LAS VEGAS – Sergio Martinez oozes class, inside and outside of the ring. He's the third-ranked fighter in the world in the Yahoo! Sports boxing ratings and is widely regarded as the top middleweight.
He's an elite athlete who was a professional in soccer and cycling before turning his attention to boxing.
Martinez, 37, is a philanthropist and a supporter of numerous charitable causes. He runs an anti-bullying campaign and mentors a young girl who had been terribly bullied.
He's an outspoken advocate against domestic violence and works with battered women's shelters around the world. He doesn't simply lend his name, getting personally involved in helping women who have been abused to escape the cycle of violence and rebuild their lives.
A man like that, with movie-idol looks, a soft-spoken demeanor, high-level athleticism and extraordinary character, should be a boxing star of the highest order.
But here was Martinez at a news conference in a ballroom at the ritzy Wynn Hotel having to resort to trash talk to hype a pay-per-view fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Chavez is the son of one of boxing's greatest stars and was a star himself on the day he turned pro simply by virtue of his lineage.
Chavez commanded extraordinary attention from the media after turning pro in 2003, seemingly as a lark. It's only been in the last year that he's begun to be taken seriously as a fighter.
Martinez has been among the elite fighters in the sport for many years, but still doesn't have nearly the profile Chavez does.
It's why their middleweight title fight Sept. 15 at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus is known as "Chavez Jr.-Martinez" and not the other way around.
Martinez is a little better than an 8-5 favor at the Wynn sports book, but he uncharacteristically resorted to some smack talk on a press tour to kick off the promotion.
Standing at the dais at the Wynn, the normally classy Martinez turned to Chavez Sr., the Hall of Famer, Mexican icon and one of the 20 greatest fighters who ever lived, and said, "Take a picture of your son's face. After I get through with him on Sept. 15, you're not going to recognize him. You'll need DNA to identify him."
That was highly out of character for this socially aware, well-spoken man. Martinez, though, has struggled for years to get the attention his talent suggests he deserves. Unfortunately for Martinez, he's not only going to take a backseat to Chavez Jr., he'll also play second fiddle to the brewing story about the idiocy of two separate fight cards being held about a block apart on the same night in the same city.
Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer has steadfastly refused to back off plans to have 21-year-old Canelo Alvarez, the World Boxing Council super welterweight champion, defend his title Sept. 15 at the MGM Grand Garden. After struggling for months to find an opponent, Golden Boy announced Wednesday that Alvarez would face Josesito Lopez, who has mostly been a super lightweight.
And so while virtually all of the major media outlets will choose to cover the Chavez-Martinez bout, given its far more competitive nature and greater significance, there will be plenty of coverage of the conflict that will center on Mexican stars Chavez and Alvarez.
That will further shove Martinez into a supporting role on a night in which he clearly should be front and center.
"It doesn't bother me," Martinez said of having a competing card against his pay-per-view. "People who know boxing will know which is the best fight, but it won't hurt anything. If people are watching boxing, that's only good for the sport."
If the powers that be in boxing were actually worried about what is good for the sport as a whole and not for their own pocket books, however, this night would serve as a showcase for Martinez and there wouldn't be two shows a block apart.
Every word written or spoken about Alvarez, or about the competing show, is another one that won't be written about Martinez, one of the sport's best-kept secrets.
It's inexplicable why Martinez isn't bigger now than he is, but a high-profile fight against a big-name opponent can change that.
He won't have the stage to himself, and that's plain wrong, but the intense promotion for the pay-per-view might finally show the world what a handful of boxing insiders have known for years:
Martinez is one of the great ones, inside and outside the ring.
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