While the rest of the world clamors for Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to share the same ring to determine the best pound-for-pound fighter title,another claimant emerged tonight at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez might be a late bloomer at the age of 35, but his phenomenal second-round knockout of Paul Williams overshadows everything else that has happened in boxing this year.
There was nothing lucky about it. It was a product of speed, power, timing and, more than anything else, smarts. As the Argentine would say later, he knew Williams would make a mistake "because he always makes mistakes." In fact, Williams always has relied on his freakish physical gifts, 6-1 height and an 82-inch reach, to overpower smaller men at his weight with his brawling style.
But Martinez is smart enough to find ways to get inside and fast enough to deliver sharp punches when he does. Some had Williams winning the first round tonight. I favored Martinez because he landed the two most explosive flurries of the first round. As the second round began, Martinez cracked Williams with a hard left, but it's Williams' style to take a few of those in order to dish out some punishment of his own.
His fatal mistake was in not respecting Martinez's power. Williams started a wide left, but Martinez beat him with an overhand left that crashed on the challenger's jaw and dropped him face-first on the canvas out absolutely cold. You don't see them like that very often at this level, but Martinez's punch was a thing of beauty.
"That was one of the greatest knockout punches ever," said Lou DiBella, who promotes Martinez. "That would have knocked anyone on Earth out . . . If you were [Manny] Pacquiao, would you go near him? Think [Floyd] Mayweather is going anywhere near him?
"I've never seen a middleweight this fast. I've got the best fighter in the world."
DiBella had a right to crow, and when the aforementioned Pacquiao and Mayweather turn down whatever is offered to get in a ring with Martinez, who can drop to 154, DiBella will be able to say, "Told you so."
If Martinez is unable to lure Pacquiao or Mayweather into the ring, DiBella said he still is open to a rematch with Williams, but he asked, "Why would he want it?"
Indeed, Williams lost something after his first bout with Martinez, and a loss of this magnitude should convince him to go down to 154 or 147. That leaves Martinez shopping for a high-profile opponent, assuming Pacquiao and Mayweather decline. DiBella indicated it's worth exploring the possibility of facing WBA light middleweight champion Miguel Cotto with his promoter, Bob Arum.
Whoever is next for Martinez, who received a purse of $1,050,000 that was substantially less than what Williams was paid, won't be getting the lion's share of the purse. DiBella said Martinez remains loyal to HBO, but he expects a major payday in his next bout. Asked where Martinez might draw a major crowd, DiBella suggested the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which is near his home in Oxnard, Ca.
"And by the way," DiBella said with a twinkle in his eye, "he'd love to fight at Madison Square Garden like everybody else." In case anyone missed it, that was a shot at Golden Boy Promotions and its three-year deal to stage a monthly series of fights at yet-to-be-built Barclays Center in Brooklyn.