5 keys for Sergio Martinez
Plotting a path to victory against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
The middleweight title bout between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez on Saturday from Las Vegas will feature two fighters from completely different backgrounds fighting for much more than Latin-American bragging rights.
Chavez (46-0-1, 32 KO) and Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KO) will wage a war that could end up defining the new generation of middleweights, with their two contrasting styles encompassing almost the entire spectrum of different styles at 160 pounds.
In what probably will be the ultimate crossroads fight, the young and plodding Chavez will seek to impose his heavier hands and sturdier chin against an older and faster Martinez, who likely will try to play matador against Chavez's bullish act. The stage is set for a grudge match between two guys who have made their mutual dislike the centerpiece of this promotion. They also are among the hungriest fighters today in their search for popularity, respect from media and fans, and the ultimate prize that comes from sitting atop one of boxing's elite divisions.
Here we discuss five keys that could take Martinez to victory on Saturday:
A lifetime in the making
|Every fighter has a motivation to climb into the ring. That's nothing new. But for Martinez, the fight on Saturday will be, without a doubt, the fight of his life. For the first time, he will be a star in Las Vegas in a megafight against a champion who will make him feel like a visiting fighter. At 37, Martinez has an ego the size of the Thomas & Mack Center, and he probably won't like anyone, especially Chavez, to steal the spotlight from him. Ever since he started boxing, when he was a soccer player in his native Claypole neighborhood near Buenos Aires, Martinez has been waiting to become a star, and now he'll be able to become one. |
The fine art of handling fights
|Martinez became a professional after 41 unpaid engagements (Chavez never fought as an amateur), and after beating the best opponents Argentina could produce, he decided to take it to the next level. In 2000, he made his first trip overseas, and he lost to Antonio Margarito, a former three-time amateur world champ. With a broken hand, he didn't surrender. After that, he had to move to Spain (a country without a significant boxing industry), and from there he traveled to Manchester, Bristol, Belfast, Houston, the Bronx. Martinez grew stronger in spite of bad scorecards and close fights, and that has made him stronger in the face of adversity. Chavez, meanwhile, has never left Mexico and the U.S., all the while being protected by promoter Bob Arum. With 49 victories, two defeats, two draws and 28 KOs, Martinez has already learned how to handle a fight. |
Now you see me ... now you don't
|Sneaky and tough with a great defensive ability, Martinez will be an elusive target for Chavez. The southpaw fights with his legs just as well as he does with his arms -- the ones he keeps so dangerously low -- and more with his head than his heart. Chavez will face a fighter who will not be looking to clash directly onto him. That's why Chavez will have to take the role of the aggressor and look to fight inside. Martinez, a counterpuncher first and foremost, will seek to take advantage of the pressure that his opponent will feel in his quest for the early knockout. Martinez ended his past three fights in the last third: Sergiy Dzinziruk in the eighth round, Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin in the 11th. Since he lacks KO power, Martinez demolishes his opponents little by little. Like a Houdini of boxing, he knows how to disappear in the right moment to dodge a punch and then come back with one of his own. Of course, he is playing with fire, and a single mistake could be fatal. "Don't worry about me fighting with my arms low, worry about me keeping them high up," Martinez says. |
Experience and good judgment
|Martinez has demonstrated that he studies his opponents carefully. And in the case of Chavez, there is a predictable style because he comes forward in a straight line with a classic guard and specializes in body punching, which is a fearsome weapon when he has a fighter cornered. It's quite possible that Chavez does not have a Plan B. On the contrary, Martinez has demonstrated that he has at least two different scenarios planned in each one of his fights, and in this case he has studied the effects of Chavez's attacks. Just as the Mexican fighter accumulated 230 rounds of action, Martinez has fought 369 rounds as a pro, which gives the Argentine fighter some extra experience. Martinez's 37 years of age may end up being an advantage over the 26-year-old Chavez if this is evaluated from the standpoint of emotional balance. For others, however, it is a point scored for the Mexican. |
Three warriors and something else ...
|Neither fighter thinks about losing, but there's something that distinguishes Martinez: Psychologically, he is only ready for victory. He has gone as far as saying that Chavez is his only target. "I am sorry for him, because my planning has been elaborated as a cold and calculated billiard game," Martinez said. It's likely that Chavez will continue his career if he loses, but in the case of Martinez, this is a dead-end street, because he knows there is no "day after" in the event of a defeat. With his words, he has burned his ships, like the old Spaniard conqueror Hernan Cortes, and there is no return for him. For Martinez, failure is not an option. While the Mexican fighter stresses that he is younger, taller and stronger, Martinez also finds three warriors inside him fighting along him: "My body, my mind and my spirit. Three warriors within me, without counting the strongest one: my heart." |
Carlos Irusta is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.
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