By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Buddy McGirt has nothing against Sergio Martinez.
The former two-division champion just doesn’t think Martinez is a great fighter. The more Matthew Macklin’s trainer hears the word “great” attached to Martinez’s name, the more skeptical McGirt gets.
“How the heck can they say he’s great?,” said McGirt, whose fighter will challenge Martinez for middleweight supremacy Saturday night in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. “He’s good. He’s very good, and I respect him as a champion. I respect any man that climbs up those stairs. I respect any man who wins a world championship. I respect him.
“But who has Martinez beaten to say that he’s great? Paul Williams? [Makes game show buzzer sound.] Kelly Pavlik? [Makes game show buzzer sound.] He fought Margarito and what happened? Is Margarito great? Hell, no. So how the f*** can this guy be great?
"As an old-school fighter, the word great is big to me. I know they use the word great to get the fans. I understand that and I respect that. But when you say great middleweights, you have Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran. So when you say great, is [Martinez] great? He’s not great. Very good? Yes.”
Nevertheless, McGirt admitted Macklin must perform almost perfectly to upset Martinez (48-2-2, 27 KOs) in their 12-round fight for The Ring magazine and WBC diamond middleweight crowns (HBO; 10 p.m. ET). McGirt has trained England’s Macklin (28-3, 19 KOs) to be particularly cautious of falling into the traps that the unconventional Argentine southpaw sets so masterfully.
“I’m not knocking Martinez,” said McGirt, who won junior welterweight and welterweight world titles during his 15-year pro career. “I like Martinez as a person and I like him as a fighter. But I’m a firm believer in that styles make fights. If Matthew does everything that he’s supposed to do, he’ll win. Matthew can’t lose focus for one split second. Because if you lose focus for one split second, Martinez will capitalize on it. I’ll give him that. You lose focus for one quick second, he’ll get comfortable and he’ll knock your ass in the dirt. I will give him that.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.