ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Here are three quick thoughts on Sergio Martinez’s 11th-round knockout of Darren Barker:
1. Barker was a live dog. This was supposed to be a soft touch for Martinez, who over the last two years has run a gauntlet of the top middleweights and junior middleweights in the world. But Barker—who at one point was a 25-to-1 underdog—proved to be much better than advertised. Barker had a brilliant strategy early, utilizing a stiff defense and tagging Martinez with clean shots when he saw an opening. He broke Martinez’s nose with a crisp right hand in the second round and was more than competitive the first half of the fight.
In the second half, however, Martinez dominated. He continued to blast away at Barker’s defense, and by the seventh round many of his shots were slipping through. Martinezoverwhelmed Barker with power shots in the last two rounds (a 33-7 edge) and closed the show with a relentless series of combinations that put Barker down and out.
2. Martinez is, at worst, the third-best fighter in the world. Martinez, according to sources in his camp, was fighting hurt. He battled knee and shoulder problems in the weeks leading up to the fight and spent the last eight rounds wiping a steady stream of blood from his nose. Yet Martinez overcame it all to pick up a spectacular—and, perhaps more importantly, entertaining—win. I’ll buy that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are 1-2 in the mythical pound-for-pound rankings. But Martinez (48-2-2) is firmly entrenched right behind them.
3. Paging, Miguel Cotto. OK, let’s be real: Neither Mayweather or Pacquiao is getting in the ring with Martinez. Moreover, Martinez isn’t jumping up to 168 pounds to fight one of the Super Six participants and isn’t moving to 170-pounds for the winner of Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson. And while Lou DiBella is pushing recently signed Matthew Macklin as an opponent for next year, that’s a fight only a diehard can love.
There is, in my mind, only one truly marketable opponent forMartinez: Cotto. He’s a legitimate pay per view draw and a Martinez fight would sell out Madison Square Garden in a matter of hours. Martinez wants it—he doesn’t like Cotto much and has offered to cough up his purse if he loses to him—but neither Cotto or Bob Arum has shown much interest in making that fight happen. Now, it’s on Martinez and DiBella to make it happen. Poke, prod, insult Cotto, whatever. But he is the one opponent that could conceivably elevate Martinez to the next level. Get him in the ring, whatever it takes.
-- Chris Mannix