There was a time, during December of last year, when southpaw RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and RING super middleweight champ Andre Ward had expressed the desire to face each other at a catchweight.
“My response to a matchup with Sergio Martinez is pretty short and sweet,” said Ward, who is promoted by Dan Goossen. “I like it. Hopefully the fight can be made.”
At the time, Ward was nearly two weeks removed from a Showtime-televised unanimous decision victory over Carl Froch, which added Froch’s WBC belt to the WBA crown he already owned in addition to capturing the network’s Super Six World Boxing Classic Championship Cup.
Ward’s response had come in the wake of assertions made by Martinez during a press conference in his native Argentina, where he also renounced his WBC “Diamond” belt and indicated that he might pursue a relationship with Showtime over HBO, which he felt had mistreated him.
“I don’t know about the 168 pounds, but it’s an option,” said Martinez, of the notion of facing Ward. “But that would be a spectacular fight.”
It appears that a Ward-Martinez clash would be as attractive now, more than ever, given recent developments.
Coming off a 10th-round stoppage of southpaw RING light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson (31-2, 17 knockouts), whom he floored three times in defense of his crowns on Sept. 8, Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) has surpassed Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KOs) on three major pound-for-pound ratings polls.
Yahoo! Sports rates Ward between No. 1-ranked Floyd Mayweather Jr. and No. 3 Manny Pacquiao, placing him ahead of the fourth-rated Martinez. ESPN has it 1-2-3-4 — Mayweather, Ward, Martinez and Pacquiao.
THE RING, meanwhile, has the top spot vacant, with Mayweather and Pacquiao tied at No. 2, and Ward and Martinez at Nos. 3 and 4.
Martinez, 37, is coming off a unanimous decision over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (46-1-1, 32 KOs) during which he rose from a 12th-round knockdown and battled the rest of the way, toe-to-toe, in order to regain the WBC’s 160-pound belt.
In light of his performance, Martinez’s fall in the ratings has drawn the ire of his promoter, Lou DiBella.
“I think that’s stupidity. Here is a guy who put on a f–king boxing clinic against Chavez, so I don’t see it. Here is a guy who won almost every round of a fight where he was only a slight favorite, and then fought the 12th round in a way that was pleasing to the fans, and in a way to go for a knockout when he didn’t need to,” said DiBella.
“Not only did he get up, but he got up and he didn’t hold on for dear life, but he landed bombs. In my mind, he’s the second or third best fighter in the world, and you know what? He’s a small middleweight who fought a much bigger man. He can make 154 without having to struggle. So it’s sort of preposterous to me that he would move down in any kind of pound-for-pound rankings. Based on what? So I think that’s stupidity.”
Named Fighter of The Year by The Boxing Writers’ Association of America for 2010, Martinez has won six straight fights, four of them by knockout, and is known for leaving his rivals badly beaten, if not bloody.
Martinez’s matchup with Chavez was his first appearance in Las Vegas since February of 2000, when he suffered his initial loss in 18 fights by seventh-round knockout in a 148-pound clash with Antonio Margarito.
After falling to Margarito, Martinez went 28-0-1, with 18 knockouts before losing a disputed majority decision to fellow left-hander Paul Williams in December of 2009, during which each fighter was floored in the first round.
Martinez then won his next five bouts.
In order, former undisputed middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, former two-time welterweight titleholder Williams and top contender Matthew Macklin were all left bleeding profusely around their eyes ears after facing Martinez.
Martinez unanimously decisioned Pavlik, knocked out Williams in the second round, and dropped Macklin twice in the final round of an 11th-round stoppage win.
Previously unbeaten Darren Barker suffered a perforated eardrum during an 11th-round stoppage loss to Martinez, previously unbeaten Sergei Dzinziruk was dropped five times during an eighth-round knockout loss, and Chavez’s eyes were left swollen, and his nose, bloody.
Martinez received eight stitches to repair a cut over his left eye, two staples in his head, and suffered from both a broken left hand and torn ligaments in his right knee following the victory over Chavez, but does not appear to require surgery on his leg, according to a report.
“Sergio’s hand has a hairline fracture, and it was injured in the fourth round, and it needed a soft cast,” said DiBella. “His leg was injured when he fell in the 12th, and his knee is expected to recover completely, so that was an unbelievable performance by an unbelievable athlete.”
Martinez dominated the first 11 rounds, winning by scores of 118-109 on the cards of judges Dave Moretti and Adalaide Byrd, and, 117-110, on that of Stanley Christodoulu. Chavez won a total of just four of the 36 rounds scored by the judges.
“I thought that the most remarkable thing about that fight was how Sergio chose to fight, toe-to-toe, in the 12th round even after he was hurt,” said DiBella.
“He could have just boxed Chavez’s ears off and pitched a complete shutout, but he wanted to end the night by putting on a show. So he fought that 12th round like he needed it to win the fight. He fought it like a true champion.”
DiBella said that a potential rematch with Chavez won’t happen until May, a time during which Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) is rumored to also be returning to action. DiBella said Martinez and Chavez did not negotiate a rematch clause.
“If Floyd was interested in fighting us, that would obviously be something that would be our greatest desire. If Floyd’s interested, we’re going to be interested, there is no question about that,” said DiBella.
“But right now, Sergio’s a little banged up, so there is no reason to rush anything. We’re looking at all options and we’re going to go with the biggest possible fight, and the one that’s the most fan-friendly.”
Ward, meanwhile, is a 2004 Olympic gold medalist who proved himself against Super Six opposition, out-pointing former four-time beltholder Mikkel Kessler, once-beaten contender Allan Green and former middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham.
Prior to facing Abraham, Ward waged war with Sakio Bika over 12 rounds in a non-tournament bout. Ward also fought through a broken left hand to defeat Froch, later being named Fighter of The Year for 2011. Ward’s corner man, Virgil Hunter, was named to receive the Eddie Futch Award for Trainer of The Year from the BWAA.
“I’ve always said that, despite what some people might say to the contrary, that the one thing Andre Ward’s always been is a fighter. He may not have always been knocking people out, but he was certainly fighting them. That’s always brought excitement to my perspective of what Andre does in the ring,” said Goossen.
“Andre has always taken control, never letting the opposition, no matter what level they were at, wrest it away from him. Those are qualities that only the great ones have. On Sept. 8, Andre put an exclamation point on that by demonstrating yet another facet of his ability toward continuing his ascension toward becoming a complete fighter.”
Could Ward soon be ranked No. 1?
“That depends on what Floyd is doing rather than Andre…If Andre could get down to 154, then I would say [we would fight,] Floyd, but, of course, that’s a little joke,” said Goossen.
“But we’re going to just keep on pushing toward Andre’s greatness and let everybody else determine where he goes from there in their eyes.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com