Sergio Martinez, a dashing and highly talented boxer, turned professional in December 1997, in his homeland of Argentina. Martinez proceeded to go undefeated in his first 17 fights while building a record of 16-0-1. During this time period, Sergio faced opponents of all styles and caliber, helping him to develop and work on slick combinations, superior hand speed, excellent footwork, punching power, and most importantly; his winner’s mentality, all now highly developed skills he has at his disposal as a seasoned fighter.
In February 2000, Martinez received the opportunity to fight outside of Argentina for the first time, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, in Las Vegas. Despite his inexperience, the offer was too great to pass up. There he suffered his first defeat as a professional at the hands of Tijuana's Antonio Margarito, a highly decorated former three-time world amateur champion. Martinez then returned to his native Argentina for a fresh start.
With an injured hand and abandoned by his promoter, "Maravilla" refused to let the Margarito loss taint his intrinsic “fighter’s” will. The warrior proved his spirit was still strong and returned a mere two months later, in April 2000, to reel off eight straight victories in his homeland over a two-year period, including knockouts over Adrian Walter Daneff and Javier Alejandro Blanco to capture the WBO Latino and Argentine (FAB) welterweight titles, respectively.
Now a titlist, Martinez matured tremendously as an elite athlete and skilled technician. He took the time to hone his craft, make the necessary adjustments, and advance toward perfecting his style.
On October 27, 2001, in defense of the Argentine (FAB) belt, Martinez TKO’d Sergio Ernesto Acuna in seven rounds in Buenos Aires. It was an impressive win for Martinez because the experienced Acuna was the ex-FAB champion, having been stripped of the belt a year earlier.
Following one more victory in Argentina, Sergio left home with not much more than a plane ticket to Europe and a handful of telephone numbers. After four days of train travel, he arrived in Madrid, Spain, minus his suitcases and his phone book that were lost along the way. A desperate Martinez managed to contact countryman Pablo Sarmiento, who at the time was an IBO 140lb. world champion.
Martinez settled in the city of Guadalajara training under Gabriel Eduardo Sarmiento, the brother of Pablo. Sergio became part of the stable of Ricardo Sanchez Atocha. Under Sarmiento’s tutelage, Martinez went on to win four fights in Spain, proving that he could win on the road.
On June 21, 2003, at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, England, an esctatic Martinez captured the IBO 154-pound world title via unanimous decision over 17-1-1 Richard Williams. “Maravilla” impressed everyone present as he showcased his unique style, speed, will and prowess.
His next two IBO defenses were on enemy turf (the United Kingdom) where he faced Adrian Stone (33-4-2) and fought a rematch against Williams, stopping both; Stone in twelve and Williams in nine.
In January 2005, after Sergio had vacated the IBO title, he fought for the WBC Latino 154lb. belt against Albert Airapetian in Castilla y Leon, Spain. Martinez scored a knockout win in 11 rounds, after he dropped Airapetian three times in the deciding round. This win was highlighted by a very unusual event in boxing. After the bout, Airapetian’s brother (also a pro middleweight boxer) entered the ring and attacked Martinez. As a result of the injuries from this attack, Martinez received ten stitches in the back of his head.
Following this bout, rumors began to circulate of an imminent world title shot. Determined to stay sharp and hopeful for this potential opportunity, Martinez stayed busy with five victories over the likes of Alvaro Moreno Gamboa, Tomaz Tskrialashvili, Presente Brito, Vasile Surcica, and Oliver Tchinda, including two successful defences of the WBC Latino title.
After numerous postponements, the WBC finally granted Martinez an elimination bout for their 154lb. world crown. Sergio faced Mexican Saul Roman at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Houston, Texas, on April 27, 2007. Returning to the United States for the first time since his lone defeat to Margarito, a determined Martinez destroyed Roman in four one-sided rounds, ending the bout with a vicious body shot.
In spite of the Roman fight being an official eliminator, the title opportunity continued to be elusive. At this point, Martinez decided it was time to make a smart career move. He signed with prominent promoter Lou DiBella, of DiBella Entertainment, based in New York City. The move was designed to help Sergio become a more well-known name in the U.S. and win a world championship.
“Being a part of DiBella Entertainment (DBE), Sergio will have a wealth of opportunities and will finally be recognized by the whole boxing world,” said DiBella, at the time. “I’m happy to be working with Sergio, his manager Ricardo Sanchez Atocha, and the rest of Team Martinez. He will become a legitimate world champion!
“I’m also proud to be working with world-renowned international matchmaker Sampson Lewkowicz, who assisted us in making the deal to sign Sergio,” said the DBE President. “Sampson is one of the true stand-up individuals in the sport and one of the best minds in the world of boxing.”
