On the Scene: Photos from Buenos Aires

Photos by Will Hart


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On street corners and television screens across Argentina, the name Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez is on everybody’s lips. The Argentine fighter has returned home to take on Martin Murray at Club Atletico Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires –his first fight on his native soil in over ten years. In the week leading up to tonight’s fight, HBO.com photographer Will Hart captured scenes from across the city.

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From the Weigh-in: Martinez Carries the Weight of His Nation

by Michael Gluckstadt

Sergio Martinez - Photo Credit: Will Hart (click for slideshow)

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.

Click to View Weigh-In Slideshow at HBO.com.

Martinez-Murray: Undercard Overview

by Eric Raskin

On the undercard of the Martinez-Murray fight in Buenos Aires, another of Argentina's top fighters, Luis Carlos Abregu, takes part in a battle of once-beaten welterweights when he meets Montreal's Antonin Decarie. Abregu's lone loss, a competitive battle with Tim Bradley in 2010, is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. But it's his latest win that is truly eye-catching, a seventh-round TKO of formerly 16-0 prospect Thomas Dulorme last October. Interestingly, Decarie can match that win: Last September, he too upended a 16-0 prospect, stopping Alex Perez in six rounds. Decarie isn't typically a knockout puncher and that, combined with Abregu's hometown advantage, make him the underdog here. But this still has the makings of a fun and highly competitive stage-setter for the Martinez-Murray main event.

And in the broadcast opener, emanating from Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, heavyweight contender Chris Arreola ends a 14-month layoff to start what might be one last run at a title shot when he takes on heavy-handed Bermane Stiverne. This fight has been scheduled and postponed twice already, but the waiting should be worth it once these two aggressive-but-flawed knockout punchers start letting their hands go.

 

Uneasy Lies the Crown

by Eric Raskin

 

You might not be familiar with middleweight title challenger Martin Murray, but he poses a very real threat to champion Sergio Martinez—in part because everyone poses a threat to "Maravilla" from here on out.

One fight can be a fluke. Two fights can be a coincidence. But three fights? That's a pattern. That's a trend. In a sport in which the typical championship-level fighter competes twice a year on average, three fights qualifies as a sample size from which meaningful information can be extrapolated.

And based on his last three fights, there's a very real conclusion to be drawn about Sergio Martinez: He's probably done having easy nights in the ring.

Read the Complete Sergio Martinez vs. Martin Murray Fight Overview on HBO.com.

 

After an 11-Year Road Trip, Sergio Martinez Comes Home

by Kieran Mulvaney


When Sergio Martinez last fought in his native Argentina, he was the country’s welterweight champion but largely unknown outside his native land. Of the 25 professional bouts he had contested prior to meeting compatriot Francisco Mora on February 2, 2002, 24 had been in his home nation. The one time he ventured onto foreign soil, the experience was a negative one: fighting Mexico’s Antonio Margarito on the undercard of the first clash between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas, he was dropped early and stopped in the seventh round. It was, to that point, his only defeat; after overcoming Mora via unanimous decision, Martinez boasted a career mark of 24-1-1.

In the decade or so since, he has gone 26-1-1; when he enters the ring in front of his home fans in Buenos Aires for the first time in 11 years on April 27, it will be not as a domestic-level welterweight but as the undisputed middleweight champion of the world and, by general acclamation, one of the three or four best fighters in the sport.

That’s a tribute to the skill and dedication that Martinez has shown since he first pulled on a pair of boxing gloves at the remarkably advanced age of 20. It is also a validation of the decision he made after the Mora fight, to take his talent on the road and leave his homeland behind him in search of greater glory.

Though Argentina can lay claim to genuine greats like Carlos Monzon and highly regarded cotemporary warriors like Lucas Matthyse and Marcos Maidana, it is not exactly a hotbed of boxing fame and fortune. That said, neither is Spain, which is where Martinez headed to take his career to the next level; but it is where he met brothers Gabriel and Pablo Sarmiento, the former taking over his training for many years and the latter working in his corner now.

He fought 12 times in total in Spain, rarely against especially distinguished opposition; but he did make a name for himself in three bouts in England, which netted him a minor junior middleweight world title and played a role in his ultimately being given the opportunity to showcase his skills in the United States, which he has been doing ever since.

The Stateside roll call is familiar: a draw against Kermit Cintron in a fight that he really should have won -- twice; the close defeat to Paul Williams followed by the jaw-dropping one-punch knockout win in the rematch; defeats of Kelly Pavlik, Sergiy Dzinziruk, Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin; and, most recently, eleven-and-a-half utterly dominant rounds against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., capped by a half-round white-knuckle ride of terror as a desperate Chavez knocked him down and pushed forward in search of a most unlikely win.

So it is, at least in terms of achievement and appreciation, a very different Sergio Martinez who will take on Martin Murray at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani on the 27th than the one who left over a decade ago. This time, his home supporters will cheer him with extra gusto, not just because it has been such a long time since they saw him last, not just because he is now among the best of the best of the best, but because they will know that this engagement will be for one night only. Assuming he defeats Murray --and it will be no easy task -- Martinez will hit the road again, returning to the States for bigger money, higher-profile dates: a Chavez rematch, perhaps, or a mouthwatering clash with Gennady Golovkin.

But such prospects lie in the future. Right now, Sergio Martinez is finally coming home.

Rodriguez Keeps Rolling, Unlike The Other Unbeatens

by Eric Raskin

Jason Escalera, Edwin Rodriguez - Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

Four fighters entered Saturday night’s Boxing After Dark tripleheader with undefeated records. Only Edwin Rodriguez escaped with his intact.

When earlier in the day Rodriguez’s twins Edwin Jr. and Serena blew out the candles on their sixth birthday cake, they must have closed their eyes and wished for an easy night’s work for their dad at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Connecticut. Though opponent Jason Escalera entered the ring with a zero at the end of his record just like Rodriguez, his perfection was an illusion born of soft matchmaking. “La Bomba’s” superior pedigree showed from the start of the scheduled 10-round super middleweight bout, and though he didn’t produce the quick knockout he hinted at during a lopsided opening round, Rodriguez gave the supportive New England crowd what they came to see when he compelled referee Steve Smoger to stop the contest 12 seconds into the eighth round.

In so doing, Rodriguez avoided the fate that befell previously unbeaten welterweight Alex Perez and junior feather Luis Orlando Del Valle earlier in the evening.

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