Think back to April of 2010, when Sergio Martinez (50-2-2, 29 KOs), announced in a pre-fight meeting with HBO before his Middleweight showdown with the then favored Middleweight Champion of the World, Kelly Pavlik. In a pre fight discussion with HBO, Martinez uttered the words “I know that no matter what I accomplish, I can never be to my country what Carlos Monzon was.” It’s true that the former great Argentine Middleweight Champion has left a void in Argentina’s boxing scene that hasn’t been completely filled since his retirement in 1977, while he was still holding the Middleweight crown. However, in the past three years, Sergio Martinez has went from being the world’s top rated Junior Middleweight, to Middleweight Champion of the World, to capturing the Knock Out, and Fighter of the Year awards in the same year, and he is now universally recognized as one of the sport’s marquee superstars. Has Argentina finally found a worthy heir apparent to the great “Escopeta” Monzon?
Well, if Martinez called it quits tomorrow morning, he surely wouldn’t match up with Carlos Monzon’s legacy. He would however, have proven himself to be a hall-of-fame Champion. Martinez stands atop the list of Argentina’s best fighters of all time alongside Carlos Monzon. Although Martinez is now 37 years old, he may still have the goods to continue his run for a good period of time.
Historically, fighters who rely primarily on their reflexes and athletic gifts experience a sharp decline around the age Martinez is at. However, Martinez simply appears to be an exception to many conventional rules. As if walking into a boxing gym for the first time at age 20, and then deciding on it as a full time career on only the second day of training wasn’t damning enough, Martinez also fights using techniques typically outlawed from being trained. “Keep your hands up!” Is one of the most frequently barked terms in boxing, and you’d be wasting your breath if you tried telling or yelling it to Martinez. Instead, the near 40 year old opts to fight with his hands at or near his waist at practically all times, and, coupled with one of the best pair of legs in boxing, he fights with the energy of a 25 year old. The style in which Martinez fights in, is a contradiction to what you would teach a fighter aspiring to accomplish the same goals Martinez set out for himself. His journey through boxing, has been one of the most unique and uncommon expeditions ever heard of. He’s blossomed into his prime at an age where most fighters have begun reminiscing about their past glories. Sergio Martinez’s story, style of fighting, and journey have been completely and consistently unorthodox. Unorthodox, and special.
Carlos Monzon is the greatest boxer ever produced from Argentina, and one of the greatest Middleweight Champions to ever lace them up. After defeating Nino Benvenuti in the 1970 Fight of the Year, Monzon was crowned Middleweight Champion of the World. After gaining the Championship, Monzon would never suffer a defeat again, nor have to hand over his Middleweight crown to any man. For seven years, Monzon dominated the Middleweight division the way no man in history had ever done before. Monzon was technically sound, strong, intelligent, a big middleweight, had faster hands than given credit for, possessed a great sense of timing, and was very accurate with very good punching power. Monzon also possessed a terrific, deadly poise throughout his bouts, and could throw sharp punches in combination that carried good power in both hands. He was no Pernell Whitaker or Willie Pep, but Monzon had a tight defense. Monzon was almost 6 feet tall, the good height for a Middleweight, and his body filled out perfectly for 160 pounds. A unique, under-the-radar gift that Monzon was endowed with were very long arms for a man of his height, without the burden of them appearing lanky. So the disproportionately long arms did not hamper the coordination of Monzon. What they did do was give him a deceptively deadly punching range. Monzon was the essence of a sturdy,finely tuned, great Champion.
Monzon and Martinez shared more differences overall as men, and as fighters, than they did similarities. They both of course were born in Argentina. Martinez was born in Buenos Aires, Monzon, in San Javier. Monzon lived in Argentina his entire life, and was truly a living icon there. He starred in the 1974 successful film “La Mary” and would later make several appearances in Argentine movies and television shows. Even when Monzon died in prison while serving a sentence for murdering his wife, Alicia Muniz, a gathering of thousands of strangers came and paid homage, and sang songs to a dead Monzon. Martinez vacated from Argentina in 2002, and migrated to Spain. While still struggling to make ends meet through his career in the sport, Martinez did side jobs from modeling to being a bouncer when he first settled into Spain. Martinez’s choice to leave his homeland would pay off, as he would meet up with trainer Gabriel Sarmiento. The mastermind who molded Martinez into the unconventional phenom that he’s become. It could be because of Martinez’s departure from Argentina that he believes he’ll never be of the same stature that Monzon holds.
