Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez will return to the ring and the HBO airwaves on October 1, but he still needs an opponent. Martinez recently said he'd even be willing to go back to 154 pounds to land a bigger fight if necessary, as he's grown frustrated with the lack of quality options at 160. Let's take a look at some potential challengers and/or opponents for "Maravilla" in October.
First, though, guys who it definitely will not be: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Miguel Cotto are highly unlikely. Chavez has a fight on June 4 with Sebastian Zbik (also on HBO), and if he wins, it's likely he faces Cotto on September 17. It's not going to be Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, either. Pacquiao is due to fight on November 12, probably against Juan Manuel Marquez (who is two divisions below Pacquiao instead of Martinez's two divisions above), and the only thing even rumored for Mayweather -- and he denies it -- is a September date with Victor Ortiz at welterweight.
So who could be possible?
Sebastian Zbik (30-0, 10 KO)
If Zbik does beat Chavez, and it wouldn't be a shocker, he'd have a fight on HBO under his belt and an undefeated record. Whether or not he'd venture into a fight with Martinez is quite another story, but it would be a chance for Martinez to claim the WBC belt that he felt screwed out of after he was stripped following his win over Paul Williams. Technically, outside of the bogus WBC "Diamond" belt, Martinez doesn't even hold an alphabet title anymore.
Daniel Geale (25-1, 15 KO)
This one I find interesting. Geale is with Gary Shaw, so it won't be a chore to get him to the U.S. in theory, and the Aussie just picked up a belt in Germany. He also says he'd love to fight Martinez. I'd make Sergio a heavy favorite, but at least Geale is legitimately ambitious, or so it appears for now.
Felix Sturm (35-2-1, 15 KO)
Sturm is basically the default No. 2 middleweight in the world and despite a legal battle to get out of his Universum contract that he claimed was so he could make better fights, he hasn't thus far done anything on his own except fight Giovanni Lorenzo and Ronald Hearns (the former an acceptable comeback bout, the latter a joke), and now he's lined up to fight Matthew Macklin on June 25. He's really not raised his game as he said he was going to, and I don't think there's a hope in hell he faces someone like Martinez.
Kermit Cintron (32-3-1, 28 KO)
Cintron is tentatively due to make his Top Rank debut on July 9, having now not fought for over a year. The Puerto Rican, who draws mixed reviews from all over the place, got a gift draw against "Maravilla" at 154 pounds in 2009. Cintron has in the past taken rematches that seemed like bad ideas (Margarito), but he might not do it again now that he knows what a bad idea rematch becomes.
Paul Williams (39-2, 27 KO)
No idea what Williams is really doing, but he's also due back on July 9. Difference is that while he was across the ring from Cintron the last time Cintron fought, Williams then got brutally knocked out by Martinez in November. It remains to be seen if he's just saying he wants a rubber match with Sergio, or if he actually does. And it also remains to be seen if he's mentally going to be able to recover in the ring.
Peter Manfredo Jr. (37-6, 20 KO)
This one has been batted around a few times. Nobody's really dying to see it, as Manfredo is a decent fighter but has been long since proven as not world class. What makes this easy is that both are promoted by Lou DiBella.
Andy Lee (25-1, 19 KO)
Lee knocked out Craig McEwan in the co-feature of Martinez's last fight, and the thought then was that the Lee-McEwan bout was basically an audition to be Sergio's next opponent, but that was when he was supposed to return in July. Lee currently has a fight on May 18 against Alex Bunema, but that one shouldn't be too much trouble. Knock on wood.
Vanes Martirosyan (29-0, 18 KO)
I'm one of the guys who just doesn't think Vanes is all that good, but one thing I like about him is something he repeats a lot: "If I'm not any good, then why not just fight me?" Martirosyan is going to have to get a big fight sometime, so if Sergio drops back to 154, why not?
Marco Antonio Rubio (50-5-1, 43 KO)
Rubio did upset David Lemieux last month, but Martinez ain't Lemieux. Rubio, 30, sounds a lot more interested in facing the Zbik-Chavez winner (particularly Chavez) than he does Martinez, which is just realistic. The other two would be much better matchups for him.
Who do you want to see? One of these guys, somebody else?