Martinez shakes up boxing world with KO
The rematch between Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams was billed as "explosive." But as it turns out, "earth-shattering" would have been just as appropriate.
Because by flattening Williams with a highlight-reel knockout in the second round, Martinez not only lived up to his word to end the fight within the distance, he also elevated his career to a level most would have never thought possible for the late-bloomer.
For the last year or so, Williams had been the leading candidate for the role of boxing's best fighter not named Floyd Mayweather, Jr. or Manny Pacquiao. Factoring in the degree of difficulty he presented both physically and mentally, as well as his excellent body of work, Williams was rightfully feared by opponents and equally respected by boxing experts. The 6-foot-1 southpaw, capable of fighting as low as 147 pounds, seemed poised to take over as the No. 1 fighter in the world, even with every opponent from welterweight to middleweight running the other way.
With one big left hand Saturday night, Martinez changed all that in a big way.
Having spent most of his career in anonymity, Martinez began his rapid ascent in boxing over the last year and a half, while Williams occupied the third spot in most pound-for-pound lists. Martinez managed two HBO appearances, giving a strong account of himself and his abilities on both occasions, but failed to leave the ring with a victory on either night.
This year, Martinez not only went 2-0 on his HBO appearances, but has made his case for Fighter of the Year after impressively out-pointing a bigger Kelly Pavlik for the middleweight crown and successfully defending it by knocking Williams out cold in his first defense.
The moment Williams face-planted on the canvas, Martinez deserved to be crowned the third best in the sport. Fittingly, a member of his camp found a crown to place on his head. As tacky as he appeared to find the gesture, Martinez wasn't in any hurry to remove it from his head. He seemed to have outdone even himself.
Because the knockout was quite similar to Antonio Tarver's shot that blanked Roy Jones, Jr. in 2004, it'll inevitably be called by many a lucky punch. Martinez was, after all, looking the other way when he landed the shot and simultaneously catching one from Williams, who quite simply forgot to duck.
But to lay out a man who withstood 12 rounds of power punches from Antonio Margarito, who more than likely was fighting with loaded gloves, is an astonishing feat and one that will force many to look at Martinez not only as a slick and skillful boxer, but a knockout threat at any point in a fight.
Like Williams, Martinez also has a respectable body of work that easily doubled in value in 2010. He has three blips on an otherwise squeaky clean professional record, and all of them could come with asterisks.
There's the early career loss to Margarito, who, again, may have used loaded gloves to stop a green Martinez 10 years ago. He wouldn't suffer another mark until last year's highly disputed draw with Kermit Cintron, who Martinez knocked out, but was allowed to continue after Cintron convinced the referee the clean left hand that put him on the canvas for a 10-count was instead a head butt. Though Martinez went on to clearly out-point Cintron over the distance, the historically incompetent Florida judges had the gall to call the bout even.
And then there's last year's Fight of the Year runner-up, a majority decision loss to Williams. In a bout that truly could have gone either way, Martinez came up on the short end of the stick once more. And although he didn't whine about the verdict, he did express his intentions to take the rematch out of the judges' hands by taking Williams out before they had their say.
There's something to be said for a fighter who openly tells the world — including his world-class opponent — what he's going to do and does it anyway.
A guy named Muhammad Ali used to be known for it. And even though Floyd Mayweather, Jr. likes to talk like him, and Manny Pacquiao tries to dance like him, neither of them have done anything truly Ali-like in the way of shaking up the world in 2010.
Just as fast as a left hand and a 10-count, Martinez lands himself in boxing's V.I.P. lounge with both of them. And since Floyd and Manny don't seem to want to share the dance floor, Martinez could end up at a table for two with either of them in his very next fight.
It's just up to one of them to prove to aspiring boxers and fans on the fence that this is still a sport in which risk begets reward. Not only fighting, not only defeating, but going toe-to-toe with the most feared man in boxing and knocking him out. That's the kind of thing that really shakes up the world.