Maravilla: Boxing’s Hidden Gem

By David Matthew on September 29, 2011
Maravilla: Boxing’s Hidden Gem
At the age of 36, when most fighters are clearly regressing, Sergio Martinez is peaking

I observed a confident, relaxed, and jovial Sergio Martinez strolling through the casino at midnight before the fight—with two attractive, vibrant women…

La Maravilla is the title of a classic piece of Chicano literature written by Alfredo Véa Jr. and refers to the “passing on to another world.” Sergio “Maravilla” (Spanish for wonder) Martinez (47-2-2 26 KOs) is an extraordinarily rare pugilist found dominating opponents in various four-corner canvases who has recently passed on to another world in the boxing stratosphere as he has skyrocketed to the top of the sport in a shockingly sport span of time. Amongst boxing experts, Martinez is a top-three pound-for-pound candidate highly revered for his all-action style, eccentric athleticism, and willingness to turn any fight into a high-risk gunslinging exchange of boxing bravado. After knocking out former pound-for-pound stalwart Paul Williams with a shocking one-punch knockout that pulled the plug out of the socket in their highly anticipated rematch, along with a one-sided decimation of Kelly Pavlik, Martinez received 2010’s Fighter of the Year honors by The Ring and BWAA respectively. Nonetheless, it remains likely that casual fans are still unfamiliar with Martinez—despite his shooting star-like ascension to the top of the sport. That is in itself a travesty exposing the inability of boxing to promote its most prominent stars.

Maravilla’s story is an unlikely one. In a sport where the overwhelming majority of top fighters begin boxing before they reach their teens, Martinez never stepped into a boxing ring until he was 20 years old. That fact alone would have turned off most trainers. I can almost hear them exclaim in Yoda-like fashion, “Nope—too old to begin training. Impossible.” Nonetheless, Martinez is an exceptional athlete and began developing his skill-set rapidly. A former professional cyclist and soccer player, Martinez’s athleticism is virtually unmatched in the sport. At the age of 36, when most fighters are clearly regressing, Martinez is peaking. With a style all of his own, Martinez stands in front of his opponents bouncing on his toes with his hands at his waist begging his opponent to try and hit him—dashing in and out of the pocket with sneaky right hooks and hard straight left hands. The supreme quickness of Martinez allows him to get away with breaking all the rules of defensive fighting, while his ultra-confident no-holds-barred style has treated boxing fans to unforgettable action.

“It is impossible to look good against Sergiy Dzinziruk, but Sergio has not only looked good, but sensational! This is perhaps his most impressive performance to date.”—Max Kellerman, March 12, 2011

In his last bout against the previously unbeaten Sergiy Dzinziruk, Martinez was supposed to have his hands full against a tough opponent who had never been knocked down. Martinez never got that message. When I arrived at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Connecticut for that bout, I observed a confident, relaxed, and jovial Sergio Martinez strolling through the casino at midnight before the fight—with two attractive, vibrant women on his arm, nodding to us with respect and genuine joy as he was enjoying the calm before the storm. You couldn’t help but be captivated by Maravilla’s charisma. I remember thinking to myself, “How is this guy not a top celebrity—not just in boxing, but in sports altogether?” While many experts ringside expected Dzinziruk to spoil the late winter evening at Foxwoods, Martinez looked spectacular in deconstructing Dzinziruk’s defensive shell. Martinez scored multiple knockdowns before finally bewildering Dzinziruk with his blistering speed and multi-directional precision punching that saw the sturdy Dzinziruk stumble face first onto the canvas before the ref finally called off the action. It’s one thing to look good against guys like Pavlik and Williams who are more than willing to trade and exchange punches, but it’s quite another to look spectacular against an opponent unwilling to engage. 

Despite his meteoric rise in the sport, Martinez still struggles in his quest to face a signature opponent that can further define his legacy. As Martinez prepares for a title defense against European, Commonwealth and British Champion Darren Barker (23-0, 14 KOs) this weekend in Atlantic City, it is abundantly clear that his sights are set on bigger fights. This is not to say that Barker isn’t a formidable fighter, but he is simply not in Martinez’s class. Martinez has earned the right to face the best in the sport. Whether it’s a fight with Miguel Cotto at 154 pounds (which would be huge if Cotto defeats Antonio Margarito in their Dec. 3 rematch) or a fight with Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayeather (the only two fighters in boxing regarded as being better pound-for-pound performers than Martinez), it will be an injustice to both Martinez and the sport if the boxing world does not see such a matchup manifested. There are those who say that Martinez is too big for either Pacquiao or Mayweather. However, when one considers the fact that Pacquiao faced Margarito at 150 pounds, and Mayweather faced De La Hoya at 154 pounds, that argument doesn’t hold water. Martinez has made it clear that he is willing to face both Pacquiao and Mayweather at a 150-pound catchweight. 

The truth is it’s a classic case of Risk v. Reward for Pacquiao and Mayweather when it comes to facing Martinez. Despite being handled by one of the best minds in boxing—Lou DiBella, who has done a masterful job in promoting Martinez—Sergio still lacks the fan base and name recognition that both Mayweather and Pacquiao demand from their opposition. Additionally, Martinez is far more dangerous for both Mayweather and Pacquiao than other available opponents. In the game of boxing politics, a win over Martinez would not render the degree of attention it merits among casual fans, while a loss against Martinez would destroy the respective legacies of both fighters. Of course, in the realm of healthy competition and fair matchmaking, none of these factors should matter and the best should simply fight the best. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. Nonetheless, the boxing public should demand that Martinez be afforded the opportunity to define his legacy against the very best in the sport, and that can begin by tuning into HBO Saturday night at 10 PM/EST to watch Maravilla defend his title against England’s Darren Barker.

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Sergio Martinez vs Darren Barker Boxing Promo/Preview

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HBO Boxing: Miguel Cotto's Greatest Hits (HBO)

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  1. The Thresher 12:12pm, 09/30/2011

    If you got to get drained, that’s better than spitting, doing laps, or spending time in the steam room.

  2. mikecasey 04:09am, 09/30/2011

    I’d like to be Sergio just to find out!

  3. Joe 03:03am, 09/30/2011

    When Maravilla KO’d The Punisher I started to really believe this cat could fight.  He’s got that hands down / bouncing style down to a tee and he looks good while doing his thing.  I just hope those “attractive vibrant” women don’t drain the life out of this guy.

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