in front of me, and I hope to win.
An equally confident Martinez responded, “I’m surprised that he talked like that. But he will find out March 12th that he was wrong. I believe I have something special.”
Too often fighters rest on their laurels when they win a championship. They sometimes forget the path it took them to reach the mountaintop, and instead become content (and enabled) to seek paydays instead of challenges. Sergio Martinez realizes that the path of least resistance is not what defines him as a champion, nor will it add to his legacy.
By continually displaying an old school fighting spirit, “Maravilla” has already proven that he is special… in any language.
Jason Pribila is a member of the Boxiing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, or followed on Twitter.com/PribsBoxing
March 10, 2011