By Chris Robinson
2010's Fighter of the Year, Sergio Martinez, thrilled us with his victories over Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams last year and will certainly have his work cut out for him if he is to equally impress this coming March 12th against WBO junior middleweight champion Sergiy Dzinziruk. The recognized best middleweight in the world, Martinez faces off with the unbeaten German at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut on HBO's World Championship Boxing.
The Argentinean is a rare breed, a definite late bloomer in the sport at age 36, and was a relative enigma less than three years ago. In outslicking Pavlik and chopping down Williams in their anticipated rematch, he rose his stock to a new level and instantly began clamoring for big-money fights.
A fight with the awkward Dzinziruk certainly isn't what he was hoping for but he is making the best out of the situation.
“I never want an easy fight," Martinez told the media earlier this week. "I want to fight the best. Mayweather cannot fight me; Manny Pacquiao cannot fight me. So, I need to fight somebody very challenging and the best opponent, or the best challenger, is Sergiy Dzinziruk. Nobody else is left.”
Martinez showed his frustrations after he was stripped of the WBC crown that he won from Pavlik last April in an apparent move by the organization to set up Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. to claim the crown, which now is held by the limited Sebastian Zbik. Martinez could easily let things boil over but instead opts to remain optimistic as he eyes the future.
“Everybody’s wrong," Martinez claimed. "The fight was officially made by HBO and HBO got the best available opponent, Dzinziruk, because he has the credentials. I didn’t lose the title, only for a few months, because after I beat Dzinziruk, whoever is at 160 I want to fight, regardless of whom it’ll be. And I have no issues with that and nobody forced me to fight because I only want to fight the best.”
Training out of Oxnard, California, Martinez has been sparring with former champion Daniel Santos and newly-crowned WBA junior middleweight titleist Austin Trout in what he says is the hardest camp of his career. He has lingering issues about losing his beloved WBC crown but insists reclaiming his prize is still a top priority.
“It was very hard and sad to give up the title," he continued. "I wanted to defend that title every time I could until the end of my career. But at this time I’m happy with the outcome, if my next fight after this I will recoup the title. I will demand to fight for the title, on behalf of my promoter, if he wants me to fight at 160, so [the winner of] Zbik and Chavez Jr. must face me or give up the title to me.”
Earlier this year Martinez's manager Sampson Lewkowicz confirmed to me that he had been in discussions with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum about a possible duel between Martinez and Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto later in the year. While those talks have died down, with each man having immediate battles of their own to focus on, Martinez is hopeful that the discussion can be revisited in the near future.
“It will be very good for Cotto, for me, and the fans so maybe it can happen in 2011.”