When it comes to hyperbole, promoter Lou DiBella can sling it on a par with the Bob Arums and Don Kings of the world. But there was no mistaking DiBella's genuine excitement after his WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez dispatched Paul Williams with a thunderous second-round knockout punch Saturday night in Atlantic City that the promoter believes should elevate his fighter to stardom.
"This is the best fighter I've ever been near," a giddy DiBella said. "As a promoter, this is the most talented, most natural athlete I've ever been around.
"I thought Sergio was going to knock him out. Why? Because he told me a thousand times he was going to knock him out. But I didn't think it would be the second round and that it would be face-first, out like a light."
Martinez has emerged as the best Argentine champion since Carlos Monzon ruled the middleweight division in the 1970s. In DiBella's view, his man is the best middleweight since Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran all fought in the division. Of those, only Hagler was a natural middleweight during the prime of his career.
"The only one I can look at out of the middleweight division in my lifetime with the same kind of speed is Leonard," DiBella said.
Not only does Martinez have speed and ring smarts, but he has demonstrated repeatedly a degree of uncommon power. "What he did to Kelly Pavlik was inhuman," DiBella said of the fight in which Martinez won the title last April. "It was a savage beating of a very big, strong middleweight."
The WBC has designated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. as the mandatory opponent for Martinez, but DiBella scoffed at the idea of matching him with a 24-year-old whose undefeated record is a product of careful matchmaking rather than the genes of greatness inherited from his father.
"I'd get arrested if I promoted that fight," DiBella said.
The obvious targets for Martinez are Manny Pacquiao, who just won the WBC light middleweight title, and welterweight Floyd Mayweather, who previously held the WBC light middleweight belt. Martinez still can get down to 154 and would jump at the chance to face either for a mega-payday, but he said on Saturday that it would be a "mismatch" to put him against the much smaller Pacquiao.
The public and HBO have been pushing for Pacquiao and Mayweather to fight each other, and given Martinez's size and power, they aren't likely to volunteer to get in with him first. The best bet at this stage might be WBA 154-pound champion Miguel Cotto, who is promoted by Arum.
"I have tremendous respect for Cotto, and if we had to fight him at a catchweight [between 154 and 160], Sergio would love to fight Cotto. My guess is Cotto probably would prefer to keep his title and fight at 156. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I'd want to do."