Promoter Lou DiBella: Sergio Martinez, Paul Williams 'Clearly the Best at 154, 160'
There is little, if anything, not to like about Argentinian-born, Sergio Martinez, of Madrid, Spain, whose nickname, "Maravilla," means "Marvelous."
The handsome, 35-year-old southpaw WBC junior middleweight (154 pounds) and, WBC middleweight (160 pounds) champion has the good looks of a model, a philanthropic heart, the moves of a ballet dancer in the ring, and the fighting skills of a lion -- including rapier-like jabs and right crosses that routinely slice to ribbons the faces of his opponents.
In his most recent victory in April at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, the athletically-gifted Martinez dethroned 28-year-old WBC and WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik (36-2, 32 knockouts) in front of Pavlik's fans despite being outweighed ,178 to 167, by fight time and facing a perceived disadvantage in power.
So convincing was Martinez triumph that he has virtually chased Pavlik into the super middleweight (168 pounds) division for a potential shot at the likes of unbeaten IBF king, Lucian Bute.
Prior to Pavlik, Martinez took a nearly 10-year, unbeaten mark of 28-0-1, with 18 knockouts into a disputed, December majority decision loss to former three-time titlist, Paul Williams (39-1, 27 KOs) in a clash of southpaws and a Fight of the Year candidate during which each boxer was floored in the first round.
In Feburary of 2009, Martinez had battled former two-time world champion, Kermit Cintron (32-3-1, 28 KOs) to a disputed draw during which he dropped his opponent in the seventh round.
Before facing Williams, Martinez had not lost since February of 2000, when he was stopped in the seventh round of a match up opposite former world titlist, Antonio Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs).
Since thrusting himself into the conscience of boxing experts, worldwide, and rival opponents who consider him to be among the sport's premiere fighters, pound-for-pound, Martinez (45-2-2, 24 KOs) has been mentioned as a potential opponent by the great, welterweight and five-division titlist, Floyd Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs).
Yet what has followed, said Martinez's promoter, Lou DiBella, is as perplexing as Martinez's meteoric rise has been spectacular.
Martinez has been unceremoniously stripped of the WBO version of his middleweight crowns, a vacant title for which top-rated, 29-year-old contender Dmitry Pirog (16-0, 13 KOs) of Gelendzhik, Russia, and, the 23-year-old, No. 2 contender Daniel "Golden Child" Jacobs (20-0, 17 KOs) of Brooklyn, N.Y., will battle on July 31 at the Mandaylay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.
Pirog-Jacobs has been granted a prestigious position on the undercard of an HBO pay per view rematch between WBO and WBA lightweight (135 pounds) champion, Juan Manuel Marquez (50-5-1, 37 KOs), and, former two-time world champion, Juan Diaz (35-3, 17 KOs), whose February, 2009 Fight Of The Year ended with Marquez winning by ninth-round knockout.
In return, Martinez, who also still owns the WBC junior middleweight and middleweight belts, has been offered only a bout with Williams by HBO as an alternative, according to DiBella.
"If Paul goes to 147, then, obviously, there is no fight that can be made. But I don't believe that Paul Williams is afraid of Sergio. And I've got to tell you -- and I said this right after the fight in Atlantic City -- that I don't really want that fight now. But ultimately, I don't have a choice what fight the networks will choose," said DiBella.
"But I don't want that fight. My guy has fought three giants in a row -- Kermit Cintron, Paul Williams and Kelly Pavlik. So I don't think that he should have to fight Paul Williams again," said DiBella. "Not only that, clearly, clearly, the two best fighters in the world at 154, and, 160, are Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams."
DiBella would like to see Martinez against unbeaten, 24-year-old Vanes Martirosyan (28-0, 17 KOs), 27-year-old WBO interim junior middleweight king, Alfredo Angulo (18-1, 15 KOs), or WBA middleweight champ, Felix Sturm (33-2-1, 14 KOs).
DiBella also would like to see Martinez get a shot at WBA junior middleweight king, Miguel Cotto (35-2, 27 KOs), or, even recently dethroned, former WBA welterweight (147 pounds) champ, Shane Mosley (46-6, 39 KOs), who once held the WBA and WBC junior middleweight crowns won from Oscar de la Hoya.
"There's a whole talent pool at 154 and 160. There's Angulo, there's Martirosyan, there's Miguel Cotto, there's Shane Mosley. I mean, why shouldn't these guys -- Serio Martinez and Paul Williams -- get an opportunity to clean out the division of other guys who are considered the best before fighting each other again?" asked DiBella.
"Why have them fight each other again, so that the two of the best guys in two division can knock each other off again?" asked DiBella. "Why should an Angulo be exempt from fighting the best? Why should Cotto be? Why is Martirosyan on HBO's World Championship boxing if he's not good enough to fight the best?"
But the difficulty of landing a rival could be compounded by the damage done by Martinez to his rivals.
Against Cintron, Williams, and, Pavlik, Martinez's ability to hit and not get hit left his rivals with cuts, bruises and battle scars while he, himself, emerged virtually unscathed of facial damage. Williams and Pavlik, badly cut around their eyes, were hospitalized and did not join Martinez at the post-fight press conferences.
"Why should the two best guys be forced to fight again so quickly before the rest of the division is cleaned up? Is the point for one of them to get knocked off by the other? That's just not fair," said DiBella, who has said that he has sent a series of e-mails of inquiry to HBO President of Sports, Ross Greenburg, and, vice president, Kery Davis.
"Yes, it's a question, to HBO to make something clear. I think that I've come off as if we wanted the Williams fight and that Williams didn't want it. I just want to make sure to say that is not the case. We don't want it either," said DiBella. "It's not like either guy has ever been afraid of anybody. Look at the opposition they have fought, and it compares favorably to anybody out there."
So popular was Martinez during a May Williams-Cintron clash at Los Angeles' Home Depot Center, that he upstaged the fighters. Martinez could not escape the glare of HBO's television cameras, the adoration of autograph-seeking fans, nor the requests of interview-seeking members of the media.
DiBella counters an assertion by Top Rank Promotions' Bob Arum, who promotes Cotto and Martirosyan, that Martinez is not yet a pay per view attraction.
"I don't agree with that. Right now, he's hot, he's great looking, and he's a great promotion. He's never been on pay per view, but he's one of the hottest fighters in boxing, with three, consecutive appearance on HBO. If the perception is that he can win the fight, then it's a big fight on pay per view," said DiBella.
"I think Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez on pay per view does good business. I think Mayweather and Sergio Martinez on pay per view does big business -- certainly bigger than a lot of the stuff that's out there," said DiBella. "I think that if the perception is that it's a competitive fight and Sergio can win, then I absolutely think that it should go on pay per view."
Martinez's presence was a bright spot at Williams-Cintron, the latter of whom lost a crowd-disappointing, four-round, technical decision when he was unable to recover from an apparent injury after falling
"It was an incredible night. The public received me with open arms. There were a lot of Latin American fans there," said Martinez, during a telephone interview from ringside with FanHouse.com.
"They made me feel like I was from here. They made me feel right at home, and I'm very grateful for that, and very happy about that," said Martinez, a fighter with refreshing humility and candor to his character. "I felt welcome by the Los Angeles fans. I think that, humbly, it's true that I did steal a little bit of the thunder tonight."