Who should Sergio Martinez fight in 2014?

boxing  photoBy Thomas Cowan: Sergio Martinez is the current WBC middleweight champion and has been recognized as the best middleweight in the world for the last four years, a claim that is now being strongly challenged by the performances of WBA champion Gennady Golovkin. Since he was stopped by Antonio Margarito in 2000, only Paul Williams has defeated “Maravilla”, and that was a controversial majority decision, which Martinez avenged with an explosive 2nd round knockout.

However, the Argentinian legend has shown signs of fading in his last three fights. In 2011, he was losing to British challenger Matthew Macklin after ten rounds before a combination of Martinez turning up the gas, as well as Macklin running out of it, saw Sergio forced an 11th round stoppage. Then in 2012, Martinez faced highly hyped Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Martinez out-boxed Chavez with ease for 11 rounds before the Mexican rallied in the 12th, cutting Martinez badly and knocking him down. To Maravilla’s credit, he fought his way out of trouble instead of running and holding and managed to survive the late onslaught.

In April of this year, Martinez returned to his native Argentina for the first time in 12 years, where he faced Martin Murray. Despite Murray being quite a light puncher, he knocked Martinez down and threatened to spoil the homecoming. Martinez was visibly frustrated, complaining to the referee throughout and was lucky to win a decision in a fight many felt Murray won. After the fight it was revealed Martinez had suffered hand and knee injuries that he originally picked up against Chavez and that he would not fight again this year. Despite his poor performance, Martinez is still box office but you would assume with his fading skills and the fact he’ll turn 40 in February 2015 would mean Maravilla will look for a big money fight in 2014.

Option 1: Mayweather/Alvarez winner

Martinez has been touted as a possible opponent for Floyd Mayweather in the past few years and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has expressed an interest in facing him. Mayweather has a six-fight deal with Showtime and Alvarez fights on Showtime, as do all Golden Boy fighters, while Martinez fights on HBO. I’m not sure if Martinez would be able to switch to Showtime but if he can’t that puts a Mayweather/Canelo fight out of the question.

If the network issues could be resolved, Mayweather would definitely want Sergio to move down to light middleweight to make that fight. Martinez hasn’t fought at 154lbs since 2009 and weight draining is much harder for an older fighter. Mayweather’s preferred weight is welterweight so it’s more likely than he will face the winner Devon Alexander vs Amir Khan or the winner of Lucas Matthysse vs Danny Garcia at welterweight. I’d give Mayweather vs Martinez a very low chance of happening because of these issues.

If Canelo beats Mayweather (which in my opinion is unlikely), a fight with Martinez could be possible. Unlike Mayweather, who has plently of options at welterweight, Canelo has very few options at light middleweight. Canelo already beat Austin Trout, and the only better is probably Erislandy Lara and the only bigger name is probably Miguel Cotto. Canelo is way too big to fight at welterweight, so he will soon be forced to move up to middleweight. The fight would do very well on pay-per-view because Canelo is hugely popular with Mexican fans and Martinez is well known in Mexico thanks to his victory of Chavez. If network issues could be solved, there would be a decent chance of this fight happening and it would hugely enhance Maravilla’s legacy if he could win, although I’d back Canelo to get a narrow victory.

Option 2: Chavez rematch

The 12th round of their first encounter meant that there is some interest in a rematch and the WBC has already ordered Chavez to face Marco Antonio Rubio with the winner to fight Martinez. The problem with this is that it’s not a huge money fight and Sergio’s legacy won’t be massively enhanced even if he wins every round because Chavez is just too limited.

I don’t think the fight will happen because I don’t think Chavez can fight a middleweight again. He’s simply too big for 160lbs and draining down from the 180s is only going to have a negative effect on his performance in the ring. He looks skeletal at weigh-ins and the draining process is making him look tired and sluggish in the ring. Chavez will probably fight at super middleweight from now on and there’s no point Martinez moving up to face a fighter he’s already beaten.

