Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sergio Martinez Is The True Middleweight Champ If He Handles England’s Darren Barker

By Rich Mancuso

Lou DiBella continues to say that Sergio Martinez is the number one fighter in the world. His middleweight champion does not have the title, stripped because of boxing politics. So after wins over Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams he gets a title called the WBC Diamond belt. That can be an insult, but the 36-year old from Argentina will be in discussion as the number one fighter if he defeats the undefeated, 23-0, Darren Barker of England at Boardwalk Hall Saturday evening in Atlantic City.

Sensing the urgency that Martinez is at the pinnacle of his career, DiBella, who is co-promoting the HBO televised fight, has every reason to petition his fighter into bigger paydays. Possibly a future meeting with Manny Pacquiao or Miguel Cotto, if Martinez decides to move down in weight, though there should be no inkling of looking past Barker.

Martinez has difficulty conveying his message in English. He leaves that to DiBella and his advisor Samson Lewkowicz. They say Martinez gets limited credit for defeating Williams in a first round knockout last year at Boardwalk Hall. Maybe boxing fans give Martinez minimal credit, but the boxing writers gave that KO an award as knockout of the year.

“I respect Sergio but from the first time I saw him I know what it will take to defeat him,” said Barker Wednesday afternoon in New York City at the final press conference. Barker wants to prove he belongs in the ring with Martinez. He was not a mandatory challenger and should he pull off an upset, DIBella and Martinez will be eating their words because there will no longer will be a discussion about lucrative pay days.

But, a fight like this is what makes boxing a compelling sport. We don’t know much about Barker, with the exception that he can throw a punch and Martinez will have to use his defense to stop him. “We worked on more tactics and strategy this time,” Martinez said through an interpreter. “I worked on my speed and endurance. I want my title back. It was taken from me. I can’t focus on that now. Barker is first and I will take it from there.”

Every time DIBella puts Martinez in discussion as the number one fighter, the ultimate debate begins. Better than Manny Pacquiao, or Floyd Mayweather Jr.? The New York City based promoter has petitioned Top Rank promoter Bob Arum for Pacquiao. They never seem to get to first base. Arum has a plan for Pacquiao, one for Cotto and Antonio Margarito. Mayweather is another situation, and with Arum focused on Pacquiao defending his welterweight title against Juan Manuel Marquez, any plan for Sergio Martinez at the moment gets the silent treatment.

But DiBella believes Martinez deserves to be in the discussion towards getting a lucrative opportunity in the ring with Pacquiao or Cotto. Martinez has heard that Pacquiao mentioned his name. “He said if I went down to 150, he would fight me,” says Martinez. “I gave the go ahead. I will fight him. I am waiting for an answer.”

Cotto and Margarito are concentrating on their fight at Madison Square Garden December 3rd. Martinez is planning to be there at ringside, something that will make things interesting if all goes to plan Saturday evening on the boardwalk. “I hope Margarito wins because Cotto won’t fight me,” says Martinez. That has nothing to do with weight or Cotto avoiding Martinez. It is an issue that DiBella has been elaborating with Arum over the past year.

“Bob won’t give Sergio a chance and we have to do what is best for boxing,” says DiBella about the situation. So for now, Martinez is this talented fighter looking for opponents. The WBC middleweight title belt now belongs to another Arum fighter, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. “I want to recover that belt but he is avoiding me also,” says Martinez about a potential fight with Chavez.

The suggested Martinez fight with Chavez could mean big business. “But that dream is going away from me,” he says. “I am focused right now on Barker. I can’t look beyond that. I can’t plan on anyone beyond Saturday. If things go the way as the styles show then I should win this fight by knockout. He has a good style and good skill.”

So there is every reason to believe that Sergio Martinez will continue this path to bigger paydays. Pavli k and Williams were bigger in size that puts him in that category to be considered as the number one rated fighter. And that question will remain unanswered until the big fight comes, and Barker, as much as he has the reputation in England, is relatively unknown here.

That makes boxing interesting. And what makes Sergio Martinez interesting is to come to know the unexpected.

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