Sergio Martinez Exclusive: Return of the King

By Caryn A. Tate on May 12, 2014
Sergio Martinez Exclusive: Return of the King
His disciplined behavior hearkens back to champs of yesteryear: (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

For years he was one of the most avoided boxers in the sport—he was at that difficult place where he offered much risk with little financial reward…

It has been four years since Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) won the lineal middleweight championship from Kelly Pavlik. Hailing from Quilmes, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Martinez is an unusual and unorthodox fighter not just in the squared circle but in nearly every respect. He didn’t start boxing until he was 19 years old; instead, he played football (soccer) and practiced bicycle racing. His background in these other sports, many believe, is what helped to create such endurance in the mobile and athletic pugilist. Once he began boxing, he says he knew it was the sport for him and fell in love with it. After turning professional in 1997, he fought his way from Argentina to Spain and, finally, to the United States as he attempted to work his way to the top of the food chain. For years he was one of the most avoided boxers in the sport—he was at that difficult place where he offered much risk with little financial reward.

Finally, he got the boxing world’s attention with three successive fights: he fought the also-avoided Paul Williams in a fiercely competitive, exciting bout which many believed Martinez won—albeit closely. The judges, however, disagreed and awarded the win to Williams. In Martinez’s next fight, though, he fought the skillful and heavy-handed Kelly Pavlik, a man who weighed about fifteen pounds more than himself on fight night. Despite that fact, Maravilla’s intelligence, skill, and speed proved too much for Pavlik and he was awarded the clear victory. Then Martinez fought Williams in a highly anticipated rematch. With a single blow delivered in round two, Martinez knocked Williams out cold and won Knockout of the Year of 2010.

Since then, the speedy, athletic southpaw has remained on top in the middleweight division and takes immense pride in being a champion. In many ways, his disciplined behavior hearkens back to champs of yesteryear: he’s respectful and courteous with everyone, even his opponents (provided they don’t disrespect him), he takes on all comers, and he is always in shape. Outside the sport, he is a champion of bullied children through his activism in the It Gets Better campaign. In addition, he helps raise awareness and supports legislation in the fight against domestic violence towards women.

Martinez is a busy man who is often in the spotlight these days. In addition to his June 7 HBO pay-per-view title defense against Miguel Cotto, a documentary focused on the fighter, Maravilla, made its successful premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2014. The documentary showcases the gripping underdog story of Martinez’s career, with a focus on the 2011 WBC political debacle that led to the fight against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. The official trailer can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5UfkYbMkRQ

Maravilla graciously took time out of his busy training camp for this exclusive interview with Boxing.com.

How are you feeling physically? I saw a video of one of your recent workouts and you looked great, agile on both legs and using both hands with power shots to the heavy bag. Are you pleased with how your training is progressing in the lead-up to the fight?

Sergio Martinez: Physically I feel great. My rehab went very well and according to plan. Also with the help of my physical therapist Raquel Bordons, I am back to where I was before the Chavez fight. Training camp has gone very well. We start sparring very soon and my motivation to give a superb performance at Madison Square Garden is at an all time high.

You have stated that you will knock out Miguel Cotto by the ninth round. What makes you so sure of this, and what makes you so sure of which round it will happen by?

SM: I have studied Cotto’s prior fights and believe with the strategy that Gaby, Pablo, and myself come up [with] there will [be] no chance for Cotto to finish the fight on his feet.

You’re a fighter who values mental strength nearly as much as physical strength and skills in the ring. What do you do to prepare yourself mentally and spiritually for a fight? And does it vary based on the fight or the opponent?

SM: I believe preparation is big factor in my success and I feel I prepare more than any other fighter out there, due to the fact that I did not grow up in the sport. Because I started late I have to work three times as hard as someone who came up in the sport. During training camp I have a very regimented schedule which is never disrupted and that lets me relax and concentrate on the victory. This does vary based [on] the caliber of my rival.

It seems that as you get older, you actually get more knockouts than you had when you were younger. What do you attribute this to?

SM: Devising better strategies with my trainers Gaby and Pablo to find flaws in my opponents where I can capitalize and utilize my strength to land and execute accurate punches that end the fights. In my earlier career it was more based on my athletic ability and not much prefight planning on the opponent.

Obviously you’re completely focused on Cotto and the fight on June 7. But briefly, for the fans, can you comment on other fighters you might like to face in the future? Canelo, Golovkin, Sturm? I would love to ask about Mayweather but it doesn’t seem that fight is going to happen, and the weight difference might be too big an issue for the Pacquiao fight to happen. But can you comment on any others you might like to take on once the Cotto fight is over?

SM: I would like to fight again in my home country after this fight or Las Vegas. I let my team decide who would be the most appropriate opponent but I am not afraid of any fighter and they are aware of that.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Caryn A. Tate 04:53pm, 05/15/2014

    Thank you Pete & Clarence! Glad you enjoyed it. I was really happy to have the opportunity to ask Maravilla some questions. Great champion and a great person all around. We shall see what happens on June 7—should be a very entertaining fight :)

  2. Gajjers 02:40am, 05/13/2014

    Gotta give Cotto credit for taking the fight - he’s gotta lotta cojones, that man does. Can’t see him winning, unless Martinez has regressed immensely since his Pavlik/Williams days. Martinez v GGG? Dicey one for Sergio, but he’s got the guile to defuse GGG’s best weaponry, should he remain disciplined in there (he almost came a cropper against JCC Jr.). Should be intriguing though. Props to all these pugilists!

  3. Clarence George 04:53am, 05/12/2014

    What a coup, comely Caryn!  You remind me of myself when, in my salad days, I used to interview champs left, right, and center.  Well I remember the time I ran into Stanley Ketchel in a valley outside Missoula, Montana.  The bitter winter of ‘08, that was.  Surrounded by both Injuns and desperadoes…well, I’ll leave that for another time.

    I like and respect Martinez, but you could knock me over with a feather if he ever steps into the ring with Golovkin…where he’d be knocked over by something considerably more than a feather.

  4. Pete The Sneak 04:41am, 05/12/2014

    Caryn, nice write up on one of the classiest athletes in sports, Sergio Martinez. It’s hard what to make of Maravilla these days, as he has been gone for almost a year and change and his last fight with Martin Murray (in Argentina) almost turned disastrous for him. If his knee is indeed healed up the way he says, I can see Sergio giving my Boricua brethren, Miguel Cotto all kinds of problems with angles, movement and quick jabs and combinations Cotto will not see coming. That, and the fact that this is Cotto’s first foray as a middleweight. However, if that knee is not 100% and it limits Sergio’s mobility, I can see Cotto trying to get Martinez on the ropes and try to work that body (as Roach has him conditioned to go back to doing more of these days) and make this an ugly fight that would benefit Cotto. As far as Sergio’s 9th Round KO prediction? Possible, but not likely. This should be a good fight though…Peace.

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