With DiBella’s guidance, Martinez had started to become a crossover star under the DBE banner. After one more fight in Spain, stopping Pavel Florin Madalin in four, on October 6, 2007, Martinez fought four fights in the United States, in the Bronx, New York, Las Vegas, Connecticut and California. Impressed American fans soon became enamored by the Argentinian/Spanish sensation. Within ten months, Sergio had earned victories over Russell Jordan (TKO4), David Toribio (UD4), Archak TerMeliksetian (TKO7) and Alex Bunema (TKO8).
Martinez’s triumph over the #1 world-rated Bunema, on October 4, 2008, at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, CA, was a masterpiece. Sergio flawlessly outboxed and outclassed Bunema with his signature quick southpaw style. The ringside doctor eventually stopped the fight before the beginning of the ninth round. Martinez picked up the interim WBC 154lb. title with the victory, seen on HBO.
The newly-crowned titilist was back in action on Valentines 2009, but there was hardly any love in the air when he stepped in with former welterweight world chamion Kermit Cintron. It had appeared that Martinez was a knockout winner in the seventh round when he dropped Cintron, who was then counted out by referee Frank Santore. However, after a lengthy commotion, it was ruled that Cintron had risen before Santore had counted to ten, and Santore only waved his arms to signify the end of the round. Still, after twelve stanzas had concluded, most observers felt that Martinez won the majority of the rounds. Yet, the judges saw it another way, ruling the bout a draw with two scores of 113-113, while the third judge tallied 116-110 in Sergio’s favor.
In May 2009, the WBC elevated Martinez’ status from interim to full champion at 154lb. due to the inactivity of titleholder Vernon Forrest. Tragically, the two never got the chance to meet in the ring because on July 25, 2009, Vernon Forrest was murdered in a senseless act of gun violence in his home city of Atlanta, GA. The impact of Forrest’s death hit the boxing community, including Martinez, hard.
"Vernon Forrest was a great fighter," Martinez said. "I always dreamed of fighting Vernon because it has always been my goal to prove myself against the very best. The tragic news put both my life and boxing career in perspective. Vernon and I both shared a love for children and helping those who had become disadvantaged. This is why I did not just look up to him as a boxer, but as a human being. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."
While maintaining his status as WBC champion, Martinez moved up in weight on December 5, 2009, for the biggest fight of his career up to that point, a showdown with one of boxing’s pound-for-pound best, Paul Williams, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In a bout that saw both men hit the deck in round one, Martinez and Williams gave fans a nip-and-tuck battle widely revered as the “Fight of the Year.” In the end, Martinez lost a razor-thin—if not controversial—decision, but his brilliant effort put the boxing world on notice. Scores were 115-113 Williams, 114-114, and an absurd scorecard of 119-110 also in favor of Williams.
On April 17, 2010, Martinez challenged WBC/WBO/The Ring Magazine unified middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik at Boardwalk Hall. In the same venue where he battled Williams, Martinez and Pavlik put on an equally memorable contest. In the early rounds, Martinez’ boxing skill held sway. However, in the middle rounds, Pavlik began establishing himself, and in round seven dropped Martinez. Sergio arose with renewed vigor and continued to use his speed and superior boxing skills to control the last four rounds and win a clear-cut unanimous decision.
After a long deliberation, Martinez chose to relinquish his junior middleweight title to continue campaigning at middleweight, where his hero, and fellow Argentinian, Carlos Monzon, reigned in the 1970s.
On November 20, 2010, Sergio Martinez returned to Boardwalk Hall once more, again to do battle with Paul Williams. If their first contest was the “Fight of the Year” for 2009, their rematch easily netted Martinez “Knockout of the Year” honors for 2010. With one booming left hand in the second round, Martinez turned what had been a competitive fight into one of the most brutal knockouts in a big fight in quite some time. With the win, Martinez retained the WBC and Ring Magazine middleweight titles.
To cap off 2010, Martinez was lauded by nearly every publication and organization—including ESPN, the Boxing Writers Association of America, Yahoo Sports, Sports Illustrated, MaxBoxing.com, Boxing Digest, BoxingScene.com, AOL Fanhouse, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Secondsout.com, and The Ring Magazine—as “Fighter of the Year.”
On March 12, 2011, Martinez dispatched of WBO junior middleweight champion Sergiy Dzinziruk in seven rounds, at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods, in Connecticut. Dzinziruk, who entered the ring with a perfect 37-0 record, was supposed to give Martinez fits with his superb boxing ability. But as the HBO commentary crew pointed out in the early going, Sergio Martinez ended up “out-jabbing the jabber.” Martinez went on to drop Dzinziruk in the fourth and fifth rounds, and then three times in the eighth round to take home the WBC Diamond middleweight championship.
In his last ring appearance of 2011, Martinez challenged the British and European middleweight titlist, “Dazzling” Darren Barker, on October 1, back at Boardwalk Hall. After wading through a few rough patches, Martinez figured out the determined underdog’s style, and slowly dismantled the Brit over 11 rounds, defending his WBC Diamond belt. In the final frame, with Sergio on the attack, a combination upstairs, concluding with a right hook, dropped Barker for the full count at the 1:29 mark.
