By Chris Robinson
This weekend, the world’s lineal middleweight champion, Sergio Martinez, will face off with Birmingham's Matthew Macklin inside of the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in an HBO-televised showcase.
Having just turned 37 years old and with no luck in luring in any big name opponents into the ring with him, you can’t help but wonder what the future holds for the Argentinean and whether he will get those lucrative matches he dearly craves.
Claiming to have met Martinez in Buenos Aires in 1994 or 1995, trainer Pablo Sarmiento has experienced nearly all of the professional highs and lows that have been bestowed upon his fighter. And with his brother Gabriel, who used to serve as Martinez’s head trainer, now out of the camp due to legal issues, Sarmiento now, more than ever, is involved in every detail of Sergio's career.
Looking back on Martinez’s progression over the years, you can sense how much the journey has meant to Sarmiento.
“Everything we did with hard work, training, it was amazing,” Sarmiento would tell me recently during one of my visits to the team’s camp in Oxnard, California. “After a few years, when he was winning fights, after seeing him win so many fights, now it’s really hard for any fighter to beat Sergio Martinez at this time.”
2010 saw Martinez win the Boxing Writer’s Association of America's Fighter of the Year award after an inspiring unanimous decision over Kelly Pavlik to capture the WBC and WBO middleweight titles and a destructive and shocking 2nd round knockout over Paul Williams seven months later in a rematch in Atlantic City.
To see his friend reach such heights was something that seemed to be near-indescribable for Sarmiento.
“As you can imagine, so many years together with Sergio, to prove that, and to win in that moment, is like touching the sky with your hands,” Sarmiento continued.
As our brief talk continued, Sarmiento was asked for his thoughts on superstars Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., two men Martinez has been keeping his eye on in recent times.
Set to headline likely the year’s two biggest pay per view events, Mayweather with a May 5th assignment against WBA junior middleweight boss Miguel Cotto and Pacquiao with a June 9th defense of his WBO welterweight strap against undefeated Tim Bradley, Sarmiento was asked if he felt his fighter was being overlooked at all by the boxing world.
“It’s not about overlooking Sergio,” Sarmiento added. “The only fighter who can beat Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, at this time right now, is Sergio ‘Maravilla’ Martinez.”
Sarmiento would also add that Martinez, now into the twilight years of his career, is not driven by money at this point. All one has to do, claims Sarmiento, is look at how much Martinez is willing to bend in order to land a fight with Mexican superstar and WBC middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
“For example, Sergio offered, if he fights Chavez or even Miguel Cotto, [that he] would give his money to be able to fight them,” state Sarmiento. “It’s not about the money. He’s showing there, he cares about boxing.”
But none of that is possible unless Martinez can get past Macklin, who is coming in with confidence after a split-decision loss to WBA champion Felix Sturm in June that many felt he actually won.
If anything, Sarmiento has to tip his hat to the British fighter for showing a willingness to step up.
“We’re going to respect the fighter, as we do with the rest of our fighters, and then emphasize that Macklin has more courage. Macklin has the courage that Chavez doesn’t have.”
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