After beating Kelly Pavlik and knocking out Paul Williams last year, Sergio Martinez set his sights on fights with all the big names, including Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. As fate would have it, however, the 2010 Fighter of the Year found himself in the ring with a European boxer few in America knew, Sergiy Dzinziruk. It is a credit to Martinez that he didn't take his foot off the pedal, scoring a brilliant and exciting 8th round TKO of the previously unbeaten Ukrainian.
What was most impressive about the athletically-gifted Martinez -- who stirs up memories of another unorthodox, speed-oriented boxer, Roy Jones Jr. - was that he beat Dzinziruk at his own game. Dzinziruk, who came into the fight with a record of 37-0, possesses one of the best jabs in the game. Yet it was Martinez who out-jabbed Dzinziruk, consistently beating him to the punch, and never letting the Ukrainian settle into his rhythm.
Even more remarkable, Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs) knocked out a fighter who was known for his iron chin. Dzinziruk had never been knocked down once as a professional or as an amateur with over 300 fights. Yet Martinez dropped the Ukrainian in rounds four and five, and then three times in the 8th before referee Arthur Mercante waived the fight off with 1:43 to go in the round.
Martinez came into the fight without his longtime trainer, Gabriel Sarmiento, in his corner. Sarmiento, who had guided Martinez from an obscure Argentinean fighting largely out of Spain, into a star on the big stage, was absent due to personal reasons. In his place was his brother, Pablo Sarmiento. It didn't seem to matter to the remarkable Martinez.
Dzinziruk, known as a counter puncher, was making his American debut, and apparently was determined to make an impression. As a result, he was more aggressive than usual, and that might have cost him. The 35-year-old Dzinziruk, who was fighting for the first time as a middleweight, made himself an easier target for Martinez by coming forward constantly. It was a tactic which played right into Martinez's swift hands. Dzinziruk fought with a lot of heart and skill, but he was just no match for one of the world's best pound-for-pound fighters.
Martinez's surprising jab-based attack had dominated rounds one through five, but then he seemed to go into cruise control in the sixth and seventh, rounds Dzinziruk appeared to have won. Just as it looked like the European challenger was coming on, Martinez put Dzinziruk down with a crushing left hand. The Ukrainian got up, but seemed wobbly. Five seconds later Martinez sent him down again. Dzinziruk got gamely to his feet, but it was clear the end was near. The punch that put him away was not even a big one, a right that earlier in the fight would not even have made Dzinziruk flinch, but this time sent the cumulative effect of Martinez hard hands put him down yet again. "I was able to hit the gas and accelerate," Martinez said. "I got a new wind, That happens to every human."
"It is a dream of mine to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world," Martinez said.
Martinez has been frequently mentioned in the mix for pound-for-pound king with Pacquiao and Mayweather, and did nothing to dissuade his backers in his first fight of 2011. It was something that was clearly on his mind. "It is a dream of mine to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world," Martinez said. "I'm obsessed with it. I want to fight the best fighters out there. I want Mayweather and Pacquiao in front of me."
The likelihood of that happening seems slim, for now. Pacquiao, the consensus pound-for-pound king, is a former flyweight fighting now at welterweight, and his camp has said repeatedly he has no plans to take on a much bigger boxer like Martinez. Mayweather, meanwhile, is embroiled in legal problems. Regardless of who steps in the ring with Martinez next, one thing is clear: he will make an entertaining and exciting fight because that is his nature.
In the opening fight on the card, middleweight Andy Lee (25-1, 19 KOs) scored a dramatic comeback victory by stopping previously unbeaten Craig McEwan (19-1), in the 10th and final round. McEwan had taken the fight to Lee early, and had kept the pressure on throughout. McEwan, a Scot trained by Freddie Roach - who was not in his corner because he was in the Philippines with Pacquiao - had staggered Lee on occasion. But a right hand by Lee at the end of round 9 put him down and in trouble. Lee was all over McEwan in the 10th, flooring him again. Referee Steve Smoger waived it off with 56 seconds to go in the 10th.