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Thursday, June 6, 2013
Sergio Martinez: A tough nut to crack

By Michael Woods

Sergio Martinez
Sergio Martinez may be on his last legs. Just don't tell him that.
Sergio Martinez is, as I write this, driving from NYC to Canastota, to take part in the 24th International Boxing Hall of Fame induction weekend. And he took some time to chat with NYFightblog about lessons learned from his most recent fight, how many fights he has left in him, and when -- and against who -- he will fight next.

The 38-year-old craftsman drove with advisor Sampson Lewkowicz, who translated, and Lewkowicz' son Nathan, who helps promote the Argentina-born pugilist who beat Martin Murray on April 27 in front of 50,000 adoring fans in his home country.

That scrap was no walkover, as the weather and Murray proved tougher to deal with than many predicted. It rained all day, and the fight was pushed to 8:30 PM from 11 p.m. local time, for fear of thunderstorms. Sergio hit the deck in round eight, from a right hand that caught him as he was shifting his weight, and won a 115-113, 115-113, 115-113 victory on the cards. I asked him about lessons learned from the Murray bout.

"There is no easy enemy in boxing," he stated. Does that mean he underestimated Murray? No, the 51-2-2 Martinez, who is co-promoted by Lou DiBella,  said. He implied that those who hadn't given Murray much of a chance underrated the challenger. "I wanted to prove to everybody that said I would fight an easy opponent in Argentina that instead I'd pick the biggest available challenge in the division, and I'd win."

He needed knee surgery last November, for a torn meniscus in his right knee, from an injury sustained in his previous bout, against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in September. But Martinez refused to point a finger at a slow rehab. He told me he was in fine form for Murray. If not, he would not have taken the bout, he said.

Martinez said he didn't pay attention to the critiques from naysayers who thought they saw a man on the downside, a fighter with only a fight or two left in him, against Murray. "In boxing, that is very common, you have the negative and the positive," he said. "All the negative stuff does is motivate me to continue fighting. Not every time everything will be perfect. This is boxing, you cannot win every round. You win some, lose some, in the end I was the winner."

I tried to get a sense if Martinez is sensing his career mortality. He turns 39 in February.

How many fights do you think you have left? "I'm only thinking of the next. I don't think further than that," he said.

I tried again to delve into his soul. Will he watch the induction ceremony now, at 38, differently than he would have at 28, with more of a sense that his career might end soon? Sergio didn't take the bait; he said that every fighter wants to win a title and enter the Hall, and he is no different.

Team Martinez had dinner with HBO Sports boss Ken Hershman on Wednesday night. Did they figure out a date and foe for Martinez's next outing?

It is likely he will glove up in February or March next year, he said, but no foes are up for discussion. In August or September, Sampson said, the team will convene and choose a route.

The super middleweight division will not be in the mix, Sampson said, for those wondering if a rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. might occur there, or a fight with Andre Ward is a possibility.

"It will be 160 pounds only, or 154 pounds, but only for Floyd Mayweather," Sampson said.

With that, the road trip to Canastota continued. If Martinez allowed himself to drift into more poignant philosophical territory, he wasn't going to share the mulling with ESPNNY.com. I'm not that surprised; he showed the same discipline in answering questions as he does in training, and as he does by and large in the ring. There will be time, eventually, to expand on emotional topics. But not now.