by Cain Bradley
Sergio Martinez started boxing relatively late at the age of 20, previously having been a cyclist and footballer. He compiled an amateur record of 39-2. A broken hand put him out of action for a year, but made his debut at the end of 1997.
His career began in Argentina, where he had his first 17 fights. He won almost all of those fights, the one blemish being a draw against Juan Mauricio Marino which he avenged by defeating him a couple of fights later. He first went over to America to co-main event the first Barrera Vs Morales card. Martinez would take on Antonio Margarito in his first exposure to American audiences. As Margarito tends to, he took on Martinez and wore him down in a brutal war. Martinez credits that fight with changing his career.
Martinez would return to Argentina following the defeat, winning eight straight fights and the Argentinean title. Following that, he would relocate to Spain, linking up with Gabriel Sarmiento working numerous jobs, including a model and dishwasher. He won fourteen straight fights in Europe, predominantly in Spain. He did cross over to England where he surprised Richard Williams on eight days notice to win the IBO Title.
He returned to America to beat Saul Roman and would win the WBC Interim Title over Alex Bunema. A controversial defence over Kermit Cintron finished in a draw despite most believing that Martinez had dominated and appearing to get a stoppage victory in the seventh. He would then move up to middleweight, fighting Paul Williams. It was a fight of the year candidate, with both fighters exchanging knockdowns before Williams won a majority decision. He would stay at middleweight, despite the loss, taking on Kelly Pavlik for the WBC, WBO and The Ring Titles. Once again Martínez was knocked down, this time in the seventh round, but he pushed on, dominating behind a strong jab and causing cuts over both of Pavlik’s eyes winning by unanimous decision.
The rematch against Williams would come at the end of 2010. Seen as a 50-50 fight between two of the top fighters at the weight, most expected an enthralling war. Martínez pole-axed Williams with an incredible overhand left. He followed that up by taking a stoppage victory over Sergiy Dzinziruk after knocking him down five times. Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker were both stopped in the eleventh round. Against Julio Cesar Chavez, he was in trouble himself late on in the fight as he was dropped in the 12th after clearly dominating. He fought through it to earn a clear victory.
His penultimate fight came against Martin Murray, his first bout in Argentina since 2002. It was heavily disputed, but Martinez took a close decision victory. He would finally succumb against a younger contender, as Miguel Cotto brutally beat him, stopping him in the ninth. His corner stopped the fight in the corner with Pablo Sarmiento telling him “Champion, your knees are not responding. Sergio, look at me. I’m gonna stop this one. Sergio, you are the best for me. You’ll always be the best champion Sergio.”
Ronald “Winky” Wright was also a late starter to boxing, although his uncles told of making all the children fight as youngsters, with Winky hardly ever losing. He was a natural in the boxing gym, winning the Florida Golden Gloves novice division less than a month after taking up boxing.
He went on to amass an amateur record of 65-7, but when he was overlooked for the Goodwill Games behind Mark Lewis and Terron Millett, he chose to turn professional. It was a $30,000 offer from a local promoter that Winky signed to, an offer that he regretted taking. After two years of fighting in Florida, he was unbeaten. Lacking opportunities though, he would spend the next three years in Europe. He won in front of hostile crowds in Monaco, Luxembourg, France and Germany. He never complained about it, claiming, “I had to go through what I had to go through to get here," he says.
He also lost his first world title shot, against Julio Cesar Vazquez in a fight which saw him ruled to have been down five times. Wright returned to America again to take on Bronco McKart for the WBO Title in Michigan, McKart’s hometown where he won a split decision. Three successful defences in Britain followed before heading over to South Africa where he took on Harry Simon. Fans shouted death threats whilst throwing bottles and chairs at him.
Originally announced as a draw, the result was corrected to have him losing a decision and thus his belt. His contract with the Acaries brothers finished after that fight and he would return to America, signing with Don King. After a win, he would take on Fernando Vargas, the IBF World Champion who had stopped every opponent. Wright gave him hell with his accurate punching and a strong defence. Vargas was given the nod for a majority decision victory, however many felt that Wright actually deserved the win. After he earned another win against Bronco McKart, before taking on Robert Frazier for the vacant IBF Title. Four straight defences followed, with comprehensive victories, although Wright still remained out of the spotlight.
That would change as Winky was challenged by Shane Mosley, the multi-weight world champion. As a 4-1 underdog, Winky shocked the world. He dominated behind the jab and his greater size, controlling the pace of the fight to win a unanimous decision.
The rematch saw another victory for Winky, although it was closer. It included Winky letting Mosley tee off on him, to show his chin. He would take another huge fight when fighting Felix Trinidad at middleweight. Wright was absolutely dominant, barely losing a round. He used his dominant jab and a peek-a-boo defence to frustrate the power-punching Puerto Rican. He would defeat Sam Soliman before taking on Jermain Taylor. Winky boxed behind his jab and out landed Taylor, but the fight was still judged as a split draw. He beat Ike Quartet before three straight losses to Bernard Hopkins, Paul Williams and Peter Quillin.
Martinez was a incredible fighter to watch, a boxer who had the ability to fight. He was an awkward southpaw, rarely fighting on the front foot. Instead he looked to go to the side or backwards, away from the danger. He kept his hands down with his weight forward, looking to draw his opponent in. He was incredibly athletic with good speed and power. He would often pot-shot, looking to keep his opponent guessing, utilising a soft left hand very effectively. His fitness never faltered, allowing him to keep up a high volume of punches and his defensive footwork.
Winky Wright was also a southpaw, mainly known for his defence. He had a tight guard, held close to his temple. He parried a lot of punches with his gloves, allowing him to be defensively efficient without being flashy. He looked to dominate behind a strong jab and counters. He wore his opponents down with his relentless nature and size.
The two fighters both will get to do what they want. Winky will come forward with his high guard whilst Martinez will move backwards looking to pot-shot. The early rounds would see both men trying to establish their punches. Winky would be looking to stick his jab in the face of Martinez, but Martinez’s unorthodox style sees him get some success. Winky will only gain confidence as the fight goes on and he begins to time Martinez. The hands down style of Martinez will not aid him in stopping the jab.
The constant southpaw jab in his face will leave Martinez reluctant to throw with his usual aplomb. When he does, Winky will look to counter him. Martinez has the power, but Winky does not take enough clean shots to be stopped by Martinez. Anytime he gets hurt, he will be able to clinch Martinez and go back into his shell. It’s a dominant performance by Winky. The head movement is going to cause troubles for Wright at times, with there being rounds where neither man lands many punches.
Neither man slows over the twelve rounds a huge amount; instead the pair continue their game of tactical chess. Martinez gets a bit reckless in the last couple of rounds, but it doesn’t really add much, instead Winky punishing the increased mistakes of Martinez.
Result: Winky Wright beats Sergio Martinez by Unanimous Decision with scores of 117-111 (x2) and 116-112.