In the last 18 months, the back-and-forth out of the ring between current WBC junior middleweight titlist Sergio Martinez and the late Vernon Forrest nearly reached a fever pitch. The two sides bickered endlessly, and eventually Forrest was stripped for not making his mandatory defense against Martinez, who earned his title shot in late 2007. In all honesty, the prevailing thought around boxing was that Forrest was ducking Martinez, and nobody made any bones about it.
Forrest's death has hit Martinez hard, though, according to BoxingScene.com's Rick Reeno. Reeno says the last time he personally spoke with Forrest, Vernon was trying to get back in the ring and was looking into finally fighting Martinez. There were rumors about the fight coming back into negotiations again recently, and now we'll never get to see it.
Sergio Martinez is currently looking at a potential fight with Christophe Cancalux in Spain on September 26. The original fight was to be Martinez against Pablo Navascues, but Navascues pulled out due to an injury. And Martinez has decided to honor Forrest in his next fight, whomever it comes against, by wearing the word "Viper" on his trunks.
I don't go overboard about guys being "classy" gentlemen in boxing or any other sport, but if it comes any classier than that gesture from Sergio Martinez, I don't know how you do it. Martinez and Forrest were press rivals that never got to fight, and frankly they probably should have. But all Martinez wants to do is honor a fellow fighter.
Hats off to Sergio Martinez, because this is a legitimate class move by a legitimate class act.