When talking about the best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, two names come up: Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.
Sergio Martinez is 47-2-2, avenged his one loss in the last 11 years in highlight fashion and has dominated two of the sport’s most respected middleweights in Paul Williams and Kelly Pavlik.
Still, Martinez is always left out when analysts discuss boxing’s greatest active fighters. Here are six reasons why Martinez belongs in the conversation with Pacquiao and Mayweather.
No, I’m not talking about his wardrobe. I am talking about the way he fights, which is comparable to no one. Martinez is a slick southpaw with an unconventional approach.
He lures taller boxers such as Paul Williams, Kelly Pavlik and his Oct. 1 opponent—the undefeated Darren Barker—in by dropping his hands, then counterpunching as they throw jabs that are consistently just out of range.
With a career knockout percentage of 51, Martinez does not have exceptional knockout power, though it certainly was on display in the Williams rematch. What he does have is the ability to hurt his opponent at any point, which he does early and often.
To go with all the ability, Sergio Martinez also is one of the sport’s smartest fighters. Martinez dominates the range within a fight, something usually carried by the taller man with the superior length and jab.
Martinez darts in and out, waiting to counter his opponent's jab with a series of short hooks and punishing body blows before jumping back out of range. Martinez is one of the best you will ever see at dominating range, and often the man who wins that battle wins the war.
Martinez may have only won 51 percent of his fights by way of knockout, but his busy feet and active style allow him to get in the world’s most dangerous punch: the one your opponent does not see. That is, of course, how he ended the fight against the iron-jawed Paul Williams.
Martinez not only counters, but does so with the perfect complementary punch: short, dangerous hooks that come from either hand at any moment. The hooks may not always carry knockout power, but they hurt his opponent.
Martinez may have lost the decision to Williams in the first fight, but Martinez’s punches seemed to do more damage, and he gave Williams a nasty cut above his left eye as a result of those vicious right hooks.
Martinez knows his ability to counterpunch is his greatest asset as a boxer, and lures his opponent in by keeping his hands down. He then bobs around or under the punch and delivers those short hooks to the head and body, often doing damage while he avoids taking any himself.
The opponent usually ends up clinching, the ref breaks them apart and Martinez repeats the process through the course of the fight.
To go with the intelligence and power, Martinez is also one of the sport’s fastest fighters. If you don’t believe me, maybe HBO analyst Jim Lampley will convince you. “I believe Martinez is the fastest 154-pounder I have ever seen,” Lampley said after Martinez landed a devastating combination in Round 2 of the first Paul Williams fight.
Hand speed is great, and certainly will win you attention and fans. However, it is Martinez’s foot speed that allows him to fight the way he does. His feet are always moving, making his counterpunches that much more dangerous and effective.
In the first fight against Paul Williams, Martinez landed 40 percent of his punches, to Williams’ 31. In all, Martinez hit Williams just 46 fewer times than Williams hit him, even though Williams threw more than 300 additional punches. Those statistics are why it is difficult to say Williams carried that first matchup.
Volume punching is great and usually a telling stat as to who was the busier fighter. In this case, however, a lot of Williams’ volume “advantage” was due to the tall middleweight missing jabs (he landed only 27 percent of them) that Martinez was baiting him into throwing. A lot of them were out of range, and even more were dodged by Martinez as he countered judiciously.
Though Williams does deserve credit for allowing their first matchup to be an action fight, it was Martinez’s strategy that led to the disparity, not Williams being the more wiling fighter.
Sergio Martinez seems to never tire throughout a fight. Part of this is due to his conditioning—he eats, drinks and breathes boxing—but it is also due to his style.
As a counterpuncher, he does not waste energy on the table-setting jab, though he throws a great one.
He throws about 45 punches per round, a perfect amount to stay busy throughout a fight, yet also conserve energy for the later rounds. By conserving energy and allowing his opponent to be the aggressor with the jab, he keeps his punches crisp and dangerous for the entirety of the fight.
In fact, Martinez has only been stopped one time in his career: Antonio Margarito defeated Martinez by way of seventh-round technical knockout 11 years ago for Martinez’s first loss as a pro, when both men were relatively unknown up-and-comers.
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