It's amazing how one fight result can get you thinking about all sorts of other potential matches. That's what happened after Sergio Martinez's big win against Kelly Pavlik to win the middleweight championship Saturday night.
The new middleweight champ has a lot of potential big fights out there. Obviously, first and foremost, there is a possible rematch with Pavlik, whom Martinez beat by closing the show over the final four rounds like a true champion. He survived a seventh-round knockdown and won the rest of the fight. He badly cut Pavlik with a sharp punch to the eye. He outboxed Pavlik. He was faster than Pavlik. Pavlik didn't lose the title. Martinez won it.
When they did the deal for the fight in the first place, Martinez, promoter Lou DiBella and adviser Sampson Lewkowicz agreed to a rematch clause.
According to the contract, Pavlik and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum have 30 days to either pick up or pass on the option (which, by the way, would give the Martinez side a 50-50 revenue split). Pavlik indicated in the ring after the fight -- before going to the hospital for numerous stitches in cuts around both eyes -- that he would exercise the option.
"If they want [the rematch], obviously they have it," DiBella said. "If they want it next, they have it next."
But if Pavlik passes, which is entirely possible once he and his team sit down and discuss their options after the loss has sunk in, there are several possibilities for Martinez -- either at middleweight or junior middleweight, where he also holds a title (he has about two weeks to decide which one he will keep).
The obvious choice, if there is no Pavlik rematch, is for Martinez to go after a rematch with Paul Williams, who eked out a majority decision against him in December in a superb action fight. A rematch loomed as a big fight immediately after the first one. Now that Martinez is middleweight champ, it's even bigger. That said, DiBella said he has already talked to Williams' adviser, Al Haymon, and they agreed that while there should be a rematch eventually, "it ain't next. I can promise you that," DiBella said.
Incidentally, one of the cooler moments I've had as a boxing writer came after the Martinez-Pavlik fight. After the postfight news conference, I was invited to accompany Martinez and his team to the coffee shop at Caesars Atlantic City, where they celebrated the victory.
When we got there, Williams and trainer George Peterson, both of whom attended the fight, were finishing up as we were being seated next to them. Martinez went over to Williams and the two classy guys shared a warm embrace. Williams congratulated Martinez, and they were both smiling and put their arms around each other. Several fans were in the dining room as well, and Martinez and Williams happily posed for pictures with each other, signed some autographs and generally seemed to enjoy each others' company. After the brutal fight they had with each other, I know they respect each other, and it was great to see just how much in that moment.
Another possible fight for Martinez would be Kermit Cintron, who fights Williams on HBO on May 8 at junior middleweight. Should Cintron pull off the upset, a Martinez-Cintron rematch would be significant, at either weight.
The fighters met in February 2009 and fought to a draw, although Martinez got utterly robbed. First, his seventh-round knockout was overturned because referee Frank Santore did a horrible job. He reached 10, stopped the fight and then suddenly changed his mind. I've never seen anything like it in my life, and the fight continued. Then the judges screwed Martinez with the draw, although Martinez clearly won (twice!). Martinez would love a rematch to set the record straight, and if Cintron beats Williams, it's certainly interesting and definitely a fight DiBella can easily make because he promotes both guys.
A fight that DiBella would love to make for Martinez is against Alfredo "Perro" Angulo. It's a mismatch because Angulo isn't in Martinez's class, but it could be a fun fight while it lasted. Angulo defends his interim junior middleweight belt against Joel "Love Child" Julio on HBO on Saturday and would have to win. DiBella said the fight could be made for Martinez's titles -- but at a catch weight above 154 and below 160 to accommodate Angulo, if he wanted.
DiBella concedes it's unlikely, "but I can dream, can't I?" He said he called Gary Shaw, Angulo's promoter, a couple of times previously about the fight and Shaw always laughed at him because of how uninterested he was. Maybe now that the middleweight title could be at stake, without Angulo risking his interim junior middleweight title, it's conceivable. But I would say it's a long shot at best.
Another potential bout that got some play at the Martinez-Pavlik postfight news conference was a rematch between Martinez and Antonio Margarito.
In February 2000, on the undercard of the first Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera fight, Margarito stopped Martinez in the seventh round -- his only defeat other than the debatable decision loss to Williams. At the time he faced Margarito, Martinez was 16-0-1 and had been boxing for only about five years (and had no amateur experience).
Margarito, of course, went on to win multiple welterweight titles. He returns on May 8 at junior middleweight for his first fight in the 16 months since the hand wrap scandal exploded after his fight against Shane Mosley last year.
If Margarito makes a successful return, it would be an interesting fight with a built-in storyline. "We would love that fight. By the way, that fight would be huge," DiBella said. "So if Bob ever wants to talk about it or if Kelly [declines the rematch and] moves up in weight or something, we would love that fight. We can work with Top Rank any day of the week."
Arum agreed with DiBella that it would be a huge fight, particularly at Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas. I suppose there is a chance of the fight happening, but Arum knows Margarito is a chip in a potential negotiation for a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. If Mayweather beats Mosley on May 1 and can't come to terms with Pacquiao, Arum wants a marketable backup plan for Pacquiao, and Margarito would fit the bill. (I'm not talking about a Mosley-Pacquiao fight because if Mosley beats Mayweather, Mayweather has a rematch clause.)
So Martinez has plenty of interesting options, right? But wait -- as they say in those knife commercials -- there's more.
I discussed all of the above possibilities with HBO's Larry Merchant the other night. And then, as he always does, he caught my attention with another suggestion, the same way he did a few years ago when we were talking about options for Pacquiao and Merchant conceived of the match between Pacquiao and the much bigger Oscar De La Hoya.
So when Larry speaks, I listen.
If Pavlik passes on the rematch and there is no Martinez-Williams rematch next, as per DiBella, Larry's suggestion this time?
Super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute, the Canadian star who knocked out Edison Miranda in the opening fight of HBO's split-site telecast Saturday night. Keep in mind, there had been talk of an eventual Bute-Pavlik fight, assuming Pavlik defeated Martinez. So why not Bute against the guy who beat Pavlik?
Merchant's take was that it's a no-lose situation for Martinez because he could move up and take a shot at Bute's belt without risking his new middleweight titles. He also thinks Martinez would have a shot to win because of his speed and boxing ability. He figures it also might be attractive to Bute because he would be the favorite, and HBO would surely have big interest in it because there are no other serious or notable options for Bute (unless you want to punish yourself by seeing him face Bernard Hopkins), with most of the top super middleweights tied up in the Super Six tournament on Showtime.
"If Martinez loses to an outstanding undefeated guy like Bute, so what? He can go back to middleweight," Merchant said. "And it's a big-money fight for both of them."
All just food for thought.