COMMENTARY | Yesterday, WBC middleweight champ, Sergio Martinez, had successful knee surgery to repair the damage done during his title-winning effort against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. last September 15 in Las Vegas.
Now, the task at hand is to prepare the 37-year-old middleweight kingpin for a return to the ring.
Immediate plans call for a possible bout with the UK’s Martin Murray (24-0-1, 10 KOs) in April of next year and then, possibly, a return bout with Chavez Jr. during Mexico’s Independence Day weekend in September.
Murray, a member of Ricky Hatton’s promotional stable, had to settle for a controversial split decision draw against then-WBA middleweight champion, Felix Sturm in December of 2011. Murray seemingly came out of nowhere to nearly beat the long-reigning German world champ and impressed more than a few observers with a tough and tenacious effort in the champion’s home country.
Before stepping up to challenge Martinez, though, Murray needs to get by Venezuela’s Jorge Navarro (12-‘0, 10 KOs) in a bout for the interim WBA World middleweight title on the undercard of Ricky Hatton’s return to the ring on November 24.
If all goes according to plan, Martinez and Murray would meet in Martinez’s native Argentina, possibly in a soccer stadium or some similarly large venue.
Then, assuming Martinez can beat the rugged Brit, the Argentine will head back to Vegas for a return bout with Chavez Jr.– Although the case could be made that Chavez doesn’t deserve a rematch, since he easily lost 11 and a half rounds and, for large portions of the fight, put in a lazy, disinterested effort.
However, the second generation former WBC champ made a case for himself getting a chance to reclaim the belt with an exciting last ninety seconds of the bout, where he scored a knockdown and nearly put Martinez away.
In a rematch, it could be argued that Chavez might be more aggressive and, therefore, more effective after seeing how close he actually came to stopping the middleweight champ. A Chavez who is pressing from the opening round–and still enjoying massive advantages in size and youth– would have a very good chance of pulling off the upset. Of course, it’s supremely hard to predict anything when it comes to the mixed-up world of boxing’s biggest man-boy, Chavez. We could either see the emergence of the man inside of the excuse-giving protected benefactor of boxing nepotism or we could bear witness to the final collapse of the pampered fighter’s fragile psyche.
For some reason, Martinez has been starting to take a good share of criticism over the last eighteen months or so for his level of opposition. Consider it a backlash from some crusty media-types who, for reasons known only to their psychotherapists, decided to lash out at the consensus top middleweight in the world, apparently, just because he started to receive massive amounts of positive press.
The truth is that Martinez has performed well against a very solid level of opposition and, against Chavez, capped off a stellar three-year run as an elite-level ring star. Like it or not, Martinez has earned the respect given to him and, with plans to take on a tough and legitimate challenger like Murray as well as a willingness to revisit a Chavez bout, he’s showing that he’s willing to keep his time at the top honest and legitimate.
There’s no doubt that major challenges await Martinez. Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin is an exceptionally entertaining pressure fighter who currently holds one of the division’s paper titles. Two-belt titlist, Daniel Geale is another quality challenger for Martinez. Down the line, we may see Peter Quillin, Dmitry Pirog, and Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam also emerge as elite-level challenges.
For the time being, though, let’s give respect where respect is due. Martinez is as “real” of a champ as anyone in the sport and is planning a pretty solid 2013 just to confirm it.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
Dan Rafael, Sergio Martinez undergoes surgery, ESPN