On February 19, 2000, Antonio Margarito and Sergio “Wonder” Martinez they met at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Sergio I was 24 years old and Margarito 21, but of boxing age, the Mexican was a lion who had made his debut since he was 15 years old, while Martinez I was barely three years fighting.
They were two young men who were making their way into international boxing, and in fact, to SergioIt was the first time he fought outside of Argentina. Wonder Martinez I did not know, but that night before Margarito it would change his life.
“I did not know Las Vegas,” he narrates Martinez in his book King’s Heart. “I had traveled to Hungary with the national team as an amateur, but never to that city. News came out in the United States that they needed a more or less level boxer who could be shown abroad, young, without many fights and who was undefeated if possible. The profile fit me. “
For MartinezRaised in a poor family, a blacksmith boy and a late boxer who had tried his luck in soccer and tennis unsuccessfully, Las Vegas was another planet.
“I remember that I came to Las Vegas as a tourist, I was missing a map in my hand and I was looking up! I am not dazzled by the lights, neither here nor there, nor anywhere, but I was dazzled when I saw that city … I was coming from Claypole. The Mandalay Bay hotel was awesome, my first time staying at a five star hotel. I still say today: ‘What a piece of a hotel’, but not like that time ”.
The differences between Sergio and Margarito
At 25 years old, and barely 17 fights as a professional, Sergio got in the ring against a Margarito that being three years younger, he had six more fights.
“There was an abysmal difference between him and me,” he recalls Martinez in his book. “He was a professional and I was an improviser. What had to happen happened, it would have been unfair for me to win ”.
Sergio Martinez He already showed the speed, the liveliness of the legs and the left hand that would be his emblems, but he was still raw. MargaritoFor his part, he was a young hunter who already closed the exits well, and attacked at the right time. When Sergio he began to feel comfortable and to stand more in that same first round, the Mexican caught him.
A right straight hit his chin clean. Martinez that he went backwards until he tangled with the ropes and ended up with half his body out. The referee, Joe cortez ruled it down and gave it the count even though Martinez he recovered quickly.
Martinez started rounds well, with mobility and elusiveness, but Margarito I reached for it. He punished him above and systematically goaded him below, until the Argentine, with his mouth open and pulling air, had to stay in the short, cornered in the ropes, the territory of Margarito.
The fifth round ended with a Wonder Martinez on the brink of collapse, staggering, shaken by the blows of Margarito that they had been undermining him in body and spirit.
“I put a couple of left-handed men in him and the bastard laughed in my face,” he recalls Wonderful, “He opened the guard for me and said: ‘Come on, come on, come on’; And I said, ‘Well, it got serious.’ And a train passed me that day ”.
The Argentine knew, for the sixth round, that he no longer had the air to look for the distance and stayed in the short, exchanging against a Margarito who walked on the blows of Wonderful Martinez.
When the bell rang to end the sixth round, Sergio he knew he was lost. He was not strong in the long or the short distance. The denouement was near.
“That fight made water all over the place: I had no team, I had no plan A, or B … or Z,” he recalls. Martinez. “We went juggling in a place where there was an earthquake, and that should not be done. What had to happen happened, justice was done. It would have been unfair for me to beat Margarito, impossible and unfair ”.
The seventh round was the end for Wonderful. I was looking to hug Margarito To end the punishment, he would put his tired and sad face on the chest of the Mexican who got away and continued to punish him.
The last minute of the seventh was terrifying for Martinez who missed his blows and received three of MargaritoShe could barely stand up, no longer even having the strength to insist on the hug. With two-handed punishment, he shook his head Martinez, Margarito led him to the ropes to follow the punishment and liquidate him, until Joe cortez intervened. Sergio Martinez he had been defeated.
Does Wonder suspect that Margarito used a bandage cast?
The image was revealing. Wonderful he stayed leaning on the ropes, lowered his face and leaned it sadly on the referee’s chest. It was a postcard that guessed the immediate future that would come to him Martinez and the tough decisions he was about to make. “That night the rival was big for me, he passed me by.”
“Although an illegal bandage was recently removed from Margarito, and some can speculate thinking about how many opportunities he will have used it without the judges realizing, I do not look at that. He beat me because he was superior to me, period, “he says. Wonderful in his memoirs.
His sad face, lacerated by blows and defeat, marked Wonder Martinez. That day he had gone up to the ring with an anonymous boxer shorts that had not enough money to even embroider his name, and with one of the cheapest mouthguards.
The dream of making money in boxing had been thwarted by losing like this in his Las Vegas debut. His return to Argentina returned him to a reality from which he had clung to leave.
“I arrived in Argentina and traveled to the province of Buenos Aires to fight against him. ‘Chaco’ Bejarano and then against White. It came from Las Vegas where they give you robes, towels, a five star room. But now, the changing room was 3 x 2 m, the walls were unplastered; Words would not be enough to describe the dirt that was there. I remember, as if it were today, that there was a stretcher with a chair, and up there we supported everything. There was about 10cm of water on the ground, which made it impossible to step on ”.
Sergio’s departure for Europe
It was the return to poverty. To start from scratch to Sergio Martinez. “There was a little mirror on the wall, I remember looking at it and saying: ‘You can’t fall lower, I can’t ask for more, this is the beginning.’ I can assure you that my recovery began. I swore to myself. I said to myself: ‘I pass over my opponent, I’m out of here.’ I could not and would not allow myself to step on that locker room again, not because poverty scared me at all, but because I managed to get out of it and I knew that my dream was not that. “
Fights of the same kind followed in Argentina, and it was then that Sergio decided to leave. Leave the country.
“It was the year 2001 in which everyone has a sad story to tell. I spent ten months thinking: ‘Argentina is not going to take me anywhere with the intentions and pretensions that I have.’ I couldn’t find my place, a place where I could feel comfortable. In Argentina he could have the world titles he wanted, but from there to make a living from boxing … that was a very different story. He would have had to look for a job, like many other people who cannot make a living from their profession ”.
Start from scratch
And that’s when it did. The defeat before Antonio Margarito He had shown him that drastic decisions had to be made and he went to live in Spain as an undocumented person, and not even professional boxing crossed his mind.
“I got to have five jobs a day. He was working on the door of a disco; I gave classes in three gyms and private classes to two people who had money and wanted to train. I never dared to tell my mother, but I also worked go-go dancing in a disco, just dancing! “
But, in the end boxing came back. He met his current coach Pablo Sarmiento in Spain, he was refining his style, generating attention until he won the super welterweight championship of a minor body, the IBO, and from there everything took off.
Qualification soon came to the WBC charts, regional titles in 2006 and the first starting shot in 2007 for the interim WBC super welterweight title.
It took eight years for Wonder Martinez will return to fight in Las Vegas after the sad night before Antonio Margarito. A night that left a deep mark on the character of Sergio Martinez. “Today, looking at it from another perspective, I can say that there was a change in my life that is like night and day. Now we do things well, I do them well ”.