By Chris Robinson
2010 was a banner year for trainer Gabriel Sarmiento, who guided Argentinean terror Sergio Martinez to two thrilling victories over Kelly Pavlik, a fight that netted Martinez the mantle as the world’s best middleweight, and Paul Williams, a fight in which Martinez recorded a highlight-reel knockout. Martinez was deemed the 2010 Fight of the Year by the Boxing Writer’s Association of America and Sarmiento followed suit by collecting accolades for the year’s best trainer.
Martinez and Sarmiento hooked up over ten years ago, after ‘Maravilla’ suffered a TKO loss to Antonio Margarito on the undercard of the first Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera bout, and their run together has been pretty remarkable. We have seen Martinez capture titles at 154 and 160 pounds while gracing HBO’s airwaves on repeated occasions and stamping himself as one of the sport’s top three fighters, undoubtedly.
But one fighter does not make a trainer and this weekend another one of Sarmiento's pupils, Dominican Victor Cayo, will head into the trenches against tough D.C. fighter Lamont Peterson. Set to take place inside of the Cosmopolitan Resort in Las Vegas, the Cayo-Peterson clash is an IBF junior welterweight title eliminator and will leave the victor in line for a shot at unified champion Amir Khan.
I remember first seeing Cayo live and in person in late July of 2009 as he offered up a high-pitched performance in outhustling former champion Julio Diaz down in Hollywood, Florida. I liked what I saw in Cayo, as the kid was a live fighter who kept his work rate up and finished the fight with Diaz with an energy surge in capturing a ten-round unanimous decision.
Cayo’s biggest fight to date took place last year inside of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as he tested his mettle against then-WBA interim champion Marcos Maidana. It was a feverish battle but Maidana would eventually turn up the heat and chop Cayo down for good in the sixth round with a viscous body blow.
Mere months later tragedy would fall upon Cayo as his 14-month old son accidentally had food lodged in his throat and choked to death. Cayo has been under the radar ever since but still managed to notch a couple of non-descript victories under his belt before seeing the opportunity against Peterson arise.
Seeing Cayo on the dais during the final press confernce to promote the fight, I went to speak with his trainer Gabriel. Perhaps being out of the loop, I was adivsed that Sarmiento was not actually present during the confernce, as he is currently facing some legal troubles back down in Argentina, and instead spoke with his brother Pablo, who is currently filling in for him while they attempt to get everything resolved.
Asked of the importance of Cayo's fight this weekend, Sarmiento knows fully well how much is on the line for his fighter this weekend.
“This is a great opportunity for Victor Cayo and the entire team,” Sarmiento stated during our conversation at the final press conference leading up to the fight. “He wants to show the whole world who Victor Cayo is. He had a great training camp and he definitely wants to be a champion at 140 pounds today. We definitely are ready to go.”
The Sarmiento brothers train their fighters out of the World Crown Sports Gym in Oxnard, California and the camaraderie seems to be deep. Pablo says that while in training, Sergio leaves whatever accolades he holds at the door and simply gets down to work.
“Sergio Martinez is like a big brother but when it comes to training camp, Sergio is not a champion, he is just like a regular guy. He’s going to go in there and train with the young guys and set an example. Just being a big brother and really mentoring them and helping them to become champions,” Sarmiento continued.