For a little over a round on Saturday, it looked like we were going to get another fight of the year candidate from Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was over. After the dust had settled from a stirring knockout, we were left looking at Argentina's Martinez—boxing's next superstar.
Martinez (46-2-2, 25 KO) might be a little late to the party at age 35, but has he ever made a major statement late in his career. His knockout of Williams (39-2-0, 27 KO), along with his points decision over former middleweight king Kelly Pavlik (36-2-0, 31 KO), make him a near shoe-in for fighter of the year.
The reason Martinez has taken so long to arrive at the peak of his sport has a lot to do with the fact that he didn't pick up the sweet science until age 20. An excellent all around athlete his entire life, he excelled in tennis, soccer and cycling before he found his true calling.
Sadly for boxing fans, this means we may not get to enjoy him for much longer; Martinez says he only wants a few more fights before retiring. He would love for one of them to be against Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr, but he admits that Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KO) might be a mismatch considering the size difference.
Mayweather (41-0-0, 25 KO) is a little easier to imagine as a middleweight, but his status as an active boxer is uncertain right now considering his legal troubles and his recent habit of taking long breaks in between fights.
So where does that leave Martinez? Another belt holder at 160 pounds, Dimitry Pirog (17-0-0, 14 KO) would be an interesting fight for hardcore boxing fans, but not the kind of big payday Martinez likely desires.
Promoter Lou Dibella has expressed interest in a fight with Miguel Cotto. Cotto (35-2-0, 28 KO) looked rejuvenated in his most recent fight, but you could forgive a lot of fans for not jumping out of their seats for this one. Cotto is significantly smaller, and the fight would likely have to be fought at yet another catch weight, something many hardcore fans are sick of in world title matches.
The fight would, however, likely draw in a large fan base as Cotto still has a huge amount of support, especially among Puerto Ricans. A middleweight title fight at say, Yankee Stadium, would be a lot of fun regardless of any other particulars.
Whoever he decides to fight next, Martinez is a true star. He's got my vote for fighter and knockout of the year just about locked up. Enjoy him while you can boxing fans, he won't be around forever.