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Sergio Martinez: 5 Fighters He Could Face Next After Dispatching Darren Barker

James FoleyCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2011

Sergio Martinez: 5 Fighters He Could Face Next After Dispatching Darren Barker

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    Pictured above is one Floyd "Money" Mayweather. What does he have to do with the next opponent of Sergio Martinez?

    Sadly, probably nothing.

    It's the fight I most want to see behind Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao. A fight that could be done at a catch-weight as low as 154.5 pounds to put the lineal middleweight championship of the world on the line. This could potentially be a crowning achievement for the history-conscious Mayweather and the opportunity of a lifetime for Martinez.

    But I think the odds of it happening are about 1000-1. Also, I have no clue why Martinez already said he would drain all the way down to a stark 150 pounds to fight Mayweather or Pacquiao when his would-be rivals have yet to show the slightest interest in fighting him at any weight.

    He's given up tremendous leverage and nobody is even at the table yet.

    Lou DiBella, Martinez' promoter, has been unfairly maligned. It's not his fault that Martinez can't get a big fight. But if I were Lou, I would start to get creative. Offer options on future fights. Hell, if Mayweather ever gets in the ring with Martinez, DiBella should cut Floyd in on 50 percent of his future fights if Martinez hands him his first loss.

    Mayweather is a businessman. Maybe he would strike a deal if Mayweather Promotions got some kind of piece of Martinez in the event of Mayweather losing. I think being the first man to beat Mayweather and gaining that kind of recognition would more than double Sergio's future career earnings.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but either way, don't count on Martinez grabbing a mega-fight with the likes of Mayweather or Pacquiao anytime soon. And Martinez vs. Hopkins is not happening, either.

    Let's look at some of the more realistic options for Martinez' next fight, shall we?

JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR.

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    Odds: 25-1

    Chavez is arguably the biggest name in the middleweight division, though not necessarily by virtue of the young man's achievements.

    Being the son of probably the most popular Mexican fighter of all time has its benefits, especially in gaining rapid popularity with modest achievement in the ring. The downside is that Chavez is somewhat unfairly judged and criticized because of his name.

    Chavez being a middleweight "champion" recognized by the WBC is an absolute sham. But so are the other hundred fighters in the world wearing alphabet belts. The circumstances by which Chavez came to his strap were extremely dubious. But the true fans know that Martinez is the rightful middleweight champion, and that's exactly why Chavez is unlikely to fight him in the near future.

    It may have just been hollow talk, but WBC president Jose Sulaiman, who paved the way for Martinez to be basically stripped and gave Chavez the opportunity to win the belt, recently stated that Chavez must fight Martinez or risk losing it.

    I hope he stands by that.

    Regardless of how that plays out, it's hard to believe Bob Arum will send his young cash cow into the ring with the maniacal warrior that is Martinez.

ANTONIO MARGARITO

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    Odds: 20-1

    Antonio Margarito will face his former victim Miguel Cotto on December 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York. He will be an underdog in the fight, though not a huge one.

    Both men have more question marks than definitive answers at this point in their careers, but that's another story. It's a highly anticipated fight with plenty of potential for fireworks.

    An interesting tidbit about Martinez is that his first loss, and only loss other than the semi-controversial decision in the first Paul Williams fight, was over ten years ago to a young, more accomplished Margarito. Margarito became a superstar and one of the best welterweights of the decade.

    He then became one of the sport's biggest villains when he was caught attempting to fight with loaded gloves against Shane Mosley, which immediately cast doubt on several of his signature wins, especially his brutal thrashing of Cotto.

    Around that same time, Martinez, who had been fighting in Europe, started making a name for himself with good showings on HBO against Kermit Cintron and Paul Williams. He seized the day with a huge win over Kelly Pavlik to become middleweight champion. Margarito served a suspension for his wrongdoing and came back to take a massive beating from Pacquiao.

    I don't have a whole lot of love for old Margarito, but if he can beat Cotto again, he's by far the biggest-name opponent that would conceivably fight Martinez. As a Martinez fan, I wouldn't mind that happening because I think it would get him more exposure than he's ever had.

FELIX STURM

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    Odds: 15-1

    Sturm vs. Martinez would be a fight between the two best middleweights in the world according to most list-makers.

    Sturm fights almost exclusively in Germany and was recently seen in a rugged battle against Matthew Macklin, a fight many people are convinced Felix lost and was awarded a gift decision. Sturm is a skilled technical boxer, an adept counterpuncher and a tight defender. He hasn't lost in over five years, defending his WBA belt ten times in the process.

    The problem is, Sturm makes very good money in Europe, enough that HBO can't really give him that much more to lure him into the ridiculous challenge that is Martinez. Maybe that will change if there's a perception that Martinez didn't look as good against Darren Barker in his recent fight, but it's doubtful.

    Sturm has expressed very little interest in this fight.

DMITRY PIROG

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    ODDS: 8-1

    Pirog came to the U.S. in July of 2010 as an opponent for then-hot Golden Boy prospect Daniel Jacobs. The fight was meant to be a coronation, a vacant WBO middleweight belt on the line and a chance for the young contender to become champion on paper.

    Then the unthinkable happened.

    Pirog caught Jacobs with a perfect punch and Jacobs has barely been heard from since. Pirog took the belt back home to Russia and joined the group of European champs who regularly call out Martinez but don't make a lot of effort to actually fight him.

    Pirog is by most accounts as capable and legitimate a contender as Martinez has in the division, so it's a very respectable fight to be made. Despite my knock above, Pirog does sound like he really wants the Martinez fight, so if the two sides and HBO can get it done, I'm all for it.

    But I think there's another man who may have an inside edge.

MATTHEW MACKLIN

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    Odds 4-1

    I think Macklin, or potentially his fellow Irishman Andy Lee, have to be considered the front-runners to fight Martinez because they share his promoter, the fiery Lou DiBella.

    Lee has also been on the televised undercard of the last two Martinez fights on HBO, and performed admirably in avenging his lone defeat to Brian Vera this past weekend. But I believe Macklin would be viewed as the more credible contender by virtue of his impressive effort against Felix Sturm.

    There have been rumblings of a St. Patrick's Day card featuring Macklin and Lee, with one of them presumably fighting Martinez. In a perfect world, they would fight each other and Martinez would be on a massive pay-per-view against Mayweather (although if the world was perfect, it wouldn't be PPV).

    But Macklin, an aggressive swarmer who was all over the slick Sturm for twelve rounds, is as competent a challenger for Martinez as there is at this point. He's Ring Magazine's third-ranked middleweight contender behind Sturm and Aussie titlist Daniel Geale.

    Defending against a top-three guy is completely defensible for Martinez. Would Macklin stand a chance? Very little. But he'd be as hard-working and entertaining a foil for Martinez as exists right now in the division.

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