Middleweight champ Sergio Martinez is riding high — all the way to No. 3 in THE RING's pound-for-pound rankings — after his one-punch knockout of Paul Williams on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. Photo / Naoki Fukuda
Sergio Martinez’s sensational one-punch knockout of Paul Williams on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J., did more than solidify his status as the best 160-pound fighter. It established the 35-year-old middleweight champion as one of the top three fighters in the sport.
Martinez (46-2-2, 25 knockouts) didn’t just enter the highly anticipated return bout as the defending RING middleweight champ. The Argentine veteran was also THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior middleweight and No. 6 in the magazine’s pound-for-pound rankings.
Williams (39-2, 27 KOs), who won their first bout by a hotly contested majority decision in December, was THE RING’s No. 2-rated middleweight and No. 5 in the pound-for-pound rankings.
Thus, the spectacular manner in which Martinez bested his peer prompted THE RING’s editorial board to elevate him to No. 3 on the pound-for-pound list, behind Nos. 1 and 2 Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Most fans believe Martinez has earned his new placement. The athletic southpaw out-pointed Kelly Pavlik for the middleweight championship in April. Prior to beating Pavlik, Martinez gave Williams hell in a fight of the year candidate that many observers thought he won.
Lou DiBella, Martinez’s promoter, believes the winner of the rematch should be considered in the same class as the top two boxers on everybody’s pound-for-pound list.
“This fight firmly establishes who is third behind Pacquiao and Mayweather,” DiBella said at the final press conference a few days before the fight. “If given the chance against Nos. 1 or 2, I think (the winner of this fight) would beat either guy.
“If one guy wins (the rematch) dominantly, I think he can beat his chest and say ‘I’m the best in the world until someone proves otherwise.’”
Martinez definitely won in dominating fashion.
“I want to be No. 1, pound for pound,” Martinez told RingTV’s Bill Emes through his adviser, Sampson Lewkowicz, after the fight.
“And you know who is No. 1 pound for pound, beside Pacquiao,” Lewkowicz not-so-subtlety said about Mayweather, who he believes is a more-realistic matchup for Martinez. “Pacquiao is too small for (Martinez). (They are in) two different weight classes. That fight is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy of all the press.”
Most would say that Martinez-Mayweather is also a fantasy given the undefeated star’s current legal problems and his reluctance to fight Pacquiao.
With the lack of notable fighters at middleweight, Martinez was asked about the possibility of Martinez venturing to the 168-pound division to find a big fight — specifically against undefeated titleholder Lucian Bute, THE RING’s No. 1-rated super middleweight.
“Oh wow, he’s a great champ, a great, great champ,” Martinez replied without the help of Lewkowicz’s translation when he heard Bute’s name mentioned.
“This is the fight he really wants,” Lewkowicz said. “He wants to do it. He wants to prove he can do it, and he will do it.”
It’s a fascinating matchup on paper but it wouldn’t be easy to make. Bute recently signed a multi-fight deal with Showtime. And though Martinez does not have a contract with HBO, the middleweight champ has a strong working relationship with Showtime’s rival network, which has televised his last five fights.
DiBella isn’t against a Bute-Martinez fight but he’s not high on the idea, either. The New York City-based promoter isn’t ready to give up completely on the possibility of his fighter taking on one of the two superstars of the sport.
“Like everybody else on earth, I'd like to see (Martinez) against Pacquiao or Mayweather,” DiBella said. “Do I think it will happen? No, but he’ll go down to 154 (pounds) and do what he has to do to make a fight. If one of them shows the championship spirit to want to fight him, we’ll do whatever we have to do make a deal.”
DiBella believes Pacquiao is probably more willing to face Martinez than Mayweather, but he doubts the Filipino hero’s handlers will allow him to take on such a dangerous challenge.
“Freddie Roach said something revealing when he said that Sergio Martinez fought more like Manny than any other fighter,” DiBella said, “and Sergio is a lot bigger than Manny. It makes me think that Freddie would probably not want the fight. But ask Freddie. If he wants the fight, God bless him, we’ll be right there making it.”
DiBella isn’t criticizing Roach for not wanting his fighter to rise too high in weight. He feels the same way about his fighter.
“I don’t want to quash (talk of Martinez fighting at 168 pounds) but we looked at 160 because he couldn’t get fights at 154,” he said. “(Martinez is) not a super tall or physically big-boned middleweight. The idea of going up (in weight again) and fighting a guy who’s physically that much bigger (is not appealing). It would have to be for huge money. I don‘t see (fighting at) 168 (pounds) being a viable option right now.”
Which begs the question: What does Martinez do next given that he’s the best fighter in a division most consider void of talent?
“He didn’t fight at 160 pounds for this fight, he fought at 157 pounds,” DiBella said, reminding fans of the catchweight that Team Williams insisted on. “He can make 154 pounds. That’s not an issue. It’s not about (the middleweight division being) devoid of talent. It’s about who the f___ is going to want to get in the ring with him.”
RING RATINGS UPDATE
Zolt Erdei (No. 5 last week) departs because he has returned to the light heavyweight division, which bumps up everybody rated below him last week up one spot each. Guillermo Jones is back at the No. 10 spot.
“Erdei’s long layoff and his prosaic eight-round decision over club fighter Samson Onyango was not sufficient to earn him a spot in the 175-pound class, especially as he hasn’t fought as light heavyweight since January 2009,” said Nigel Collins, Editor-in-Chief of THE RING magazine. “If, however, he continues to campaign successfully as a light heavyweight, Erdei will most likely return to the ranking in the near future.”
Williams falls from No. 2 to No. 4 following his devastating K loss to Martinez, the world champion. This allows Kelly Pavlik, who went the distance losing the title to Martinez, to advance from No. 3 to No. 2. Sebastian Sylvester (No. 4 last week) is now No. 3.
Now that Martinez (No. 1 last week) has settled in at 160 pounds, he is removed from the junior middleweight ratings. All those rated No. 2 and below last week climb one rung each. Filling the void at No. 10 is Saul Alvarez.
Martinez’ KO of Williams elevated him above Juan Manuel Marquez and into the No. 3 slot, while Marquez is now No. 4. Williams (No. 5 last week) exits. The shakeup moves Nonito Donaire from No. 4 to No. 5, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam from No. 7 to No. 6, Fernando Montiel from No. 8 to No. 7, Wladimir Klitschko from No. 9 to 8, and Tim Bradley from No. 10 to No. 9. Entering the pound-for-pound list for the first time, at No. 10, is Juan Manuel Lopez.