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Over the past few years, Sergio Martinez has emerged as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, with knockout victories against Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams, fighters who at the time were considered to be among the best in their divisions.
Those accomplishments helped Martinez, a fighter from Argentina who spent most of his career fighting in Spain -- virtually anonymous to the rest of the world -- raise his profile and grant power to his voice. He has since become involved in community works, including serving as a spokesman against bullying in school and violence against women.
In the ring, Martinez is set to face nemesis Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for the middleweight championship at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Sept. 15 (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET), a highlight of the Mexican Independence Day weekend celebration.
ESPN.com enlisted HBO to get Martinez's thoughts on his career and his work as a public figure.
I would first make sure there is a strong amateur program that caters to younger fighters looking to get into the sport of boxing and provide them proper training. More often than not, especially in Spain and the United States, a lot of the younger athletes tend to gravitate more toward [soccer] and basketball. They have better amateur programs than boxing and there could've been some great fighters that never stepped in the ring because the amateur programs in other sports were far superior.
You can also attest the diminishment of the heavyweight division in America with not having a proper amateur program. Most of the great heavyweights now are coming from eastern Europe, and they are excellent fighters. They have the proper amateur training and schooling and support. In America, most of the large fighters that would be great heavyweights are being groomed to [play] American football and basketball.
On his involvement with multiple charities and causes and being a role model in a violent sport:
|Sergio Martinez is focused each fight on proving he belongs among boxing's pound-for-pound elite. He's also worked hard outside of the ring to be a voice for charities and causes in need.|
I believe that as a professional athlete in the public eye, it is my duty to be the voice to the individuals and groups that can't be heard. This is very close to my heart, and that is why I devote my time to many causes to bring awareness to these issues. I would agree ... that you do not have to act with a negative demeanor or a thuggish attitude in order to be a world-class fighter. In the end, the people that you are trying to impress with that attitude won't be there to help you once your career is over.
What is important is dedicating yourself to your profession and acting like a professional, and with hard work and a good, clean lifestyle, you can possibly be a world-class fighter. In my whole life, I have never drank alcohol or smoked tobacco, have always eaten healthy and always stayed active. I believe this is, physically, the recipe to being a world-class fighter. But it's also a mental challenge to get to that level. You have to be prepared mentally, and if you have some of the nuisances that come along with a thuggish persona, then it will be very difficult to reach that level of being a world-class fighter.
The up-and-coming fighters who will be on the world stage have to be cognizant that once you are in the public eye and have a public forum, that it's a great opportunity to give a voice and recognition to those who are less fortunate and bring awareness to social issues that normally wouldn't get the attention. My goal is to bring awareness to end bullying in schools and end domestic violence against women. I believe with the platform I have I could help out.