Saturday night middleweight champion Sergio Martinez dispatched of his latest foe Darren Barker, and with the victory came his usual shout-outs to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao for a potential showdown. Martinez is the lineal middleweight champion of the world and at least until this latest fight, in which he looked far less dominant than usual, was the consensus #3 pound for pound fighters in the world. Unfortunately though, Martinez and Co. do not understand the true breaks of the game and are in no position to make demands of a fight with either Mayweather or Pacquiao. Martinez and his promoter Lou DiBella seem to be conveniently forgetting the risk vs. reward factor in which fighters choose their fights. It is perfectly understandable for a fighter to choose a less risky fight for a greater or equal, even lesser payday than against another fighter who is far greater threat but brings less money to the table.
As it stands, Sergio Martinez is a high risk and low reward opponent to just about every big name in the sport. This is why he’s having trouble securing fights not only with Mayweather or Pacquiao, but with Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. as well.
The sad reality is that Martinez is simply not a household name yet and must either go the long road in order to get the big paydays, or simply wait until the fighters he wants have exhausted all other options and their promoters are ready to cash out. Sergio Martinez is not American, he does not speak fluent English, he is not from a country that provides an enormous amount of hometown support, and he has only been on the international landscape fighting on HBO for just over two years. It is unlikely that he will be able to fix any of that except for the latter, which of course is to simply trudge along until something big comes his way.
Being that he has been calling out the big names for a year now he obviously seems impatient for something that he needs to understand takes time. Historically, the middleweight division has not been ripe with enormous paydays, and previous greats have had to wait years with many title defenses before their big money fights came along. Bernard Hopkins had thirteen title defenses before his fight with Felix Trinidad came along. Marvin Hagler waited years and had numerous title defenses before his first big money fight with Duran came along and the Hearns and Leonard fights soon followed. It was a combination of circumstance with their opponents feeling ready to fight at middleweight combined with their own brand growing and gaining a crossover mainstream fanbase that eventually led to these paydays.
Unfortunately Sergio Martinez doesn’t seem willing to pay his dues like Hopkins and Hagler did and instead thinks that simply being ranked the #3 pound for pound fighter in the world means that welterweights like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao should risk everything against a phenomenal opponent with an enormous size advantage but who brings little money to the table. And don’t believe what Martinez will tell you otherwise. Yes, he has an enormous size advantage and is not a small middleweight. I have stood next to Mayweather just before starting his latest training camp and he looks, and said, that he weighed 150lbs, which was also the weight he came in at on fight night against Victor Ortiz. I have stood next to Manny Pacquiao three weeks out of his Margarito fight and he looks like a solid 144lbs, which he come in to fight at more or less. But I have also stood next to Sergio Martinez four weeks out of his fight with Paul Williams, and he looks to be a shredded and fully in shape 175 lbs. This was also the weight he came in at for his 30-day weigh in against Barker. Think he’s a small middleweight? Think again. He could easily move up to 168 and fight some of the bigger names and bigger paydays like Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, or Lucian Bute on their home turfs and sell out arenas. Instead, he’s crying about those guys being too big at the same time begging the two stars two weight classes below him to give him a shot. Him, the guy who brings very little money to the table beyond what a far easier ranked contender at their own weight class could provide. It is perfectly reasonable for Mayweather or Pacquiao to not be interested in fighting an exceptional opponent with a fifteen-to-twenty pound weight advantage. This is not the heavyweight division.
So what should Martinez do? Easy – continue making frequent title defenses on HBO and building his brand equity. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a fighter’s starpower. Sergio Martinez has plenty of business to take care of at 160lbs and he and his promoter ought to clean out the division before they continue whining about him not getting the fights he wants. And on that note – how about stop ducking Dmitry Pirog? Martinez and DiBella have no right to whine about being ducked by other fighters when they are at the same time refusing to unify with an undefeated belt-holder who poses a legitimate threat. For DiBella to suggest that it’s because Pirog brings no money to the table is the ultimate in hypocrisy from a guy who says that Mayweather and Pacquiao are ducking his guy.
Bottom line – look to Hopkins and Hagler as examples of how the game is played. In life and in boxing you’ve got to pay your dues and earn your keep. Simply being the best does not entitle you to being paid the best. Until Martinez has truly established himself as a big name in the sport, and another star comfortable taking that leap, don’t sit by that phone waiting.
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