SERGIO MARTINEZ vs. SERGEI DZINZIRUK
When: Saturday, March 12
Where: Mashantucket, Conn. (Foxwoods Resort Casino)
TV: HBO, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET
Title(s) at stake: Martinez’s RING middleweight
Also on the card: Craig McEwan vs. Andy Lee, 10 rounds, middleweights.
Height / Reach: 5-10 (178cm) / 76 (193cm)
Hometown: Oxnard, Calif.
Turned pro: 1997
Record: 46-2-2 (25 knockouts)
Trainer: Gabriel Sarmiento
The Ring rating: Middleweight champion
Titles: WBC interim junior middleweight (2008-09; vacated); RING middleweight (2010-present).
Biggest victories: Paul Williams, Nov. 20, 2010, KO 2; Kelly Pavlik, April 17, 2010 (won RING, WBO and WBC middleweight titles).
Losses: Antonio Margarito, Feb. 19, 2000, TKO 7; Williams, Dec. 5, 2009, MD 12.
Draw: Kermit Cintron, Feb. 14, 2009.
Height / reach: 6-0 (183cm) / 68 (173cm)
Hometown: Brovari, Ukraine
Nickname: The Razor
Turned pro: 1999
Record: 37-0 (23 knockouts)
Trainer: Buddy McGirt
The Ring rating: No. 8 at junior middleweight
Titles: WBO junior middleweight (2005-present).
Biggest victories: Daniel Santos, Dec. 3, 2005, UD 12 (won title); Joel Julio, Nov. 1, 2008, UD 12.
Skills: Both fighters are seasoned pros who have mastered the art of hitting without getting hit in return. Martinez plies his craft with athleticism and panache, using lateral movement and feints to create offensive opportunities. Dzinziruk practices the Sweet Science with textbook form and efficiency, controlling distance and tempo with an educated jab that sets up accurate power shots. Dzinziruk has better technique and fundamentals (such as defense and foot placement) than Martinez because of his vast amateur experience.
Power: Martinez is faster than Dzinziruk, which usually translates to more power (especially when delivered by an accurate puncher such as the middleweight champ). Since the Argentine veteran has risen from junior middleweight to the 160-pound division he’s packed on more muscle mass and significantly increased his physical strength. The result is a much harder-punching boxer as Williams found out last November. Dzinziruk has decent power but he lacks Martinez’s size, speed, athleticism and brute strength. He doesn’t commit to his power shots, as Martinez has been lately, thus he’s the lesser puncher of the two.
Speed and athletic ability: Martinez is one of the best pure athletes in the sport. Only Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and perhaps Nonito Donaire, equal his natural ability. The 36-year-old veteran participated in other sports at a semi-pro level, such as soccer and cycling, before finding his true calling in the boxing gym at an advanced age. The Argentine veteran possesses fast hands, above average strength, and power, but what sets him apart from most fighters is his superb hand-eye coordination. Martinez sees everything that comes his way and he’s almost always able and ready to deal with it. It’s the reason he gets away with so many technical violations, such as keeping his gloves down. Dzinziruk is a good overall athlete, but he isn’t special in any one area.
Defense: Martinez is a clever boxer by nature, but he’s also a risk-taker, which makes him vulnerable at times. Martinez is also fighting more aggressively than he did when he campaigned at junior middleweight, which increases the amount of punishment he might take during a fight. On the other hand, there’s nothing flamboyant or exciting about Dzinziruk’s style. The Ukrainian veteran sticks to the fundamentals of boxing, including basic defense. He tucks his chin, angles his body and seldom drops his hands. Dzinziruk also uses subtle but effective footwork and head movement to avoid incoming punches. His high guard, tight technique and conservative style make him a very difficult target.
Experience: Both fighters are seasoned veterans. Dzinziruk’s excellent amateur career, which included more than 200 bouts and high placement in international tournaments, should be factored in his professional experience of 37 fights and seven title bouts. However, Martinez, who has 50 pro bouts under his belt, has faced far better opposition than Dzinziruk has in the pro ranks. Dziniruk has faced one fighter who has held a major title(s), Santos. Martinez has fought four: Margarito, Cintron, Williams, and Pavlik.
Chin: Dzinziruk has never been down as a pro, but his chin is rarely touched by his opponents because of his defensive prowess. Fans can’t be sure how good his chin is, but it’s safe to say that he’s never been hit as hard as Martinez has. Martinez has one TKO loss, to Margarito early in his career, but that stoppage was due to an accumulation of punishment, mainly body shots. The middleweight champ suffered knockdowns against Williams (first round of their first bout) and Pavlik (seventh round) but didn’t appear hurt in either instance and acquitted himself well after getting up.
Conditioning: Dzinziurk, the ultimate professional, does everything by the book and takes no short cuts in his preparation for a fight. Martinez is an ultra-competitive fitness freak who loves to train and exercise.
Wear and tear: Martinez has fought tougher fighters and has been involved in more grueling bouts — most notably his fight of the year candidate against Williams — than Dzinziruk.
Corner: Gabriel Sarmiento, earned the Boxing Writer Association of America’s Trainer of the Year award for his work with Martinez in 2010. However, the underrated Argentine trainer, who trained his brother Pablo Sarmiento, a junior welterweight contender in the 1990s, also works with such notable fighters as former light heavyweight titleholder Gabriel Campillo, 140-pound slugger Lucas Matthysse, and featherweight prospect Javier Fortuna. Dzinziruk brought in American trainer and former two-division titleholder Buddy McGirt to assist Olesksander Polishchuk, who has been with the Ukrainian since his first pro bout, for Saturday’s fight. The most notable fighters McGirt has trained are Antonio Tarver and the late Vernon Forrest and Arturo Gatti.
Outcome: Fans can expect a brisk boxing match, at least early on. It could heat up into a tit-for-tat fight if Martinez has his way. The champ will alternate using lateral movement and applying gradual pressure to Dzinziurk as he looks to counter the challenger’s piston-like jab. However, Martinez will find out that Dzinziruk can do more than just jab. The Ukrainian will dodge Martinez’s power shots and consistently counter the champ to take an early points lead. Martinez will be bothered by Dzinziruk’s educated jab but he won’t let it prevent him from eventually working his way in close and walking the challenger to the ropes. Dzinziruk will try to tie Martinez up but will have a hard time matching the champ’s strength. Whenever Martinez is able to back Dzinziruk to the ropes he will get off with body head combinations that will punish the undefeated titleholder as no other opponent has. Dzinziruk will fire back with crisp combinations but he’ll find that the more he engages the more power shots Martinez is able to land. A compact left cross will wobble Dzinziruk’s legs sometime in the late rounds of the bout and Martinez’s relentless follow-up assault will prompt the referee to step and save the defenseless challenger from further punishment.
Prediction: Martinez by late stoppage.