Earlier this year Dominican Victor Cayo prepared for the fight of his life as he readied to face off with Argentinean brute Marcos Maidana at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. As the fight grew closer Cayo and Maidana would participate in an open media workout at the Xtreme Couture Gym along with Joan Guzman and South Africa’s Ali Funeka, who would be facing off in a rematch that made up the second half of the HBO Boxing After Dark double header.
While the talented pugs trained and interacted with the media I spotted a familiar face in the north end of the gym, a character I could have swore I had seen before. Upon further inspection it turned out to be none other than interim junior middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, as he was in town to support his stable mate Cayo. The simple fact that Martinez was able to blend in without attracting a huge crowed spoke volumes about his lack of popularity despite all of his tremendous gifts inside of the ring.
<— Slideshow: Images of Sergio Martinez’ knockout over Paul Williams
Cayo would end up being stopped inside of six heated rounds by Maidana while Martinez would produce one of the finest outings of his career three weeks thereafter with a stirring victory over Kelly Pavlik that netted him the WBC and WBO middleweight championships of the world. During the bout Martinez had to overcome a mid-round knockdown before turning the tide of the fight late as he butchered a bloody Pavlik with combinations from all angles.
Despite laying claim to the middleweight championship of the world, Martinez seemed to have trouble finding a worthy opponent and frustration seemed to build with his promoter Lou Dibella. Finally a rematch would be signed with Paul ‘The Punisher’ Williams, who had defeated Martinez by a majority decision in December of last year in a fight that saw each man dropped in the first round with plenty of action coming from both parties afterwards.
When Martinez met Williams at the Boardwalk Hall at Atlantic City tonight there were high expectations coming from both ends. The action was very tense early on and while the vibe was that we would be getting another distance bout full of twists and turns, Martinez put those thoughts to rest with one single punch. Halfway through the second round the Argentinean cracked Williams on the jaw as both fighters were delivering blows and put the former three-time champion down and out.
Martinez and his team erupted in celebration as he donned an imitation crown upon his head to show who exactly was king on this night. Smiling ear to ear, you could tell just how much the victory meant to the 35-year old fighter, who as little as a few years ago was toiling in relative obscurity in the boxing world. While his future may be uncertain as far as opponents go, Martinez’ stock couldn’t be any higher.
Boxing is a sport full of critics and around every corner you can find people nitpicking every aspect of the game, including the performances of the fighters at hand, both in victory and defeat. Sometimes, however, you simply need to put everything to rest and appreciate the moment and the people who made it happen. Saturday night was Sergio Martinez’ night and I can’t think of any fighter who is more deserving as the Fighter of the Year for 2010.
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Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]