By Francisco Salazar
After defeating Martin Murray on April 27th of last year before about 50,000 fans in a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires, Sergio Martinez could have retired.
He had already accomplished his dream of winning world titles in two different weight classes, earned significant purses to live off of, and achieved an elite status in boxing.
Life is grand for “Maravilla,” especially since he has also gained respect and adoration for projects outside the ring, which includes speaking out against bullying and domestic violence against women.
Despite suffering injuries that could force the idea of retirement or hamper his training and condition, Martinez does not feel he has accomplished enough in the sport. There is a fight or two left in the 39 year old Martinez and he is intent to reach a plateau in the sport that few expect him to reach.
Part of that legacy will be to defeat another elite fighter in Miguel Cotto. Despite a partisan crowd and a renewed vigor Cotto has possessed in recent fights, Martinez is convinced he will be victorious on Saturday night.
Martinez will face Cotto before an expected sell-out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City, N.Y. The bout, which will headline a Top Rank/ DeBella Entertainment card, will top an HBO Pay Per View telecast that begins at 9PM ET/ 6PM PT.
Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) reached a pinnacle of sorts in his last fight. Fighting for the first time in 11 years on Argentine soil, during which time he defeated the likes of Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams, and Julio Cesar Chavez in the United States, Martinez won a close unanimous decision victory over Martin Murray.
While he was victorious, Martinez did suffer a few scares, including being knocked down in the eighth round, suffering a broken left hand early in the fight, and injuring his right knee during a slip late in the fight.
Like any fighter, Martinez wants to exit the stage on his own terms. If one of those terms includes a mega-fight against Cotto before over 20,000 fans inside the “Mecca of Boxing” on the East Coast, so be it.
Besides a motivated fighter could be a dangerous fighter. Or is Martinez biting off more than he can chew.
“I’m very motivated for this fight as it is the most important fight of my career,”
Martinez told Boxingscene.com in a recent phone interview. “I feel in great physical shape. I recovered very well because of the great medical team I have. I’m looking forward to this fight against someone like Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden.”
Martinez has had that chip on his shoulder, a confidence that has brewed in him since his professional soccer and cycling days. That attitude has carried over to his professional boxing career that has lasted for over 17 years.
He burst onto the boxing scene five and a half years ago after fighting in obscurity in Europe and Latin America, remaining in the boxing public eye ever since. Whether it was pulling off upsets, scoring spectacular one-punch knockouts, or dominating his opposition, Martinez has given the boxing world something to talk about.
With Cotto facing him on Saturday night, some consider Martinez to be a favorite. He does have a size advantage over Cotto and does have speed and power. While other boxing pundits consider Cotto-Martinez an even fight, Martinez believes he has what it takes to dominate and eventually stop the popular Puerto-Rican fighter.
“I am very confident I will win by knockout,” said Martinez, who is promoted by Lou DiBella and advised by Sampson Lewkowicz. “I am not backing down from my prediction that I will knock Cotto out by the ninth round.”
“When I say I am going to accomplish something, I set out for it because I want to be great. Cotto is a great fighter. I just want more. I don’t know if Cotto mentally wants it more or not, but I do. That is why I give everything in training camp and I prepare to the best of my ability.”
Whether he has lived or trained in Spain, Oxnard, or Madrid, Martinez has left his mark in boxing, in or out of the ring. Aside from accomplishments in the ring, Martinez has made news for worthy causes.
He has spoken out against domestic violence against women and bullying. While he was bullied as a youth and living in poverty while growing up in Buenos Aires, Martinez has made it a point to speak to children or have victims of domestic violence attend his fights.
One could say Martinez is a champion of the people through his extracurricular activities. What makes it more impressive is that he is modest about it.
“I’m very happy to do it (give time and resources) for the people. I wish I can do it for everybody. Whether it is a world title or helping people, I feel this immense pride for both.”
“When I retire from boxing, I would still want to give my time help women who are battered and kids who have been bullied. Life goes on and that will be the best thing for me to.”
It is noble for Martinez to leave on his own terms. While there was a point in his career where he would want a fight against Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, he is at peace with knowing that may not happen.
Win or lose on Saturday night, Martinez has carved out a stellar career, one where the International Hall of Fame will be calling once he has retired from the sport.
He gave his all to the sport and while he may not have had the same fanfare as Mayweather or Pacquiao, he still commanded respect and became an elite fighter few in boxing achieve.
“I made the impossible possible. I live and fight for the glory.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing