By Cliff Rold
As noted on BoxingScene following the Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley fight, the now two-time lineal World Welterweight Champion Mayweather (41-0, 25 KO) gave an interesting response about the future on Saturday night.
Mayweather was asked if he would be willing, should a fight with pound-for-pound and Welterweight rival Manny Pacquiao not be made, to challenge newly reigning lineal World Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez (45-2-2, 24 KO). Mayweather stated simply, “It’s possible.”
“It’s possible” could mean a lot of things. It could mean “anything is possible but it’s not likely.” It could mean “if absolutely nothing else comes up.”
It could also mean it is a real potential possibility, a fight worth thinking about in the case that the biggest fight in boxing, Mayweather-Pacquiao, fails to materialize. Heck, if it’s something genuinely possible, it’s worth thinking about even should the megafight happen, granting Mayweather would have to win there of course.
In the run up to Mayweather-Mosley, Mayweather stated more than once that he doesn’t really care about belts; “belts collect dust.” However, Martinez’s title is more than just a belt. It would be a legitimate point of possible accomplishment. Martinez would give Mayweather the chance to make a title claim in his sixth weight class and make a case for a tie of Pacquiao’s record for the most lineal championship claims. Mayweather can make such claims on his reigns at Jr. Lightweight, Lightweight, and Welterweight.
Martinez’s promoter, Lou DiBella, was reached on Sunday for his reaction to “It’s possible.”
DiBella stated that all plans for Martinez’s immediate future hinge currently on what the former Middleweight champion, Kelly Pavlik, and his handlers at Top Rank decide. Pavlik had a rematch clause in the contract prior to the April 17th battle won on a unanimous decision by Martinez.
If Pavlik opts not to pursue the rematch?
“Floyd Mayweather right now is the king of the hill deservedly. He is pound for pound, he is the best fighter in the world, and he is going to decide who he fights. I have a good relationship with his people and his representatives,” DiBella said, likely referring to his business relationship with Mayweather’s business advisor Al Haymon and their mutual work with current Welterweight titlist Andre Berto and former Middleweight champion Jermain Taylor. “I have a good relationship with the people who will be doing his business and if they want to fight Sergio they know how to reach me. Sergio, I know, thinks the world of Mayweather’s power and would consider it an honor to fight him but I’m not gonna’ be out there and try to put pressure or challenge. Floyd’s the boss and if they want to fight…I think it would be spectacular.”
The challenges to making such a fight are many. “It’s Floyd’s decision and, like I said, we’re not available if Pavlik elects for the rematch. There are a bunch of if’s but if Pavlik turns the rematch down and Floyd’s representatives reach out to me then obviously we’re going to be very interested.”
The interest would quite obviously be fueled by the sort of payday the pay-per-view box office leader Mayweather would bring to the table. DiBella doesn’t see the process of actually negotiating the fight as a real stumbling block. “I don’t think it would be difficult, frankly, at all.” He said, repeating, “I don’t think it would be difficult at all. I’m not a hard guy to negotiate with and I also think my fighter would agree to the same drug testing they just did in the Mosley fight.”
The drug testing is the hang up for making Mayweather-Pacquiao. Mayweather wants random blood and urine sampling, Olympic style, before his fights going forward. Pacquiao has stated he does not want to give blood in close proximity to fights for various reasons. “It’s a matter of Floyd deciding (Martinez is) the fight he wants and obviously it’s also a matter of my guy finding out if he can be available or not.”
DiBella, who was once the head of programming behind HBO boxing, thinks it’s a fight the fans could get behind. “I think it could be huge. I think Sergio, for a relative newcomer, has an unbelievable amount of momentum with the fans.”
The relative newcomer label may seem odd for the 35-year old Argentinean who has been a pro since 1997, but it is correct in context when considering Martinez has only truly established with U.S. viewers since his 2008 HBO-televised knockout of Alex Bunema.
“He’s an incredibly good looking kid, he’s a tremendously engaging and nice kid, and he can fight his ass off. I think he’s one of the hottest guys in the whole industry right now and Mayweather’s the king of the hill. He’s the king of the hill. No offense to Manny Pacquiao. Manny Pacquiao’s a great fighter but Floyd Mayweather is numero uno. Period.”
Even if Pavlik does not take the rematch, a Mayweather fight still might not be the most likely option. That leaves the question of the only man to defeat Martinez since 2000. In a Fight of the Year candidate, former Welterweight titlist Paul Williams (38-1, 27 KO) scored a narrow decision over Martinez in December 2009 after a Pavlik-Williams fight fell apart. Williams has now seen the man he defeated go on to win the title he has thus far missed out on an opportunity to win.
Asked what the possibility of Martinez-Williams II occurring inside 2010 is, DiBella responded, “I think that it’s possible. As his promoter, I know Sergio would fight King Kong. He doesn’t give a s&^%. Sergio knows that this is his time. He believes he’s capable of beating anybody. I don’t like the idea of him going from Williams to Pavlik to Williams fight after fight after fight. As his promoter I think it would be ridiculous for him to do that.” Later in the conversation, DiBella added, “I think a Williams fight with Sergio is a very big fight but frankly a year, year and a half, from now it might be one of the biggest fights in all of boxing.”
DiBella also took aim at some of the Jr. Middleweights, a class where Martinez also still holds a belt. “The assumption that guys at his own weight, the guys at (154 lbs.) should get a free pass to not fight Sergio because they don’t think they can win makes me sort of laugh.” DiBella brought up big punching Alfredo Angulo (18-1, 15 KO) as a Jr. Middleweight option he’d be interested in for Martinez. “Alfredo Angulo is one of the hottest television 54-pounders out there. In terms of how many times he’s been featured on HBO, he’s got a big following. I would love for Sergio to be able to show what he has in a fight like that against a guy his own size.”
And what is Martinez’s size to be? Holding the WBC belt at 154, and the WBC and WBO belts along with Ring Magazine and lineal nods as champion at 160 lbs., Martinez will have to decide soon which sanctioning body titles he will hold. The sanctioning bodies do not allow champions to reign in two classes. Team Martinez hasn’t made a call yet.
“We haven’t made a decision because if Kelly elects (for) the rematch clause, we don’t have a choice. So to sit here and say we’re going to keep our 54-lb. belt when you may have to be at 60, there’s no sense in going through the thought process. So we’re waiting for Pavlik to give us an official answer, or Top Rank more accurately to give me an official answer, and then we’re going to sit down and make our decision.”
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org