Martinez has goals in sight
"Maravilla," the nickname of middleweight boxer Sergio Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs), is perhaps the most appropriate in all of boxing. The Spanish word for "wonder," it fits Martinez perfectly.
Maybe it's because, at 36, Martinez looks as fresh, youthful and in shape as ever. Maybe it's because this former professional cyclist and soccer player didn't even begin boxing until 20 years old, yet has worked his way to the top of the sport.
Whatever it is, Martinez sits near the top of many pound-for-pound rankings among superstars such as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. On Saturday, when Martinez steps into the ring against undefeated Englishman Darren Barker in Atlantic City, NJ (9 p.m. ET on HBO), he hopes to take one more step toward being a unanimous No. 1.
"It's a great motivation," he said of the rankings. "Ultimately, it is my motivation to become No. 1 pound-for-pound in the world, and I will not stop until I get to that pinnacle. It has always been my goal, my dream, and I want to get to the top and don't care who I fight to get there."
That includes Mayweather and Pacquiao, both of whom Martinez has said he would accept a date with. He is careful not to look ahead and past Barker. It's easy not to when he has the clear goal of winning back what was once his.
The WBC stripped Martinez of its middleweight title belt when he accepted a fight with then undefeated Sergiy Dzinziruk rather than their mandatory challenger Sebastian Zbik. After knocking down Dzinziruk five times on the way to an eighth-round TKO, Martinez has his eyes on that belt, and his focus on Barker.
"You know, I could probably better answer [the question of bouts on the horizon] after the fight or on Oct. 2,” Martinez said. “I don't want to look past what is the most important fight in my career right now, but my goal is to recover the WBC middleweight championship that was taken away from me."
Team Martinez has been told that he will have that opportunity, either against the current titleholder, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who defeated Zbik for the belt, or the next available contender. That could happen as early as December if he takes care of Barker on Saturday night. With that in mind, Martinez has been training hard in Oxnard, Calif., his new home. Considered one of the top-conditioned athletes in the sport, he knows he has to be ready for an opponent who is undefeated, hungry and seven years his junior.
"He's a very dangerous fighter: young, strong, very intelligent, and this is the fight of his life,” Martinez said. “I know I will get the best Darren Barker, but I love a challenge and I am ready for it."