How does greatness happen? Throughout our sports history greatness is often times expected of those who exhibit the kind of God given talent most of us wish we had. Whether it's Michael Jordan or Roy Jones Jr., greatness is something as rare and priceless as precious diamonds. On the other hand there are those who, for whatever reason aren't afforded to kind of ready made platform in which to display their skill. While the can't miss super stars have every door opened for them, there are some who must resort to sneaking in through an open window or back door.
For Sergio Martinez his rise to junior middleweight and now middleweight dominance seems almost like a fairy tale. At age 37 he's the undisputed middleweight champion of the world having dispatched great punchers Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams. He's done, as champion all that has been asked of him in this unforgiving game of brutality, this Argentine ballerina set the standards of each performance with each knockout. Throughout his few years reign as 160 pound ruler he's darn near knocked out an entire continent of middleweight contenders (Europe). He knocked out a man who at one point was the most feared fighter at 147 pound since the great Thomas Hearns.
Kelly Pavlik was proven, hard nosed, he beat the great Jermain Taylor. Pavlik at 6'3 towered over the 5'10 Martinez and yet Sergio picked him apart the likes of which can only be described as a cat playing with a half dead mouse before ultimately sealing its fate. Despite all his memorable defenses and classic battles with Pavlik and Williams, Sergio Martinez became the biggest high risk low reward champion since Marvin Hagler. Here was a 37 year old late blooming champion whose name was like poison on the lips of younger contenders around his weight. Miguel Cotto the future hall of famer and Puerto Rican icon based his refusal to fight Martinez last year on a lack of financial benefit. Why take a risk when the reward amounts to a hill of beans; at the time at least it seemed that way; perhaps justifiably so.
Rising Mexican star and WBC champion at 154 pounds Canelo Alvarez was bounced around as a possible opponent for Sergio Martinez but nothing came of that talk. At one point the context surrounding Martinez was the constant theme: "Forgotten Champion". Martinez himself feared his would amass this great legacy and it would have been for not. He feared his name would escape boxing fans ten years from now because he wasn't getting the big fight opportunities he rightfully felt he deserved.
He was becoming a victim of harsh historical context, a victim of circumstance mired in a division where his fellow champions either horde their titles at home away from credible challenges abroad of the lack of true blue threats to his reign were few and far between. The middleweight division for the most part consists of second tier European contenders who while they fight out of their skin probably couldn't sustain such a dominant and signature path that Sergio and maybe Felix Sturm have enjoyed for the past two or three years. I think those two are the best middleweights in the world and for me Sturm gets a lot of my respect and has for years because I think he's always been a legit fighter who was a victim of hometown bbq when he fought Oscar De La Hoya in one of the most tragic robberies of the last decade.
I want to see more from Dmitri Pirog and Danny Geale, as well as Golovkin but for me Sergio Martinez and Felix Sturm are the true #1 and #2 respectfully in that division. Chavez Jr. is there but I think Felix Sturm would beat Chavez. If you look at Sturm's last outing no doubt he put a Arkansas ass whippin' on Sebastian Zbik while Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. just barely beat him; some say he lost that fight.
This fight coming up won't necessarily cement the legacy of Sergio Martinez at least in my eyes because of the fact that Felix Sturm is still out there. And folks were saying he was mailing it in at age 34 because of the Macklin and Murray fights but again when he fought Sebastian Zbik he silenced those critics.
If he can get past Junior and Sturm beats Geale I think the natural fight is Martinez v Sturm. Of course if Sergio beats Felix Sturm then he has nothing left to prove. His legacy at this moment is one of a fighter whose greatness has been stifled by a lack of definition and a narrative. Great boxers have definitive bouts with equally great fighters and that narrative presents itself accordingly. For all his improvements let's be honest Chavez Jr. is still growing as a competent fighter. He's still very mistake prone, absent minded and reckless. He can afford these flaws because he's the bigger man and his chin is like stone. But I still don't value him as a champion the same way I value Felix Sturm because Sturm is proven whereas Junior is and perhaps will always been his father's son. He can't help that fact but it has served as the nagging asterisk beside his fortunes in the sport. His opportunities are ones of privilege and name id than actual earned result.
All around the fight between Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. serves as the perfect battle scene in a Shakespearean play. The handsome warrior who represents the most honorable and genuine aspects of war and life standing against the pampered young prince who bucked the conventional assumptions of history. And like all movies or plays sharing this concept we root for the brave warrior whose never had it easy in a world dead set against him. Whether our expressions of personal objection toward the so called "prince" are heartfelt and not cosmetic is neither here or there. More often than not our society has trained us to despise those among us who we feel gain everything without lifting a finger in paid homage through hard work.
"El Maravillosa Bailarin", the marvelous dancer has a chance to receive the credit he deserves while proving his own point: That your name cannot carry you through, that life doesn't end beyond a certain age limit. That pushing the restart button late in life, particularly in sports where age 30 is 40 and 40 is 50 shouldn't be the final barrier between your expectations of greatness and greatness itself. Consideration as one of the top fifty middleweights of this era is knocking on the door for Sergio Martinez; will he answer?
WBC Junior Middleweight Champion
WBO, WBC Middleweight Champion
IBO Junior Middleweight Champion
The Ring/Lineal Middleweight Champion
Undisputed Middleweight Champion: (April 17th, 2010-Present) (4 Defenses All Knockout)
Ring Magazine and BWAA Fighter of the Year (2010)
Ring Magazine Knockout of the Year Winner (2010)
#3 Best P4P Fighter in the World
Is Sergio Martinez worthy of the hall of fame right now?
"What If" Opponents:
Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Leonard (154 or 160)
Terry Norris (154)
Roy Jones Jr.
Oscar De La Hoya
Thomas Hearns (at 154 or 160)
Dream "What If" Fight: Sergio Martinez v Felix Trinidad