The last time Sergio Martinez fought on native soil, he won a 10 round decision over Francisco Mora on Groundhog Day 2002. Much has changed since then, for his odyssey has taken him to Spain, Northern Ireland, England and -- for 13 of his last 14 fights -- to the United States. He returns to Argentina as the recognized world middleweight champion, a national treasure and a heavy favorite to retain his title against Briton Martin Murray, whose only blemish was a draw against Felix Sturm many thought he deserved to win.
Statistical factors that may determine the victor include:
Volume Solves Everything: In recent fights, Martinez has used supreme activity to counteract -- and in many cases shut down -- the different styles he has encountered of late.
During his most recent fight against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the shorter Martinez took the fight to Chavez but did so scientifically as he averaged 41.8 jab attempts and 11.7 jab connects per round, far above the 23.8 and 5.6 middleweight averages. Those jabs complemented the rest of his offense, which tore through Chavez's porous defense as he landed 36% overall, 28% jabs and 45% power and produced cavernous connect gulfs of 322-178 (total), 140-49 (jabs) and 182-129 (power). Martinez's attack held Chavez to just 32.5 punches per round, which was lower than the 43 he averaged in his three fights before facing Martinez and well below the 63.8 in the three fights before that.
Against the tall, jab-oriented Sergiy Dzinziruk, Martinez slit "The Razor's" throat by giving him plenty of his own medicine. Martinez threw 78.3 punches per round, averaged 50.7 jabs per round to Dzinziruk's 32, landed 38% of them to Dzinziruk's 33% and nearly doubled his rival's jab connect total (147-80). Dzinziruk averaged 51.6 punches per round against "Maravilla," well below the 71 he averaged in the three fights before that.
Against Darren Barker -- who averaged 74.3 in his previous three fights -- Martinez took away his volume by cranking out 65.8 per round, landing 38% of his jabs and limiting his volume to 38.9.
Matthew Macklin -- who averaged 77.3 in his three fights leading to Martinez -- was treated differently but the result (KO by 11) was the same. This time Martinez (who threw just 39.7 per round) used accuracy (42% overall, 34% jabs and 50% power) to force Macklin's output down to 41.9 and amassed connect advantages of 183-135 (total), 74-31 (jabs) and 109-104 (power).
More Reachable Martinez?: While Martinez successfully inhibited the offenses of Chavez, Barker, Dzinziruk and Macklin, they still hit the Argentine alarmingly often. Chavez landed 46% of his total punches, 37% of his jabs and 50% of his power shots and in the final round Chavez scored a knockdown and out-landed Martinez 37-8 in power shots. Barker landed 38% of his total punches, 35% of his jabs and 42% of his power shots while Macklin landed 40% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts. Dzinziruk was even more effective as he landed 39% overall, 33% jabs and 47% power. That's a
In his last four CompuBox-tracked fights, Martinez has been hit by a combined 36% overall, 29% jabs and 45% power compared to 34% overall, 24% jabs and 40% power in the four previous to that. Could age be eroding the 38-year-old Martinez's defensive skills? And better yet, will Murray be able to exploit that?
Eager Ambition: At 30, Murray is eight years younger than Martinez and if he's to lift the crown he'll have to meet fire with fire. Many thought Murray had done more than enough to win Felix Sturm's WBA middleweight title when they met in December 2011. There, Murray out-threw (1,061-631) and out-landed (258-182 total, 184-90 power) Sturm, but the German might have retained the title because he was more accurate (29%-24% overall, 21%-15% jabs and 47%-33% power) and definitely because the fight was staged in Mannheim, Germany.
In his most recent fight against the 12-0 Jorge Navarro, Murray fought most of the bout as if he was getting in a light workout. Without drawing a deep breath, Murray scored knockdowns in rounds one and six and stepped up the tempo at will. He averaged 71 punches per round to Navarro's 76 but out-landed him 122-48 (total), 56-9 (jabs) and 66-39 (power) and was more precise in all categories (29%-10% total, 24%-3% jabs, 35%-27% power). The Navarro bout had an air of a sparring session and won't provide an adequate barometer of how he'll conduct himself amidst the pressure he'll face Saturday.
Prediction: While Martinez's defensive skills have waned he remains an extraordinary athlete. That athleticism, combined with the inspiration he'll draw from fighting before an enormous hometown crowd, will give Martinez all the fuel he needs. A bad sign for Murray is that he was hit often by Sturm; Martinez has Sturm's skills but has a lot more power. Martinez by 10th round TKO -- if not sooner.