By Robert Morales
Sergio Martinez patiently answered questions Monday from one reporter after another at Fortune's Gym on famous Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. His replies were quick, but to the point.
During a period with a reporter from BoxingScene.com, Martinez was asked about his fight Saturday with middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at Thomas & Mack Center
in Las Vegas seemingly being much more personal than is typical for one of his fights.
"Yeah, I think it's more personal now," he said. "He took it personal, I didn't."
Enough has been said to know that this is personal - on both sides. Martinez's promoter, Lou DiBella, interrupted
When he was being queried about this subject.
"Is he taking this personally? Oh, yeah; oh, yeah," DiBella said. "And I really do believe that these guys don't like one another. People say that all the time, but he feels like his belt was taken by Chavez unfairly. Chavez and the old man (Chavez Sr.) have talked a lot of s**t about him and he's talked a lot of s**t about them, which is not his way.
"Early in the promotion and throughout the course of the promotion, Sergio's done more bantering back and forth and taken more shots than I've ever heard him take before. In fact, his trademark before was never to take a pot-shot at anybody. This one, he's taking personal."
DiBella is not sure if he should be happy about that.
"That could be a good thing, but that could cut the other way," he said. "I've heard him say a number of times he's going to knock out Chavez Jr. That worries me. The only advantage Chavez has is his size and his strength.
"I think if Sergio boxes Chavez's ears off, Chavez might not hit him in the ass."
Since Martinez was somewhat tight-lipped Monday - which DiBella said was no surprise to him - DiBella added something else to the anti-Chavez concoction Martinez has consumed.
It began when DiBella was told how humble Martinez typically acts.
By the time DiBella got done, he had taken his own shot at young Chavez.
"It's almost ridiculous how humble he is," DiBella said of Martinez. "He is acutely aware of what it means to have nothing. He grew up in the poorest ghetto in Argentina. One of the first things he showed me after we became a little friendly was a picture of himself and he was shoeless as a little kid and he was wearing pants his mother hand sewed out of a table cloth. This guy came from nothing."
Without missing a beat, DiBella continued his - as usual - very animated thought.
"I think it's one of the reasons that he's got a little bit of a problem with Chavez, because he views Chavez as a child of privilege," DiBella said. "You know, and honestly, Julio Jr. is a little arrogant. And he's had an easy life. I give him all the credit in the world as a fighter - as a fighter, he's really developed.
"But he was raised in a completely different way than Sergio. Sergio really had to lift himself out of the gutters of the ghettos of Argentina. And Julio Jr. was driving in limousines and being carried in tuxedos into the ring on people's shoulders wearing a head band. So they had very, very different upbringings."
Arum Agrees and Disagrees
Chavez's promoter, Bob Arum, on Wednesday was told of DiBella's comments. Arum said that from a factual standpoint, DiBella is correct in his assessment that the two boxers grew up differently. But Arum believes that in the case of a fighter, that makes Chavez's rise to prominence in the ring more impressive than Martinez's.
"The man, the fighter who goes from hard scrabble and works his way up because he has no alternative has it easier than the guy who comes from privilege to reach the same point," Arum said. "If he came from privilege, he doesn't have the same incentive to work hard. Julio had the much tougher road."
Arum elaborated to make sure his point was taken the right way.
"We're not talking about academic prowess," he said. "A kid who comes from a wealthy family has it easier to succeed academically than a kid who comes from the hard-scrabble bottom; that's true. But when you take a tough sport like boxing, the kid from the hard scrabble has it easier than the kid from privilege."
Back To Martinez
Anyway, it's been well-documented that Martinez speaks out against bullying and domestic violence against women.
Since he was bullied as a child, it's always been thought Martinez is now involved in the cause because of that. He told us differently Monday.
"It's not because of that," he said. "If people need help, I want to do the best I can to help them."
Martinez said his parents, whom he said are "young, 58 and 59 years old," had a lot to do with the overall person he has become.
"I'm a reflection of who they are," he said.
He saw punches coming at him
Martinez's emergence from the ghetto has been something special. He kind of lifted his head up and opened his eyes bigger when the subject of him being bullied as a youngster on those rough streets was discussed.
"I would see a punch flying and my head was the one that got it all the time," he said.
It sounds like it was a difficult way to go. But Martinez wasn't complaining.
"Yeah, it was a lot harder than boxing is for me," he said of growing up in the slums. "But of course, it was a happy childhood. As long I knew I was happy and I didn't know I was poor, it was fine."
