This was his coming out. He’s always been a superstar, at least in his mind. Sergio Martinez believed his stunted growth in boxing was just a matter of opportunity. He was willing to fight anyone anywhere. But he didn’t reap the rewards that should have come his way, like being robbed in fights against Kermit Cintron and in his first bout against Paul Williams.
Martinez was stamped an unappreciated champion, someone who deserved far more mainstream appeal and attention than he received. And he did. Saturday night he may have smashed that threshold by destroying the overmatched and overhyped Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Martinez established himself—finally—as a superstar to the uninformed. He was already a superstar for the boxing cognoscenti. He’s considered among the top three pound-for-pound fighters in the world by the handful of respected media that still cover boxing.
By the third round, Chavez had a bloody nose. By the fifth round, it was obvious that Martinez was in a totally different class than the slower, awkward Chavez.
Chavez was terribly exposed, hardly getting off anything, and Martinez never allowed Chavez to set up. In the last round, Chavez, to his credit, had Martinez in serious trouble with a right to the temple. But in the end, a wobbly Martinez held on and won convincingly 117-110 and 118-109 twice on the scorecards.
That wasn’t what Chavez trained for in his living room—moving his chairs around. The chairs didn’t move. Martinez did. He landed 322 punches of 908 punches thrown, to Chavez's 178 connects of 390 punches thrown.
Julio Chavez Jr. was everything bad about boxing—and in a larger sense—society today. He lived a privileged life as the son of a boxing legend. He did nothing to warrant his lofty status.
For a disparity in justice, all one needed to know was Chavez received $3 million with additional pay-per-view revenue for this fight, while Martinez, the true world middleweight champion, got $1.4 million and some PPV crumbs.
How fair was that?
Then again, hardly anything has been fair for Martinez. He’s everything that’s good about boxing. Bullied as a child and shot at and made to dance as bullets spit dirt, Martinez grew up in one of Argentina’s worst slums, lugging hammers and nails to his father’s construction sites.
He didn’t get into the sport until the relatively late age of 20. It’s why he drives himself the way he does and why he sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber. He appreciates the commitment and dedication that goes into success. He didn't want to go back to that life.
Chavez never appreciated success because of his famous surname. Martinez grabbed it any chance he had.
As he did Saturday night.
Stopping his last four opponents wasn’t enough. Martinez was still stripped of the WBC title by WBC czar Jose Sulaiman, who happens to be Chavez Jr.’s godfather—a move to make it available for Junior. Beating the likes of Williams, Kelly Pavlik, a pair of undefeated fighters in Serhiy Dzinziruk and Darren Barker and stopping Alex Bunema wasn’t enough—not for Martinez.
All Chavez had to do was beat the game Andy Lee, halting past-his-prime Peter Manfredo Jr. and decisioning Marco Antonio Rubio hardly counts in comparison to whom Martinez has been in with.
This was supposed to Chavez's showcase. The whole thing was set up to pass the torch from his Hall of Fame father to him. Who was kidding whom here? Chavez never possessed his old man’s skills. He never deserved to get the title shot against a superstar like Martinez.
Martinez proved that. It’s probably why it galled him so much how the media and promoters all fawned over Chavez.
But in the end, justice was delivered. The future now belongs to someone who’s worked to achieve a better future—not someone who had been handed a title.
The future looks very bright for Martinez, hopefully setting up something against Floyd Mayweather, since Martinez is a smallish middleweight or a deserved megafight with the fighter who was down the street, Canelo Alvarez.
It’s what is right and just. Martinez deserves it. He’s a superstar. He knew it. It’s about time the rest of the world notices.