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Sergio Martinez Beaten Into Retirement

“It never looked like him in there. I’ve seen him get knocked down and get up before but I’ve never seen him look like that.”

Miguel Cotto’s tenth round knockdown of Sergio Martinez brought chatter amongst the post-fight press conference that the Puerto Rican, rejuvenated under the tutelage of master offensive trainer Freddie Roach could be ready to be in the mix for further lineal middleweight honours with the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin and even rematching Floyd Mayweather. Martinez, nursing a broken nose was unable to attend to clarify his own future.

Last Saturday in the Garden with a fierce Puerto Rican support behind him, Cotto came back to something like his former self, but the Martinez he beat was a shop worn shell of a fighter with creaking knees. Cotto will go where the money and the line of least resistance is, at thirty-nine Martinez must be on the brink of retirement.

A latecomer to boxing at the age of 20, Sergio Martinez has always had class. Post-fight, there was no mention of the debilitating effect of two knee operations in the last 18 months and the year he had spent rehabbing. It is likely that Martinez was never truly right to face a rampant Cotto.

Last Saturday night, it was as if he was always on his heels, trying to keep his knees from crumbling beneath him and throwing punches while perpetually off-balance.  Martinez looked like a man looking for one last big pay day having not received due career recognition until his mid-thirties, he was eking out the last drop here.

Likely concussed having endured three knockdowns in round one, Martinez seemed to survive the next eight-and-a-half rounds on heart alone. Even in cashing out, he was his usual good value.

Prime Sergio Martinez may not have had a purist’s style, but his easy athleticism, charisma and will to entertain always made it easy to be a supporter of his. Devastatingly sharp performances against the likes of Alex Bueno brought him to our attention in the middle of the last decade.

An exciting, pressing style – (there were nights when Martinez, the fastest middleweight of his generation, went through the gears like a Ferrari) and a string of successful title defences kept him there.  Robbed against house fighter Cermet Cintron, Martinez waged war on Paul Williams, another of the top fighters of this era.

His performance against a fast-fading but still capable Kelly Pavlik was a standout in a string of impressive title defences which had many believing that he after Pacquiao, was the one to give Floyd Mayweather most to do should they have met at a catch weight.

Before joining with promoter Lou DiBella in 07’and even after that, Martinez was something of an avoided fighter. He always however, fought the best of who was willing to take him on. A renowned headhunter, he rarely punched to the body but always attacked in every fight incorporating a fan-friendly style befitting of his status in his native Argentina where he regularly topped sporting popular polls in a country obsessed by football.

Being a late starter, Martinez had his own way of doing things in the ring, his technique was less than stellar but his athleticism set him apart. A testament to this was his standing as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world by the time he reached his mid-thirties.

He had mastered the sport in half the time of his peers. Martinez relied heavily on reflexes and was never going to weather as well as the likes of Mayweather or Hopkins, alas his stiffened knees and lack of true boxing technique caught up with him all at once last weekend.

Martinez took reflexes and blurring hand speed for technique, and in doing so he may have been the most naturally gifted fighter of his time.

These athletic gifts made the hands-down style he used to draw in his prey possible. His power stemmed from his speed allowing him to connect with punches his opponent simple couldn’t see coming. Remarkable endurance and a strong background in soccer made him one of the most relentless yet fluid movers in boxing history, but by last Saturday his legs had been taken away.

They had started to go during the eleventh round of his encounter with the blown up Mexican draw Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, maybe even before that with there having been a few signs of buckling against Matthew Macklin.

In September 2012 when Chavez Jr got in the ring at a rehydrated one-hundred-and-eighty pounds for a middleweight contest (160lb weigh-in limit),  Martinez schooled him for eleven-and-a-half rounds only to be caught late in the twelfth.

He somehow got up and survived the last thirty seconds on adrenaline, but with the way he had fallen on the knockdown, the damage to his knees from years of wear and tear had been exacerbated.

Martinez then slid by the admirable but limited Martin Murray on points the following April, defending his WBC title in front of a raucous home support at the Velez Sarsfield Football Stadium in Buenos Aires.  He was lucky to get out alive and it will likely be his final victory as Cotto nailed him to the floor at Madison Square Garden last weekend.

It is a testament to Martinez’s constitution and doggedness that he dragged out to ten what should have been a first round execution.

It is a universal truth that there always comes a night when a great fighter isn’t so any more. That night for Martinez came last Saturday when he grasped to summon every ounce of ability that remained but found he was clutching onto nothing.

Against Murray, he may have thought he had just misplaced it, but now he was sure it was gone.

He dutifully went out on his shield taking an awful hammering in the process. Never one for grandstanding, there has been no announcement yet on his future, but Martinez is likely to slip away from boxing as quietly and unassumingly as he entered.

Neill Dennehy, Pundit Arena.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.