He'll be sorry
Martinez said that Chavez made "a big mistake" taking him on.
"He's going to be surprised with my speed and with the way I hit," said Martinez, who, at 37 is 11 years Chavez's senior.
A victory for the ages?
Andre Ward had more than the biggest, and most impressive, victory of his career Saturday night when he stopped Chad Dawson in the 10th round of their super middleweight title fight in Oakland, Calif.
"I think he had one of the most impressive victories in boxing in years," said Ward's promoter, Dan Goossen. "He was just phenomenal. It was his biggest win, no doubt, but the likes and talent of an Andre Ward doesn't come around that often; he is really something special."
Ward entered the fight high on respected pound-for-pound lists. But there was that lingering criticism that he didn't take enough chances and, consequently, his fights were not thrilling. Saturday he was thrilling, decking Dawson three times on his way to victory. Ward also fought viciously inside, snapping Dawson's head with hard uppercuts.
In wiping away the negative things that had been said about him, Ward gave his career an enormous boost.
"I think it has a few benefits with a performance such as he had," Goossen said Monday. "One is you can see that the future of the sport is in good hands. Two, you can see that we've got a young man out there that every sport would like to hang its hat on as poster boy for that sport. He's god-fearing man, a family man, a gentleman."
Goossen went on to talk about how impressive Ward's overall body of work has been, starting with winning the Super Six tournament hosted by Showtime to Saturday's eye-opening TKO of Dawson, the reigning light heavyweight champion who moved down in weight.
So, what's next?
"He has taken on every challenge that has been in front of him and we don't expect to change course," Goossen said. "We are going to get together next week. I'm anxious to see this weekend's fight with Martinez and Chavez. The various opportunities are out there. I think both of them are candidates to challenge Andre."
As good as Ward's night was, John Molina's was that bad. He got caught early by a left cross from Antonio DeMarco and was stopped 44 seconds into the lightweight championship
semi-main event in Oakland. At the end, Molina was sitting on a rope, being smacked in the head.
Afterward, there was talk among the HBO broadcasting crew that perhaps referee Jack Reiss stopped the bout too soon, that he could have called a knockdown since Molina's behind was on a lower rope. That presumably would have given Molina time to recuperate.
Goossen, Molina's promoter, was of that mind - though he went to great lengths to say that he considers Reiss a top referee.
"We're in a dangerous sport and I understand protection of fighters and all, but this these kids work for years and years and years in the gym preparing for this moment and I think it's very important they are given every opportunity to have every last second to achieve their success," Goossen said, alluding to the notion this was Molina's first title fight. "I'm not one to blast any officials -Jack is a very solid referee.
"But like the rest of us, he's human and after getting back home and seeing the replay of the event and going to our tapes we have, clearly John was being held up by the ropes; his butt was outside the ring and it should have been called a knockdown and given the count based upon those circumstances."
Goossen also said he didn't think the punches at the end were doing much harm to Molina.
Reiss indeed is one of the most respected referees from California. We reached the former Beverly Hills fire captain by telephone Tuesday. He was quick to say he doesn't want to get into a back-and-forth with the Goossens - meaning Dan and Molina's trainer, Joe - but he had a lot to say.
"His eyes were fixed to the ground, he couldn't see where the punches were coming from," Reiss said of the moments before he stopped the fight. "From the time of the right hand
(that came sometime after the initial hard left to the chin) until I stopped it, were 18 unanswered punches with him not knowing where the punches were coming from.
"There was me, on the side encouraging him, screaming, 'John, fight, get out, show me something, do something.' And he never gave me any sign that he had the wherewithal to do something. When a fighter gets hurt, he's supposed to either fight back, run, bob and weave, hold on or take a knee. His body language told me he was done, I stopped it."
Reiss told us something else.
"He was so out of it, I had stopped it and he didn't even get up (from his sitting position on the ropes)," Reiss said. "He stayed there covering his head. ... And then when I stood him up, he said to me, 'Jack, am I done? Is it done?' I said, 'Yeah, John, it's done.' "
Most important in all of this, Reiss said, is fighter safety.
"I'm there to protect the fighter from unnecessary harm," he said. "Let me say this to you, I did the right thing. I stand by what I did. I would do it 25 more times to save that kid from unnecessary harm."
Robert Morales covers boxing for the LA Daily News and BoxingScene.com.