By Kieran Mulvaney
Exhibit A: Sergio Martinez
Exhibit B: The image of a classic boxer. Hands held high, one slightly forward of the other, chin tucked.
Sergio Martinez, middleweight champion, does not fit the classic boxer mold. His stance is unconventional, his movements around the ring are unorthodox, and the road that brought him to the professional prizefighting ring in the first place is short on precedent. But in many ways it is precisely the combination of these outside-the-box elements that make the man from Argentina such a formidable foe.
He frequently keeps his hands low while alternately bouncing around hyperactively on his toes and standing flat-footed, staring at his opponent and bending slightly forward at the waist like a baseball pitcher on the mound, peering for an opening and simultaneously seeming to present a target of his own. The net effect of that is that sometimes he leaves himself briefly vulnerable and off-balance, allowing, for example, Paul Williams and Kelly Pavlik to score flash knockdowns that embarrassed more than they hurt.
At the same time, his stance frequently lures his foe into making an assault, at which point Martinez counters with rapid-fire punches from sometimes unpredictable angles which catch that foe unawares and, because of the torque with which the Argentinian unleashes them, frequently rob him of his senses.
So powerfully did he hit Kermit Cintron, for example, that the American staggered backward to the ropes and slumped to the canvas, protesting that the blow had to have been a headbutt; no way, he insisted, could a punch have been so hurtful and powerful. After Williams had knocked an off-balance Martinez to the canvas in the first round of their first encounter, Martinez responded with a much harder blow that floored Williams with greater authority. When they met again, Martinez drew his opponent into the perfect range for a crunching, unseen left hand that relieved Williams of consciousness before he hit the canvas.
"Martinez drew his opponent into the perfect range for a crunching, unseen left hand that relieved Williams of consciousness before he hit the canvas."
When he doesn’t dispense of his foes early, as he did in the Williams rematch, Martinez is able to wear them down, landing with ever greater effectiveness as the fight progresses. Witness, for example, the increasingly emphatic knockdowns he inflicted on Sergiy Dzinziruk en route to an eighth-round stoppage last March, or the way in which he overcame stubborn resistance from Darren Barker before scoring an 11th round KO in October. That he is able to do so says much of his level of physical fitness, a trait that has its roots in cycling and soccer, both of which he pursued long before he set foot in a boxing ring for the first time at age 20.
Matthew Macklin will need to find a way to diminish that unconventional effectiveness if he is to take the middleweight crown on Saturday.