Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KO) returns home to Argentina to defend his WBC middleweight crown against Martin Murray (25-0-1, 11 KO) on Saturday night at Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires.
It has been 11 years since Martinez fought in Argentina, but the country with a rich boxing tradition will welcome him home with open arms.
Martinez is likely the most popular Argentine fighter since the legendary Carlos Monzon.
But Murray has designs on ruining the homecoming. He has seemingly gotten better and better in his last three fights.
The man from St. Helens, Merseyside in the United Kingdom is ready to take on one of the true superstars of the sport.
Martinez is always entertaining and this fight shouldn't be an exception. Here's how you can catch the action.
When: Saturday, April 27, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Take a look at the trailer from HBO's YouTube channel.
Highlights of the Hype
Martinez Calls His Shot
Maravilla is certainly not outwardly lacking confidence. Taking a page out of Muhammad Ali's book—sans the catchy rhymes—Martinez didn't just boldly predict he'd KO Murray.
He also called the round his opponent would fall. He told Boxing Clever of Boxing Scene:
We have watched tapes of Martin Murray’s past fights, he is a come forward boxer and will give me a good challenge in the ring, but it will not be enough. The way I see this fight playing out in my mind, I will KO Murray in the eighth round.
We will see if Martinez proves to be a pugilistic prophet on Saturday night.
Murray Says He's Ready For a Hostile Environment
The challenger told Martin Urruty of ESPN he knows how to beat Martinez. But fighting the champion in Argentina is a huge challenge for Murray. This will be just the second fight of his career that takes place outside of the United Kingdom.
The first was a controversial draw with Felix Sturm in Feb. 2011 in Sturm's home country of Germany. The dynamics are similar for this fight as Sturm was the defending champion (WBA) at the time.
Murray will be hoping to prevent history from repeating itself.
The Book on Martinez
Is the Fall-off Coming?
Martinez survived a thrilling 12th round to defeat Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. in Sept. 2012. He regained the WBC title with the win. Take a look at the fight's exciting conclusion:
He hasn't lost a fight since he dropped a majority decision to Paul Williams in 2009. He brutally avenged the loss with one of the most vicious KOs in boxing history the following year.
You've probably seen it, but if you haven't, here it is:
The big question for this fight, and for all subsequent Martinez bouts will be his age.
He is 38 years old, which is genuinely a major concern, unless of course you're Bernard Hopkins. If he's headed for a B-Hop-like run, he'll win a world title in the year 2023.
Under normal circumstances, fighters with unorthodox hands-down styles and tendencies like Martinez, worry me even more as they advance in age.
They depend a lot on the instincts and reflexes that Father Time naturally strips them of. Is Martinez ripe for a fall? The way he finished the Chavez Jr. fight possibly supports that thought.
He looked tired at the end of that physically and emotionally grueling bout, but his heart saw him through.
He may need another gutsy performance to win this fight as well.
In the Ring
Martinez has been one of the smoothest athletes at 160 pounds in the sport. He moved exceptionally well for 11.5 rounds against Chavez Jr. That was ultimately the trait that spurred him to victory.
Though sticking and moving was the game plan that night, don't think Maravilla can't bang.
We didn't see his power quite as much against Chavez, Jr., but one look at the massive left hand that dropped Williams tells you that he packs a punch.
Against Murray, movement will again be the objective. If he can stick to this strategy, he has an excellent chance to out-box his opponent.
Murray brings a few different skills to the table than Chavez Jr. did, but he also lacks a few of the latter's qualities.
Ultimately we know style makes fight. As a mover, Martinez has the athletic advantage. The only question is whether he be able to keep up the pace for 12 rounds.
The Book on Murray
Big Chance, Big Challenge
This fight doesn't just represent a step up in competition for Murray, it also marks the first time the challenger will have fought in a venue with such a large audience.
He told Urruty the expected 40,000 fans at Club Atlético VélezSarsfield is more than twice the amount of fans he's ever performed for. Martinez's talent is a major challenge, but the environment is another impediment Murray will have to conquer. Things didn't exactly work out the last time he fought in his opponent's back yard.
The aforementioned bout with Sturm rendered a controversial decision. The fight was ruled a draw by the judges, but some such as his promoter Ricky Hatton called the decision a robbery.
It certainly appeared Murray had won the fight to me as well.
The home-field advantage is real, but it isn't the first hill Murray has had to climb.
The 30-year-old has seen some ups and downs. He did a prison term that delayed his career, but he is now fortunate enough to have the biggest opportunity of his professional life before him.
A win would vault him into more opportunities against some of the biggest names in the sport.
Taking on the winner of the Gennady Golovkin-Matthew Macklin clash in a unification bout is a possibility, but that's just one option.
All Murray has to do is win now, but that is clearly easier said than done.
In the Ring
Murray throws solid combinations, goes to the body and he is a well-built middleweight. Though he doesn't have a staggering KO total associated with his record, he is a good puncher.
Murray easily dispatched Jorge Navarro with a sixth-round KO in Nov. 2012. The win gave him the interim WBA middleweight title and setup this title shot against Martinez.
Here are highlights of that bout:
Murray has been in the ring with a few quality foes like Sturm, but he hasn’t faced a mover like Martinez.
Although he isn’t as hard of a puncher as Chavez Jr., he may have to try and build on his late-round success against the champion. Martinez expended so much energy staying away from Chavez Jr. that he seemed to tucker out late in the fight.
Murray can't match speed with Maravilla, but wearing him down with body work and pressure is a smart and practical approach.
What is your prediction for the fight?
If he can employ his strategy, he will be looking for a late stoppage to pull the upset.
Murray is capable of winning this fight, but I don't believe he will. He may have his moments, he may even drop the champion, but ultimately Martinez will prevail.
His speed and movement will be big in this fight. He's always in tremendous condition and I believe he focused on stamina as he trained for this bout.
It is always a possibility that a 38-year-old fighter can grow old before our eyes. If that happens, Martinez will likely be stopped in this bout by a younger, hungry fighter.
I see him holding up for at least another fight. My prediction is an unanimous decision for Martinez that will delight the fans in Buenos Aires.
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