Sergio Martinez and the Landscape of Boxing's Middleweight Division
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Sergio Martinez went into 2010 with a middleweight title shot against Kelly Pavlik. He left 2010 with the middleweight world championship, a bloody star-making victory over Pavlik and a shocking second-round knockout of an iron-chinned Paul Williams to avenge a close decision loss in 2009.
Fast-forward to 2013, a now 38-year-old Martinez barely escaped a fight in his home country of Argentina with a decision over previously undefeated Martin Murray. Martinez reinjured his right knee and left hand that required surgery in late 2012 after scoring a decision over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
The young and talented of the middleweight division have watched Martinez get knocked down in each of his three previous fights and they smell the blood of an aging king.
Martinez will sit out the remainder of the year due to his injuries and when he returns in 2014, he’ll want to make the biggest payday possible as his career nears its end.
Whoever proves to be the hottest star at the close of 2013 will be a top candidate for Martinez to face.
This opportunity has caused the best of the middleweight division to start calling each other out and taking tough bouts to earn their way into the ring across from the king.
The stars-in-the-making are plenty. The potential for classic fights is immense. Here’s a breakdown of who’s who, where they’re headed next and what do they stand to gain over the next half of the year.
The British Trio
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British middleweights Darren Barker (26-1, KO 16), Matthew Macklin (29-4, KO 20) and Martin Murray (25-1-1, KO 11) have all faced Sergio Martinez in that order.
Each fighter gave Martinez a tougher fight than the last. Barker was the first of the three to give Martinez a tough fight.
In 2011, Barker's high guard and long jab kept Martinez at bay until Round 11, when Martinez's speed and combinations helped him batter his way through Barker's guard and put him down and out.
Macklin also gave Martinez a tough fight, even knocking him down in Round 7 before being knocked down twice and out in Round 11.
Most recently, Murray gave Martinez his toughest fight in years this past April. Murray knocked Martinez down in Round 8 and lost a very close decision.
Each of the British middleweights is either signed to fight or being sought after for a major fight.
Barker will face IBF champ Daniel Geale on Aug. 17, according to BBC.
Macklin is in Spain training for a June 29 showdown with WBA champ Gennady Golovkin, according to Birmingham Mail.
Murray was initially approached by popular Mexican fighter Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., but World Boxing News reports those negotiations have broken down. Where Murray goes from here is unknown, but after his competitive and exciting performance against Martinez, HBO will want him back in the ring soon.
The Hyped vs. the Accomplished
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IBF champ Daniel Geale (29-1, KO 15) and WBA champ Gennady Golovkin (26-0, KO 23) have a history with one another. Geale once owned the belt wrapped around Golovkin's waist.
Geale won his IBF title by defeating Sebastian Sylvester in Sylvester's home country of Germany. Then he unified against another German fighter in former WBA champ Felix Sturm, also in Germany.
The Australian champ received an offer to face fellow Aussie fighter Anthony Mundine in what would not only be a superfight in his hometown, but a chance to redeem his only loss.
The WBA issued Geale a mandatory fight with Golovkin in order to keep his title. Geale went with the more lucrative fight and lost his WBA belt.
Upon being stripped of the belt, Geale gave this warning via ESPN, "as I proudly remain the IBF world champion, I wish the WBA and whoever they crown the same short-lived pleasure, as I will be coming to reclaim what is rightfully mine."
Now Geale will make his American debut against Darren Barker on Aug. 17 in what is sure to be a competitive fight in New York, fighting in the same casino where Golovkin made his American debut.
While Geale is certainly the more accomplished fighter, Golovkin's amateur background, which includes a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and frightening punching power, have garnered him arguably more hype.
Though his knockout wins over Grzegorz Proksa, Gabriel Rosado and Nobuhiro Ishida proved entertaining, his June 29 fight with Matthew Macklin will help validate the hype.
Should Golovkin and Geale come through their upcoming fights unscathed, it's very possible the two could clash sometime in the fall/winter season on HBO in a unification likely somewhere in New York.
The Golden Problem
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WBO champ Peter Quillin (29-0, KO 21) has been an exciting fighter in his two previous knockout victories on Showtime against Fernando Guerrero and Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam.
The only problem for Quillin is that most of the division is fighting on HBO and not Showtime. When Quillin's promoter Golden Boy aligned themselves with Showtime, HBO discontinued doing business with the promoter, according to a report from ESPN.
HBO fighters like Golovkin and Martinez won't bite the network hand that feeds them for a fight against Quillin, at least not until he becomes a lucrative enough superstar to make the jump worth it.
If Golden Boy can't make nice with HBO, Quillin's only promising clash at present is one with former rising star Danny Jacobs (25-1, KO 22).
Jacobs was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, but he came back a winner, going 3-0 with each win coming by way of knockout since his return to boxing.
With Quillin's last two bouts being at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Jacobs being from Brooklyn, a fight between the two at Barclays makes a lot of sense from a money standpoint.
With Jacobs' power and Quillin's ability to send his opponents to the canvas (11 knockdowns in his last three fights), their matchup will be a thriller when it finally goes down.
The Prodigal Son
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Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (46-1-1, KO 32) has been sitting on the shelf since his Sept. 15 fight last year against Sergio Martinez. He lost to Martinez by unanimous decision in the first loss of his career.
He tested positive for marijuana and was fined $900,000 of his $3 million purse by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, according to ESPN. He was also suspended for nine months.
The one positive thing that came out of his fight with Martinez was the final round, in which he dropped Martinez and nearly knocked him out.
The round managed to help repair Chavez's reputation after he took a brutal beating for 11 rounds against Martinez.
Along with his final-round rally against Martinez, his popularity in Mexico due to him being the son of a legend has allowed him to continue being a factor at middleweight.
The question is: How long can he stay at middleweight?
He's drained himself down to the 160-pound middleweight limit only to balloon up to nearly 190 pounds on fight night against his opponents. As he gets older, it'll only get harder to make the weight.
How long will he be a factor in the division is hard to say, but if he remains, an HBO Pay-Per-View rematch against Martinez is quite possible next year. The original fight earned both fighters their highest purses. So long as Chavez keeps winning, the logical path is to try to make the fight again.
The King's Return
Sergio Martinez revels in the aftermath of a star-making performance.
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Sergio Martinez will undoubtedly have a lot to think about as he takes the rest of 2013 off. Many contenders will do battle this year and he'll have to consider who will be worth fighting when he returns.
As the contenders unify championships and eliminate each other, Martinez won't have to think too much. Come 2014, the answer will be clear as a sunny day with no clouds.
Though the field is crowded now, the cream will rise to the top. These fighters are hungry and they want to feast on championship blood.
When the next top contender comes for Martinez, either the young contender will leave with a full belly as the Argentine lies motionless on the dinner plate or Martinez will rip the fangs out his younger foe and reveal his older ones are still intact.