by Michael Gluckstadt
The image of Sergio Martinez—arm outstretched in a fighter’s pose, with the flag of Argentina rising behind him—is plastered all over the city of Buenos Aires. His opponent this Saturday night, England’s Martin Murray, is a textual footnote; his name smaller than the event’s tagline, Un Evento Histórico: Por El Honor y la Gloria. When Martinez removed his track jacket prior to weighing in, revealing a custom-made “Maravilla” jersey in the style of the national soccer team, the implication couldn’t be clearer—come Saturday night, he will by fighting with the weight of his country on his back.
The Salon Libertodor at the Sheraton Hotel felt more like a rock concert than a preliminary boxing event, as hundreds of Martinez’s fellow countrymen eagerly awaited a chance to spot the star. Murray’s fans, for their part, weren’t exactly quiet. An extremely vocal minority, they loudly chanted an altered version of the Ricky Hatton song, itself a take-off on “Winter Wonderland,” that began, “There’s only one Martin Murray.” Martin, the top-ranked fighter in former world champ-turned-promoter Hatton’s stable, has yet to lose a fight, and his high punch output could prove threatening to Martinez, who has shown the slightest signs of slowing down.
But the story here, as evidenced by a two-story poster hanging in the city’s center, is clearly Martinez. Though not quite the prodigal son, Martinez left Argentina in 2002 in search of better opportunities in Spain. Twenty-eight fights later, he’s returned as a pound-for-pound contender and a hometown hero. He’s never had the chance to fight in front of his fans as the reigning middleweight champ, and for most of the nearly 50,000 Argentines who will be at the Club Atletico Velez Sarsfield Saturday night, it will be their first-time rooting on Maravilla on their home soil.
On the scales, Murray weighed in at 159.6 pounds. Martinez is carrying 159.4 pounds and the hopes and expectations of a nation.