Option 3: A unification fight at middleweight

Martinez also has the option of facing one of the other middeweight champions. Unbeaten American Peter Quillin, who holds the WBO belt, is very beatable although this is another fight where Showtime/HBO issue would arise. IBF champion Daniel Geale is equally beatable and seems to be looking to break into the American market, making his US debut against a former Martinez conquest, Darren Barker, next month. However, Geale and Quillin aren’t that highly rated and those fights wouldn’t be pay-per-view potential. Geale vs Martinez on HBO is possible in 2014, Geale looking to enhance his reputation by beating Maravilla and Sergio trying to pick up another belt to cement his position as the world’s top middleweight.

A fight between Martinez and WBA champion Gennady Golovkin would definitely be pay-per-view worthy but whether Sergio would have a good chance in that fight is debatable. Golovkin is destroying every fighter in his path and Maravilla’s punch resistance appears to be declining. Martin Murray is a light puncher and he had Martinez hurt. Unless the Martinez of 2010 showed up, Golovkin probably stops him inside 8 rounds. Martinez and his promoter Lou DiBella have made positive noises about the fight but I highly doubt it’s going to happen because Golovkin is high risk and low reward in financial terms.

Option 4: Moving up to super middleweight

A fight with one of the super middleweight champions is an option for Martinez which would allow him to become a two-weight world champion. At 5ft 10”, Martinez is a bit small for a super middleweight but he’d be a still be a strong favourite against WBC champion Sakio Bika and WBO champion Robert Stieglitz, both of whom are under 6ft. Those are good fights if Martinez doesn’t want an opponent who is too dangerous.

A win over WBA (super) champion Andre Ward would propel Martinez up the pound-for-pound rankings and would establish him as one of the best fighters of the 21st century. However, Ward doesn’t have the fanbase for that fight to make the sort of money that a fight with Saul Alvarez would, and Ward is an even harder opponent.

A fight with IBF/WBA (regular) champion Carl Froch has more chance of making good money. Froch has a huge UK fanbase and Martinez is well known by British fans thanks to victories over Barker, Macklin and Murray. I would also expect that HBO would be interested in televising that fight, as they did for Froch-Kessler II. Despite that fact Froch is 6ft 1”, he is quite a small super middleweight and only weighs around 161lbs on fight night. This means there is a good chance Froch would be willing to fight at a catchweight, possibly around 165lbs, which would be convenient for both fighters.

I think there’s a good chance a Froch vs Martinez fight will happen in 2014 because I think Froch and Eddie Hearn, his promoter, want to fit in a couple more pay-per-view fights before Froch rematches Ward, a fight he will probably lose. Both fighters are ranked top 10 in the P4P rankings (Martinez #7, Froch #8, according to boxrec.com) and the winner would probably be top 5.

I’d back Froch to win by stoppage because I don’t think Martinez can stand up to his power, but Maravilla’s hand speed, footwork and southpaw stance could give Froch problems.

Option 5: Miguel Cotto

Three-weight world champion Miguel Cotto could be a good option for Martinez. Cotto has a huge fanbase, which means his pay-per-view fights always bring in good figures. However, Cotto has lost two fights at the hands of Mayweather and Austin Trout. The Mayweather loss is not really an issue, but the poor performance against Trout has seen his stock drop. Cotto is returning to the ring in October against Delvin Rodriguez. If Cotto wins that and then beats a top 10 fighter in early 2014 then I see no reason why a catchweight fight between him and Martinez can’t be made for late 2014 and generate decent pay-per-view numbers.

Whether Cotto would stand a chance against Martinez is debatable. Cotto has always been a bit small to fight a light middleweight and fighting a top class middleweight like Martinez would be a tall order. Martinez is bigger, faster and slicker than Trout. However, Cotto isn’t going to get a big money fight against Mayweather or Canelo because of the Golden Boy-Top Rank issues, his Top Rank stablemates Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez aren’t going to fight him unless Cotto moves down to welterweight which is unlikely, so Martinez looks like the best option.

Martinez isn’t likely to get a fight against Mayweather or Canelo either, and the chances of him beating Froch aren’t great, so the only other big money option is Cotto and I think that’s a fight we’re likely to see in 2014 as long as Cotto doesn’t pick up any more losses.

That’s the fight I expect to see next year, who would you like to see Maravilla fight?



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