The great Argentinian middleweight, Sergio Martinez, has long been teasing a comeback, with many sites reporting that he would return for almost two years. Coming into 2020, Martinez had confirmed that he would be back in the ring on June 6th, but for reasons we are all painfully aware of, this has been pushed until the Autumn.
Martinez has already secured his position in the Hall of Fame with an astonishing career, retiring with a 51-3-2 record, wins over the likes of Julio César Chávez Jr, Matthew Macklin, and Darren Barker. After suffering a knee injury during his fight with Chavez Jr which required extensive surgery, his performance deteriorated and never fully recovered. The injury greatly hampered him for the short remainder of his career, contributing to him losing his WBC and The Ring Middleweight belts to Miguel Cotto. He retired following the loss.
He reached a career-high ranking of 3rd best p4p fighter, behind Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr, in 2011. While in his prime Martinez was considered one of the most exciting Middleweights to watch, his lighting fast hands and footwork led him to be considered one oft eh sports best counter-punchers. His Southpaw stance and unorthodox movement, coupled with his sheer athleticism and endless stamina were a nightmare to deal with even as he hit his late 30s.
Is 45 the new 35?
By 2010, a 35-year-old Martinez was showing few signs of letting up. As he aged, he continued to fight with the same speed and ferocity he had become famous for, which was extremely surprising given that he fights at Middleweight. It’s far more common for heavier boxers to push their careers longer, as strength seems to deteriorate at a slower rate than speed and stamina.
Had Martinez’s knee not provided him with so many problems, it’s unlikely he would’ve retired when he did. At the time of his loss to Miguel Cotto, Martinez himself stated he wanted to continue fighting, hoping to face both Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao at some point.
After six years away from the ring, now aged 45, Martinez seems revitalized by his rest and feels he’s ready to return. It’s a story we’ve heard all too often this year, with retired boxers from seemingly every weight class lacing up their old gloves.
However, for ‘Maravilla’ Martinez, this comeback is not a new decision revealing, on the Peleamundo YouTube series, that he has been training hard for the past two years. Responding to Jessie Vargas asking where his first fight back would be, Martinez said “I’d love to come back in the United States, but it’s been six years since I’ve received a punch… So, I want to have my first fight here in Spain. Obviously after six years all the opponents are dangerous, because I don’t know how I’m going to react when I get punched, after SIX years… well in reality I’ve had two years of preparing, training, having sparring and working hard… but it’s one thing training and one thing fighting. Totally different.”
For one thing, it’s good to see that Sergio Martinez is approaching this fully aware of the dangers he faces by getting back into the ring. It’s become far too common for fighters to stage comebacks believing they’re in no worse shape than they were when they retired, for example, Nigel Benn, who wound up injuring himself in training and had to cancel his fight. Martinez’s metered approach, as he said “gently, calmly, ‘Despacito’”, is an encouraging sign that he’s one of the few fighters to be approaching a comeback the right way. In Spain, he’ll likely face a much lower level of opponent than he would in the U.S. He’ll have the opportunity to make some money and really evaluate himself in a safer environment before making any firm decisions.
Addressing his reasoning for coming back to boxing, Martinez shed light on an important situation, “I went to some thermal baths. They completely calmed the pain of my injury, because I had a very serious injury in my right knee. I said, ‘Why don’t I start boxing again?’ That was two years ago… And I said ‘well, let’s go.’”
Given that Martinez was showing no signs of slowing down prior to his torn meniscus against Chavez Jr, plus the fact that the thermal baths stopped his pain and he’s been training hard for two years without pain, Martinez might be able to make a comeback work for him. For sure, time will have affected him post-40 in a way that it seemingly failed to do pre-40, but with the biggest degradation in his boxing coming from an injury which he claims to have alleviated himself off, a 45-year-old Martinez might be able to mix it up with those below the elite ranks of Middleweights.
Martinez showed a great deal of understanding about his abilities as a 45-year-old. He was quick to state that he knows his age is a limiting factor; that he’s far older than his interviewer, 31-year old former two-weight-world-champion Jessie Vargas; that he sees it simply as a way to give his mind and his body back to boxing, even at 45.
As for his list of potential opponents, Martinez was initially targeting a rematch with Chávez Jr but has since taken aim at Bilbao-based former EBU Welterweight champion Kerman Lejarraga. Lejarraga fits the bill for Martinez as he lives in Spain, is a much lower level than Martinez was accustomed to facing, and will likely accept the fight as it represents a career-high profile fight for him.
If you have time to spare the interview between Vargas and Martinez is well-worth a watch. While the interview is completely in Spanish, Matchroom Boxing has translated and subtitled it so you can find the English version on their YouTube channel. During the interview, Martinez covers a lot of topics that I haven’t touched on with this article including his childhood, current training system, the comeback of Marcos Maidana, and his own foray into stand-up comedy. Throughout the interview, Martinez is hugely entertaining and always comes across as humble, extremely likable, and down-to-Earth.