Inside the squared-circle, Monzon and Martinez were completely different fighters. Martinez has a style all to his own, and Monzon’s technique was beautifully textbook. Martinez commits many fundamental errors every time he fights, and remains spectacular while doing so. His athleticism, and dazzling hand speed, alone makes him too much to handle for many of the opponents he’s fought. Martinez has great legs, and foot movement, some of the best the Middleweight division has ever seen. Monzon’s legs couldn’t glide, or get to spots in the ring as quick as Martinez is able to do. However, he was never limited by his foot work, his heels were not his achilles heel. Monzon could apply pressure very well, and knew how to stalk his man, he’d measure his foe with his beautiful jab, and walk him down in a very calm, poised, and increasingly dangerous fashion. Monzon was not an all out aggression fighter like his Junior Welterweight countrymen, Marcos Maidana is. He’d take a step a back many a time to step out of punching range,he could jab going backwards, and box better than he was given credit for. Defensively, Monzon’s real calling card was his parrying, and as his fights would go on, the man in front of Monzon would really have problems penetrating his savvy defense techniques. When Monzon would get into exchanges, he’d typically get the better of the exchange by bending his waist to whatever angle needed to avoid the incoming shot, and then use the momentum dipping down by coming up with a punch. Between the two, Martinez had faster hands, and Monzon held more punching power.
In a head to head matchup, the advantage goes to Monzon. Martinez wouldn’t be dominated, but Monzon had the proper size and style to convincingly beat Martinez. Monzon would possess a size advantage similar to Kelly Pavlik and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr’s size advantages when they fought Martinez. Both Pavlik and Chavez Jr. don’t possess the skills Monzon had offensively or defensively. For example neither man used their jab when they fought Martinez. In a match up with Monzon, Martinez would not be allowed to just stand in front of Monzon with his hands at his waist and just jiggle his shoulders, like he was able to do against Pavlik and Chavez Jr. Monzon would use the jab constantly while cutting off the ring on Martinez, and as the fight would progress he’d have Martinez measured, and timed. Monzon may have had the slower hands, but his timing was terrific, and each shot was thrown with great precision. Some of the fundamentals Martinez does not incorporate into his style would hurt him in the long run in dealing with Monzon. In the first 4 rounds or so, Martinez could very well build a lead, using his frustrating, in and out lateral movement, and faster hands. Monzon took a few rounds to really get going anyways. Monzon would really take over the second half of the fight. As Monzon’s defense tightens up, and he ups his punch volume, Martinez would struggle mightily to adjust. Monzon’s aggression would have been too effective for Martinez to try and pop-shot his way to a decision, Monzon would pick off the one or two shots at a time coming from Martinez, and come back with a higher work rate. If Martinez then tried to mix it up with Monzon, it could lead to Martinez being kayoed. Monzon was more adept during exchanges than Martinez is. He had a better variety of punches in his arsenal in contrast to Martinez’s continuous one-twos and occasional right hook. During those exchanges, Martinez leaving his hands at his waist would back fire on him, as he’d get caught by some big shots either coming out of the exchanges, or during them. If Martinez tries to stay away, then Monzon wins a decision If Martinez felt himself falling behind and decided to take risks, Monzon would score a late round knockout.
Although Monzon would have defeated Martinez, that does not mean Martinez can’t finish his career ahead of Monzon on the list of greats. He’d truly have his work cut out for him, but the great fighters are out there to be put on his resume, and give him an opportunity to surpass the accomplishments of Monzon. If Monzon could defeat Floyd Mayweather, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, and Miguel Cotto before stepping away from boxnig, then he’d have up ended Monzon’s accomplishments. Even if Martinez never ends up with Monzon’s record of 14 Middleweight title defenses, the second longest reign the division has ever seen, he’ll have his case that his dossier was more impressive.
When Martinez said he could never be to Argentina what Carlos Monzon is, he was just being honest. The truth is though he underestimated himself. Just like Martinez looked up to Monzon, as did many young fighters from Argentina. The generation that is coming up now in Argentina may look up to Martinez the way Martinez looked up to Monzon. The two actually compliment each other perfectly as the two great Argentinian Middleweight Champions. Monzon was the sound technician, and puncher, with a mean streak. Martinez is the unconventional, elusive, fast fighter who loves to flash his smile. So is Martinez the new Carlos Monzon? No he is not. He is the first Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez.