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So far in this century, Sergio Martinez has been among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He will be elected to the Hall of Fame the first year he is eligible.
But the sad truth of the fight game is that even the very greatest fighters age and diminish in skills. And I believe that is the point Sergio Martinez has reached in his own career.
For most of his fight against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. last September, Martinez dominated. But the younger, bigger challenger kept coming on, and in Round 12, he nearly knocked Martinez out. "Maravilla" survived the round on guts, but was injured in the bargain and had to undergo extensive surgery.
Against Martin Murray in April, Martinez looked like a shadow of himself. He was knocked down in Round 8 and was lucky to escape with a 115-113 decision on all three cards. I think 115-113 was the correct score, but I also think a ruled slip by Martinez should have been judged as a second knockdown.
If that had been the case, the cards would have read 114-113 for Murray.
It would be easy enough to dismiss that as an off-night in most cases. And for the most part, that is how the boxing media has treated it. The bout was fought in a soccer stadium, during a rain storm, so ring conditions were far from ideal for a fighter who uses movement the way Martinez does.
But in this case, I see it as a sign of a more general decline. More notable than Martinez's in-ring performance was the fact that shortly after the fight, Lou DiBella told Dan Rafael of ESPN.com that Martinez would be be out for the rest of 2013 with another surgery and more rehab time.
The next time Martinez fights, he will be 39 and will have undergone three surgeries in two years. When I think about Martinez, I can't help thinking about Roy Jones, another dazzlingly athletic fighter who went from the top of the pound-for-pound rankings to over the hill—overnight.