Friday, March 16, 2012
Martinez pound-for-pound champ fighting domestic abuse
By Michael Woods
Sportswriting cynics know that come November, they'll soon be receiving press releases touting the philanthropic chops of this fighter or that, with proof furnished in the form of a turkey giveaway to needy folks. Now, we're not one to put every charitable act under a microscope, because we're no saint ourselves. But it has for some time struck us a craven and not particularly inventive way to get some positive publicity. On the other hand, middleweight ace Sergio Martinez has for two years now been involved in a drive to shine a spotlight on the worldwide issue of domestic abuse.
Sergio spoke about that push on Thursday, at a Madison Square Garden press conference to hype his Saturday bout against Matthew Macklin, which unfolds at the MSG Theater, and can be seen on HBO.
The fighter said during a media roundtable that somebody needs to help women who are battered, and that he decided to get deeply involved when he learned that super featherweight and lightweight champion Edwin Valero killed his wife, and then committed suicide on April 18, 2010 after being taken into custody in his native Venezuela. Martinez couldn't fully exult in his career best win, a UD12 victory over middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, on April 17, because the Valero case bothered him so. Since then, he's gotten deeper and deeper into the cause, and regularly visits shelters for women who have been battered by their partners.
He also joined New York City Council member Julissa Ferreras, a Democrat who serves parts of Queens, Wednesday at City Hall for a news conference to support federal legislation involving the Violence Against Women Act. That act, passed in 1994 and re-authorized a couple times since, is held up in the US Senate because Republicans are objecting to some updates. Among the objections: that grants given in the name of Violence Against Women aren't subject to sufficient oversight, and Republicans fear taxpayer dollars will be "wasted." Typically, there has been across the board bipartisan support for the bill, with no haggling over terminology.
Martinez has stayed out of the political fray. Here is the text of the speech Martinez gave at City Hall:
Thank you Council Member Ferreras for the invitation. It is an honor to be here.
I get asked all the time why I got involved in the campaign to end domestic violence.
I don't think people would ask me that question if they knew that in New York City alone last year, police responded to more than 700 cases of domestic violence a day.
If you really want to know why, I'll tell you a story about a boxer. Some of you may have heard of him. His name is Edwin Valero.
Valero had all of the talent and promise a boxer could want. He had 27 fights and won all of them by knock out. The boxing community loved Edwin Valero.
But Valero had another side.
One day police found the body of his young wife, Jennifer. Allegations of prior domestic abuse quickly surfaced.
Valero was arrested, but killed himself before facing trial.
I often think about the incident. It upsets me that when the news broke, not much was said about his wife Jennifer. Not much was said about Valero's kids either. I didn't think that was right
People question how I can be involved in this campaign. They say I'm a hypocrite because I'm a boxer.
But I tell them that there is more to boxing than just hitting someone, just as there is more to who I am as a human being.
There is a role for me here today. And there is a role for you too.
I urge you to pass the Violence against Women Act for Jennifer, for her children, and for the millions of women in the United States like her that suffer in silence.
Thank you very much.
Martinez also has a soft spot for kids who are bullied and in fact, dedicated this fight against Macklin to 14 year-old Monique McClain, a Connecticut kid who was bullied by her peers in school, but has since learned coping techniques and received unconditional love from the Argentine prizefighter. The fighter and the young lady have been pals since March 2011, when they bonded before Martinez' win over Sergiy Dzinziruk. At the press conference, McCalin presented Martinez with a crucifix that belonged to her grandmother. Cynics please note: the adoration and joy on McClain's face as she interacts with Martinez makes any claim of PR manipulation moot.
No, this isn't like those guys who hand out turkeys once a year and send out a press release before the last bird is handed out. The next time you read about this or that boxer behaving badly, please pause and recall that there are more good ones than bad, and that boxers like Martinez are not as rare as you might think.
Also, check out this video interview with Martinez, in which I ask him about the rumor that he's had some trouble in sparring.