Saturday's fight between Argentina's Sergio Martinez and British-born Irishman Matthew Macklin at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York is one of the most intriguing and potentially action-filled matchups on the current middleweight landscape. Macklin (28-3, 19 KOs) saw his stock rise after his great showing in Germany against Felix Sturm in June 2011, in his first attempt to grab a world title back. (If the bout had taken place in a neutral location, it likely would have ended in a win.) For his part, Martinez (48-2-2, 27 KOs) will attempt to renew his claim to the universally recognized linear championship he already owns at 160 pounds and advance his claim on pound-for-pound greatness with a powerful showing against a legitimate contender. ESPN Deportes caught up with Sergio Martinez in the final days of preparation for his fight, and this is what he had to share with us:
How was your training for this fight?
They were probably the most intense eight weeks of my career, and it was probably one of the best training camps I've ever had, if not the best. It was very tough.
Does it get harder every day, or do you find yourself putting in the extra effort after being considered one of the best in the world?
I always have new challenges and new drills to add to my workout. My trainer is constantly renovating the system and the training methods that we use. The intensity is on me. Every day, I put a little extra into it, and every day I outperform myself. But this constant improving comes at a price, and this is the price. It is very tough, and right now I am very tired, but the last days of recovery are coming soon, and on [Saturday] I will be better than ever.
What do you know about Macklin as an opponent?
Watching the fight he had against Felix Sturm, I see that he is a very dangerous fighter, very dangerous. He is going to look to fight in the short and midrange, and he'll be working for the entire three minutes of the round. He likes to make the most intense fight because he likes to exchange punches. That's what he has done his entire career. And I believe he is going to be a difficult opponent who will show me a very rough fight.
Does a potential fight against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. take something away from your concentration at all?
The truth is that I'm fine, because I'm not thinking about anything beyond [Saturday]. Like I always say, after, I could talk about any other opponent. And also, Chavez isn't such an exceptional fighter that I should go around worrying about him, you know? Luckily, I'm doing things the way they ought to be done, and that's how I stay out of trouble. If I think about another fighter, even though it may not be Chavez, I believe it will be a problem for me.
Do you believe this fight could happen within the year?
The truth is, I could talk a lot about this subject, but I will always come back to the same answer: I can only think about it after [Saturday]. Right now, I can't think about anything else.
Whose reputation would be more damaged if the Chavez fight never happens: yours or his?
If the fight isn't done, I'm affected because I don't get my belt back and I lose the chance to recover that belt. And Chavez is affected because he keeps losing credibility with the passing of each day, if he really has any credibility left at all.
How is your relationship with the WBC these days? The organization tried to be conciliatory. Are you still intent on fighting for the WBC belt, or are you just as happy to be recognized as the linear champion?
I think I prefer that last thing you said. I prefer to focus on that. With the WBC, we had a problem, and right now I'm only trying to forget that problem. They have wanted to clean up their image, and that's why they're going to try as hard as possible to do things right, and within those possibilities lies the chance of them giving me a new opportunity, if they are ever going to deliver. I hope they do it, even though it may be for the sole purpose of rehabilitating their image, which was severely damaged with the passing of time.
Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto seem to have several plans and possible opponents lined up. Do you think you'll have any luck securing a fight against any of them this year?
The truth is that I don't think about it right now. I know I will get a fight with one of them eventually, but I'm not too worried about it. Right now, my biggest concern is Matthew Macklin, and I am unable to think about anything else other than Matthew Macklin. I have my work cut out with him already!
What would you prove with a victory over Macklin?
That I am still one of the best, and I am still in the top three, pound-for-pound. And that I could jump to No. 1 at any moment -- at any time at all.
Will that depend on a bad performance by either -- or both -- Mayweather and Pacquiao, or will it depend on people actually appreciating the kind of fighter you are?
It will depend solely and exclusively on me. And the more I improve, the more I will see my name being mentioned at the top of the rankings, and the more my stock will rise.
What do you think of the current middleweight landscape?
I believe we have a problem in the middleweight division, and that is that the fighters are unwilling to unify championships, they aren't willing to face each other. And that becomes a problem, because they all try to look after their own interests no matter what. Sturm [the WBA super champ] fights in Germany, [IBF titlist] Daniel Geale does nothing to defend his title after winning it, [WBO titlist Dmitry] Pirog doesn't fight very often and he always wants to fight in Russia. And those are the things that are bringing boxing down and crushing the middleweight division, and I hope there is a new outlook and a new way of doing things about this among those who control boxing.
What type of matchups or eliminations would you like to see in order to clean it up?
At least, I would like the champions to face each other. Let the champs come to the United States and face each other, of if they have to go to Germany to fight Sturm, then so be it. But of course, what they do in Germany with the judges and their unfair scorecards is really brutal. But at least they should let the champions face each other, and then we'll see that the second line of contenders will produce better matchups as well.
How do you expect the fight to develop on Saturday night?
Well, I expect to be in the best shape that I can be, not only physically, but also mentally. Mentally, I feel very well, very strong, and I believe this will be a guarantee that we're going to give a great show. I hope to win by KO, as we have been doing it in the past few years, and everything points to that. If we look at how hard I'm hitting and how well I'm moving and how hard I'm working, everything points to a possible stoppage before the 10th round.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.