By Cliff Rold
It’s been one of the best boxing stories in recent memory. A child of poverty from the rough streets of Argentina doesn’t even pick up a boxing glove until he’s already a young man. Over the course of some 13 years as a pro, he learns his craft, takes his lumps, travels the world, and finally arrives on the big stage.
First he faces the ‘most feared fighter on the planet,’ trading knockdowns, landing the harder stuff most of the night, and settling for a narrow loss. The boxing world is fairly split on a winner and he parlays the sentiment into a crack at the lineal Middleweight Champion of the World. Coming off the floor and from behind on the cards, he busts the champ to pieces down the stretch, all three judges giving him the nod on the cards.
Then, one more time, it’s ‘most feared.’
Only now, the new champ, he’s not afraid of anything. At least it seems that way. He blows through fear with a single shot in the second round, earning worldly recognition as boxing’s equivalent of MVP, Fighter of the Year.
All great performances need an encore. The champ provides one, decimating arguably the finest Jr. Middleweight in the world with a multi-knockdown thumping. Jr. Middleweight? Yeah, that used to just be a smaller Middleweight. The win was further validation.
King of the (160 lb.) world.
After Martinez-Dzinziruk, it is the big question. Pavlik and Williams, talent and esteem wise, were healthy steps ahead of the rest of the Middleweight field. With them vanquished, what kingdom does the King have to challenge him?
The great George Carlin, and this author has surely borrowed the line before, once said that if a champion is “undisputed, then what’s all the fighting about.” Some smart ass in the crowd might note that Martinez doesn’t have any sanctioning body trinkets right now, that he’s not undisputed by that antiquated standard.
Anyone who disputes that Martinez is the real Middleweight Champion, who argues that he is not the rightful man who beat the man, merits disdain.
Carlin’s words ring true regardless.
Boxing is not static and being the man isn’t where the fun lies. Fighters at the peak of their game and top of the class have two options: move up the scale or hold their ground. Martinez, even if he wanted one, doesn’t have much of an in at Super Middleweight for the moment. The best of the division are locked up for most of at least another year.
Hold ground it is.
But against who?
Thus the problem at Middleweight right now. Middleweight is like a bottle of win with all the right ingredients missing the fullness of flavor only maturity can bring. In a year, two at the most, Middleweight is likely to be as vibrant as it has been since the early 1990s in terms of depth of talent. What is happening right now at Jr. Welterweight, with a slew of fresh faces and matches being made, is just beginning to emerge at Middleweight.
Already 36, Martinez may or may not be around when names like Golovkin, Guerrero, and Korobov are the center of boxing chatter. James Kirkland should have the rust off by the end of 2011. At the moment, his best option as regards name value and quality of opponent probably lies in veteran WBA beltholder Felix Sturm. After a grind of a schedule, Martinez’s handlers have whispered the name Peter Manfredo.
Both would be underdogs to Martinez. Manfredo, nice story though it might be, would be less than that in the ring.
Where then does boxing find a contender for it’s Middleweight champ?
How about Ekaterinburg, Russia.
This Saturday, that’s where WBO beltholder Dmitry Pirog (17-0, 14 KO) will follow up his star-making win over fellow prospect Danny Jacobs in the U.S. last year. His foe, Javier Maciel (18-1, 12 KO) has a good record and probably not much hope of victory. Pirog is strong, deceptively quick, and can crack. Unlike other rising names, he’s already got the resume to suggest he’s ready to step into the shoes of earned, earnest threat.
At 30, Pirog isn’t necessarily long on time. His prime is happening right now. Within one fight, maybe two, he has the makings of a serious threat to the throne.
In other words, Pirog has the stuff to answer the question of what all the fighting is about.
How big a threat could Pirog be?
As reported by Lem Satterfield at BoxingScene on November 24, Martinez’s promoter Lou Dibella stated after the Williams win that, "I'm the promoter. I've been told by my fighter that he's got two years left [before he retires.] I'm not fighting guys who don't bring 50 cents to the table. [Pirog] doesn't make any sense. But we'll fight anybody who wants him and anybody who HBO will pay the money for to see him fight. We're not running from anybody…But in terms of 160 to 154, we'll fight anyone."
That was the polite quote. As provided by David Greisman at BoxingScene on March 14, “Fuck Pirog,” DiBella said in an interview before the fight with myself and Tim Starks of boxing blog The Queensberry Rules. “We got stripped so that the WBO could make a fight between Pirog and Danny Jacobs. That’s Sergio’s title. We’re not fighting that guy to get our title back. Who gives a flying rat’s ass about Pirog?”
Funny, but it seems curses are rarely for the guy who ain’t a threat. Roy Jones had nice things to say about Ricky Frazier once upon a time. Floyd Mayweather didn’t dump on Henry Bruseles too bad. There is no doubting that Martinez and his handlers think Martinez could beat Pirog. Martinez is good enough to beat anybody around his weight right now.
But there might be easier ways to make a living.
Martinez-Pirog is, for the moment, the best fight at Middleweight that ain’t ready to be made yet. Time will tell if Pirog can continue to perform, and be provided to stages he needs, to change that.
But wait, there’s more…
Solomon Tops Hopkins: http://www.boxingscene.com/solomon-shows-more-fire-continues-climb-147--37181
Bute-Magee Coverage: http://www.boxingscene.com/super-seventh-bute-clears-way-kessler--37217
Weekend Report Card: http://www.boxingscene.com/-art-showing-up-weekend-review-ratings-update--37252
Divisional Ratings Update: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Updated P4P: http://www.boxingscene.com/m-cubed-boxingscenes-pound-pound-top-ten--37191
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--37290
Cliff’s Notes… It’s all just one thought here…Bob Arum calling Nonito Donaire’s wife a ‘tart’ is a just a bit absurd but also the sort of wicked genius Arum is known for. By comparing Mrs. Donaire to one Mrs. Jinkee Pacquiao, he’s further driving home the whole ‘real Filipino star’ thing. It’s self-serving and petty though when one considers how little Arum did with Donaire until recent months. The treatment of Donaire under Arum appeared as claustrophobic as the handling of Felix Trinidad by Don King for much of the 90’s. Trinidad never got away from King but his struggles with the promoter may have helped push him to the stardom he eventually attained when King started making real fights for the Puerto Rican icon. The difference here is that, unlike King then, Arum has most of the marquee foes Donaire will need already in the Arum camp. Donaire moving to Golden Boy, if the moves takes place, is great in the short term because it keeps him in the ring longer with Bantamweights at a time when Bantamweight is a good as it has been for years. What about after that? Donaire could be locked out of the name foes at 122 and 126 lbs. outside Asia. This could end up the ultimate case of short-term gain for long-term loss. Donaire blew much of the momentum of his Flyweight title win over Vic Darchinyan in back room drama. If the same happens after his February Montiel loss, it’s not just Donaire’s loss. It’s boxing’s.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]