Atlantic City- Moments after his stunning and quick second round knockout over three-time champion Paul Williams, that retained the WBC middleweight title for Sergio Martinez, his promoter Lou Dibella proudly said, “He is the best fighter I ever promoted.”
That statement alone described what Martinez has now achieved. A 35-year old champion that HBO Sports believed had potential, and a crafty fighter that Dibella felt could be better than former champions under his wing such as Bernard Hopkins and Kelly Pavlik.
And now Martinez, who earned a career high $1.5 million against Williams, is ready for the culmination of a successful career. Three fights left in him, probably at 154 and maybe a matchup with either Miguel Cotto or even eight-time division champion Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I was mentally prepared for this,” said a jubilant Martinez about the KO, described now as knockout of the year. Hours later at a post fight victory dinner, upstairs at the Caesars Atlantic City Café Roma, Martinez was congratulated by family, friends, members of his stable and of course Dibella who organized the gathering.
It was a rematch of their first bout that took place at Boardwalk Hall last December. Then Martinez moved up in weight. In that anticipated bout both fighters hit the canvas in the first round with Martinez losing a controversial and close 12-round decision.
But the only knockdown in this fight was the knockout of the year in boxing delivered by Martinez. It had the Boardwalk Hall crowd stunned when Martinez delivered a quick left hook to the jaw of Williams with the stoppage coming at 1:10 of round 2.
“We had it prepared and went through a lot of hard work to do that,” said Martinez in the ring wearing a customary victory crown.”I did not what the judges’ to rob me this time,” referring to the decision last December that many thought he should have had.
“One of the top three fighters in the world,” claimed Dibella about his champion. And there will be no argument about that putting Martinez in a category with Pacquiao and Mayweather. Those could be possible future opponents for the middleweight champion, or a unification bout with Dmitry Pirog.
Martinez seeking redemption came out strong in the first round and used a good left to the body of Williams. “I was waiting for him to make a mistake,” he said about the knockout that put Williams on the canvas. The round and a half of boxing saw 56 combined connected punches of which 52 were power shots.
“We’ll fight anyone,” commented Dibella. “Let’s face it, it’s about the money.” Fights with either Mayweather or Pacquiao will guarantee big money, though the boxing fans still anticipates Pacquiao facing Mayweather that would determine who indeed is the best pound-for-pound fighter.
If there were doubts about Martinez they are now over. Before the fight he was once again the underdog, and as champion the respect was not granted when he entered the ring before the challenger Williams. His commanding win over Pavlik earlier this year and the big knockout punch Saturday night will earn him fighter of the year honors.
“I want to listen to all offers and see what comes my way, but for now I will go home and rest,” said Martinez (46-2-2, 25KO’s) of Quilmes Argentina and residing in Oxnard California. “
And now the offers will come in, because the boxing world with this stunning knockout knows that Sergio Martinez is one of the best. He also has the right guy in his corner, Dibella.
“Martinez’s speed and power in a middleweight, one of the best I ever saw,” said Dibella who has seen his share over the years as a boxing executive with HBO and as a successful promoter.
Indeed Sergio Martinez has proved he is one of the best three fighters in the world with more to come.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]