Every few months, Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao and Floyd "Money" Mayweather jerk around an increasingly impatient public, and each other, with tantalizing insinuations that a blockbuster fight between the two is finally going to take place - only to blame the other when it doesn't.
Depending upon one's opinion, in delaying the fight, the fighters are actually:
(A) Successfully increasing the public's appetite for "The Big Fight" when it does happen;
(B) Harming the sport's already questionable integrity by further disillusioning loyal fans and turning off the casual fan;
(C) Seriously risking the possibility of blowing "The Big Fight" with a loss by one or the other to a less-heralded opponent; or
(D) All of the above.
The Hostage Crisis
There is also the often felt, but not always expressed, sentiment that somehow Pacquiao and Mayweather are "holding the sport hostage" by making everyone wait for them to duke it out and determine who is really the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in boxing today.
Since the general consensus is that both are obviously the two best fighters in the sport, journalists and fans alike feel compelled to re-evaluate each fighter's position after each bout. It as though the rest of the sport is on hold.
For example, a year ago, a majority of fans and journalists would likely have given the top spot to Manny Pacquiao. Now, after PacMan's relatively poor performance against his nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez last November, the order is reversed. Depending upon how Mayweather and Pacquiao fare against Miguel Cotto and Timothy Bradley, respectively, the order may switch back.
However, lost in everyone's fascination with the Pacquiao/Mayweather soap opera is the fact that not only are "the sport," "the media," and "the fans" being cheated by all of this - but sometimes other boxers are as well. Most specifically, any other legitimate contender to the mythical pound-for-pound throne is ignored.
After all, the actual question that needs to be asked is: Are either Pacquiao or Mayweather currently the best fighter in the sport, or are they just the most marketable?
Here at the DSH, we have no intention of being limited by the two choices provided on the ballot. Upon reflection, the answer is clear enough about who currently deserves the crown based upon actual ring performance and willingness to fight.
The current king of the ring is the 37-year old Argentinean Middleweight Champion of the World: SERGIO "MARAVILLA" MARTINEZ.
Making Sergio's Case
Currently, Martinez is already regarded as the best fighter in the world at 154 pounds and 160 pounds. A late bloomer in the sport who didn't begin boxing until the age of 20, Martinez is an all-around athlete who possesses a dazzling combination of hand and foot speed. A counterpuncher by nature, Martinez fights with his hands at his side, daring his opponent to reach - before jarring them with punches they don't see coming.
However, Martinez is hardly a "defensive" fighter. Since taking the middleweight title by unanimous decision from a bloodied and battered Kelly Pavlik two years ago, Martinez has displayed a crushing left hand that has knocked out his past four challengers.
His one-punch knockout of then top-5 pound-for-pound fighter Paul Williams in November 2010 is one of the greatest one-punch knockouts of all-time.
Martinez's last fight was an 11th-round TKO of Mathew Macklin - in a fight not nearly as close as the HBO announcers or the judges would have had you believe . Afterwards, Martinez basically apologized for not accurately predicting the knockout round - he had predicted the 10th round, not the 11th.
Martinez's impressive record (49-2-2) actually fails to do him justice.
His first draw came in his third professional fight to Mario Javier Nieva - whom he beat four months later. His second "draw" in February 2009 - to Kermit Cintron - was an utterly bogus decision in a fight he recorded a knockdown and clearly won. Martinez also lost by majority decision to Paul Williams in April 2010 - in a fight that could have gone either way - with Martinez exacting revenge with a brutal second round knockout 11 months later.
In truth, his only clear blemish came twelve years ago as a result of knockout loss, in his first fight out of Argentina, to "Hands of Plaster" Antonio Margarito.
Although there is some talk of a rematch even today, Martinez - who is relatively humble (by boxing standards, anyway) - has cryptically stated he is "afraid" of what he might do to Margarito if they fought again. Considering the precarious state of Margarito's right eye, Martinez's warning should be taken seriously.
Yet despite the fact that Martinez is easily in the top 5 of most pound-for-pound lists, he has not been able to get a marquee matchup with one of the sport's biggest attractions. Why is that?
Whose Afraid of Sergio? Everyone!
Although each had totally different boxing styles, "Maravilla" (Spanish for "Marvelous") Martinez provides an interesting comparison to the last great fighter with the nickname "Marvelous" - Marvin Hagler.
Both fighters are left-handed middleweight champions who had to start at the bottom in relative obscurity and suffered through early career setbacks and bad decisions. Both were willing to fight the best boxers of their era. Finally, and perhaps most pertinently, both fighters remained in obscurity far longer than they should have because of boxing politics - each being too good to risk losing to and therefore avoided by being labeled as lacking in "market" value.
Even now, promoters for Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, and Floyd Mayweather provide the same tired excuse.
Martinez is certainly currently not close to being the cash cow that Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, or Miguel Cotto is (although it is interesting to remember that all of those fighters reached superstar status after bigger name fighters were willing to face them). That's a reason to give him less money in a fight, but hardly a basis for ducking him altogether.
Finally, if you want the clearest justification for our argument that Sergio Martinez is the #1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world, just take this quiz.
Manny Pacquio, Floyd Mayweather, and Miguel Cotto:
(A) Are current or former champions in the 154-pound junior middleweight division;
(B) Have turned down offers to fight Sergio Martinez at junior middleweight;
(C) Would be underdogs if they fought Sergio Martinez at junior middleweight;
(D) All of the above.
If you get the right answer, no further explanation is needed.
Consider the facts yourself and decide. But try and remember a point many seem to have forgotten during the current Pacquaio/Mayweather hostage crisis: Being the "pay-per view" king is not the same thing as being the "pound-for-pound" king. Pacquiao and Mayweather are currently battling to be crowned the former, but Martinez is the latter.
By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.Com