Sergio Martinez made an enormous statement with his one-punch knockout of Paul Williams on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. Photo / Naoki Fukuda
Sergio Martinez: Manny Pacquiao is beating up on overmatched opponents. Floyd Mayweather Jr. isn’t fighting at all. Martinez might be the fighter about whom we should be most excited. The late bloomer from Argentina gave us the most-thrilling moment of 2010 on Saturday, a chilling one-punch knockout of Paul Williams in Atlantic City that was reminiscent of Pacquiao’s KO of Ricky Hatton last year. Martinez was hovering near stardom after strong performances against Kermit Cintron and Williams and defeating Kelly Pavlik to win the middleweight championship in April. This put him over the edge. That kind of knockout -– especially over someone as accomplished as Williams -– resonates with fans, who will never look at Martinez quite the same.
Paul Williams: The talented two-time welterweight titleholder won’t be avoided quite as much now. A distraught Williams said the only thing he could say after he was rendered senseless by Martinez: “I just got caught,” implying it could happen to anyone. Probably true. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to bounce back, though. Williams, only 29 but a 10-year veteran, will have to rebuild his reputation and his confidence, which probably is shaken after enduring something he had never experienced. Williams has been one of the most-dangerous and resilient fighters of the past five or six years. Now we’re really going to see how tough he is.
BEST FIGHTER OF 2010
Sergio Martinez: Pacquiao turned in two more emphatic victories in 2010, easily outpointing Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Floyd Mayweather Jr. dominated Shane Mosley. My Fighter of the Year so far? Martinez. The Argentine took Kelly Pavlik’s middleweight championship and stopped Paul Williams. Mayweather beat a future Hall of Famer but he was old. Martinez beat two feared opponents at least near their primes. Pacquaio? Forget it. His opponents were too weak. Among other candidates: Fernando Montiel and Juan Manuel Lopez. And keep an eye on Jean Pascal, who fights Bernard Hopkins on Dec. 18. Victories over Chad Dawson and Hopkins would be impressive.
Martinez’s next step: Where does Martinez go from here? He could pursue fellow 160-pound titleholders Felix Sturm, Sebastian Sylvester and Dmitry Pirog but none of those matchups stirs the imagination. He probably could fight at 154 if he had to but who would he target? Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley have their eyes on other opponents and Margarito is no longer a viable opponent. A rematch with Kermit Cintron is a possibility but not too exciting. The best option at junior middleweight — and a sure-fire action fight — would be Alfredo Angulo if the Mexican can resolve his immigration issues. Another option is to move up in weight and take on the big names at 168. Martinez just grew into the middleweight division, though. He’s not a super middleweight. And what about Pacquiao or Mayweather? They wouldn’t fight this guy.
Martinez vs. Pacquiao: The thought of pursuing a title in a ninth weight class (middleweight) undoubtedly has crossed the minds of Pacquiao and Co. It won’t happen against Martinez. First, Pacquiao learned in his victory over Margarito how physically taxing even an easy victory can be when you’re in the ring with a much bigger man. Martinez is bigger yet and a much, much better fighter than Margarito. He’s big, fast and athletic, the last middleweight Pacquiao would ever want to face. Mayweather? Same thing. Martinez is too big, too good. Can you imagine that punch landing on the face of a natural junior welterweight or welterweight? I’d rather not. And neither would Pacquiao and Mayweather.
MOST DISTURBING I
Pacquiao vs. Mosley?: Mosley seems to be the leading candidate to be Pacquiao’s next opponent if Mayweather remains out of reach. He has taken control of his future by dealing directly with Bob Arum of Top Rank and is confident he’ll be the man. Arum told the Los Angeles Times that Mosley is “a real possibility.” The thought makes me sick. Mosley’s performance against Mayweather was stark evidence that his skills have faded. He underscored that perception by struggling to a draw against Sergio Mora. A younger Mosley would’ve given Pacquiao hell. The 39-year-old version would be overwhelmed by the Filipino’s speed and ability. Does anybody really want to see Pacquiao engage in another mismatch?
Pacquiao vs. Berto: Arum reportedly also has reached out to Andre Berto. This matchup would be perfectly acceptable. Berto is a legitimate welterweight. He’s undefeated. He holds a major title. He’s young (27). And he has the tools (including speed) to compete with Pacquiao. Would Berto win? Of course not. Mayweather is the only fighter near Pacquiao’s weight class who could beat him if the Filipino prepares himself properly. Still, this is no mismatch going in, as the Pacquiao-Margarito fight was. But I wonder how serious Arum is about Berto because of his relative anonymity. Mosley would generate more money because of his name and probably would be easier to beat. Plus, Mosley desperately wants the fight. From a business standpoint, this is a no-brainer.
Pacquiao and African-American fighters: Bernard Hopkins suggested that Pacquiao, who has feasted on forward-moving Mexican fighters, would have trouble with quick, slick African-American fighters. Well, Pacquiao would face a challenge against any quick-handed, skillful fighter of any race. Mayweather certainly fits that mold. Beyond him, though, who is there? Mosley was once that fighter but he has lost a step. Berto (a Haitian-American)? He’s quick but probably doesn’t have the skill set. There is no one else. And don’t suggest that Pacquiao has avoided African-Americans during his phenomenal rise to the top of his field. He went after the top fighters at each of his weight classes and, generally, they just happened to be of Mexican descent.
MOST DISTURBING II
Marquez vs. Morales?: Talk of a fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales is also nauseating. Marquez, who would have to beat Michael Katsidis first, is actually older than Morales (37 to 34) but much-better preserved. Marquez looked horrible against Mayweather at welterweight but went back down to lightweight to fight Juan Diaz and demonstrated that he remains an elite fighter. Meanwhile, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Morales retired in 2007 after losing four consecutive fights. His skills had clearly eroded after so many wars. Naturally, 2½ years later, he came back and proved nothing by beating two journeymen. Marquez-Morales is a marketable fight because of their names. It’s also a gross mismatch. Marquez would pound Morales into submission and we’d all ask the same thing afterward: “Why?”
Lou DiBella, Martinez’s promoter: “Neither Manny or Floyd watched this fight and said, ‘Hey, I want to fight Sergio Martinez.’”