Martinez began 2012 making his debut at Madison Square Garden in New York City, fighting Irishman Matthew “Mack the Knife” Macklin, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Macklin was coming off his controversial decision loss to “Super” WBA middleweight titlist, Felix Sturm, in the belt-holder’s native Germany. Similar to the Barker fight, Macklin had success early, as Martinez warmed up to find his rhythm. In round seven, from the combination of a Macklin punch and getting their legs entangled, an off-balance Martinez touched the canvas with his glove and the referee ruled it a knockdown. Realizing that the scorecards may be close, Martinez came out for round eight with renewed vigor and proceeded to break down the challenger over the next three rounds. Near the end of round 11, a powerful straight left from Martinez sent Macklin crumbling to the canvas. He arose only to be met with another Martinez barrage that dropped him a second time. In between rounds, Macklin’s corner elected to stop the contest, awarding Martinez the TKO11 victory.
On September 15, Martinez finally challenged the man who he’d been chasing for the past two years, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. When the WBC stripped Martinez for not meeting his mandatory against Sebastian Zbik, a nondescript opponent who even HBO refused to approve, Chavez was then maneuvered to face Zbik for the vacant title. Over the course of four title defenses, Chavez managed to elude Martinez until Chavez-Martinez was the only fight that made sense to determine supremacy of the middleweight division. Fans supported the event in droves with a live attendance of 19,186 at the sold-out Thomas and Mack Center (the highest ever at that arena), in Las Vegas, NV, and 475,000 pay-per-view buys, generating $25 million in domestic television revenue.
Martinez punished Chavez for 11 one-sided rounds, dishing out a severe boxing lesson and demonstrating his vast superior speed, technique and ability. The Argentinean kept Chavez at bay with his southpaw jab and footwork then bloodied his foe with powerful pinpoint lefts and combinations.
With three minutes remaining, Chavez managed to trap Martinez against the ropes and drop him in stunning fashion. Showing the heart of a true champion, Martinez rose to his feet, clearly still dazed and hurt. Bravely, he elected not to hold on and shave the clock, but to fight back and trade. Exciting exchanges ensued until the final bell rang, ending one of the most dramatic championship rounds in boxing history. Scorecards read 118-109 twice, and 117-110, all for Martinez, who reclaimed the WBC title that he felt had been wrongly taken from him. Chavez suffered the first loss of his career.
Sergio represents boxing in a positive light, just as a champion should. Always looking to lend a helping hand toward community efforts, Martinez often visits women’s shelters and speaks vociferously against domestic violence and bullying of any kind. In 2011, Sergio met a 13-year-old middle school student from Connecticut named Monique McClain, who came to him for advice, as she had been a victim of bullying. Since then, Martinez, bullied in his own youth, has done all that is in his power to comfort the young woman, and the two have forged an unbreakable bond. She has sat ringside at all of his fights in the tri-state area and was even invited to spend time with Sergio at one of his training camps in Oxnard, CA.
More background information on Sergio Martinez:
Martinez was born on Feb. 21, 1975, in Quilmes, Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is the middle brother of three. His father, Hugo Alberto, was a metal worker, who along with his wife, Susana Griselda, saw the need to uproot the family in order to provide food on their table, traveling between Quilmes and Mar del Plata.
Sergio Gabriel made it through elementary school and later took English courses as well as commercial secretarial classes. Eventually, he had to forgo his studies when he saw the need to help his father feed the family by working from sunup to sundown.
From a very young age, his athletic ability was evident. He starred on his local soccer team, Claypole, where he was the leading scorer. At the age of 20, Sergio came very close to being signed by 1st Division Los Andes. He competed alongside players that today are still active in the top leagues of Argentina.
Following a family tradition, Sergio began to box at the age of 20. He was so talented that, only five weeks later, he made his amateur debut and was victorious over Jose Pisani.
During this period, he was being handled by his two uncles; Raul and Carlos Paniagua. His unique crowd-pleasing style caught on, making him a hit with fans as well as the news media. Early on, Martinez was given the moniker of "Maravilla" or “Marvelous One" and it has stuck with him ever since.
Over the course of an outstanding amateur career, with a total of 41 bouts, Martinez was a two-time Argentine champion as well as an Inter-Continental champion. He was a member of the National Team where he participated in the 1997 World Amateur Championships in Hungary, along with teammates Omar Narvaez, Javier Alvarez, Fabricio Nieva, Guillermo Saputo, and Santiago Nieva.
Martinez’ talent was recognized early on locally, as he was honored with the Firpo99 Award, given to the “Rookie Boxer of the Year,” in Argentina, a distinction also acknowledged by the newspaper, Clarin.