The word defeat does not exist. It is verboten -- at least within the entourage of Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez. The team surrounding the lineal middleweight champion keeps him focused on his goals and provides all the tools necessary for victory every time Martinez gets in the ring.
From the fighter's trainer to his promoter and his business partner, togetherness rules on Team Martinez. There's a shared commitment to winning and a unity that is almost palpable. Every member works exclusively for Martinez, and he works for them. The fighter trusts that each piece of the machinery will hum efficiently so that he can devote himself to his craft.
When my dressing room starts to fill up with people before a fight, Pablo Sarmiento shouts a few orders and I am left alone. And the same happens with everyone in my team. In the same way, when it comes to making a decision, Miguel de Pablos is my right hand -- and my left hand as well. It would be unfair to forget somebody. They are all professionals, because if they weren't, they wouldn't be around me. My victories belong to them, too, for all of what they do. Remember, I am not alone in this, and thanks to them I don't even think of defeat.
Sergio Martinez left his native Argentina a decade ago. His story begins as so many others do: Facing a lack of opportunities in his own country, he decided to try his luck in Europe. And with an address scribbled on a piece of paper in his pocket and a half-empty suitcase, he hopped a plane to Madrid, where he would track down the man he sought at the address: Pablo Sarmiento. That is where Martinez's story took perhaps its most important turn, down a path that would see him become the World Boxing Council's emeritus champion and, eventually, land a fight with the organization's regular titleholder, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
He's a boxing promoter, writer, stand-up comedian, fashion model, spokesperson for women's rights and an anti-bullying advocate. What else? Oh yes, Martinez is also a fighter. And everything else he has achieved has its origins in what he has done with his gloves on.
One day, I told my mother Susana: 'Ma'am, I am bringing money to this house, so I have my right to choose, and I choose to become a boxer.'
-- SERGIO MARTINEZ
Born Feb. 21, 1975 in Quilmes, in the province of Buenos Aires, the 37-year-old champion holds a record of 49 victories with 28 KOs, 2 defeats and 2 draws. Martinez grabbed the WBC middleweight title when he defeated Kelly Pavlik on points in 12 rounds on April 17, 2010 in Atlantic City, N.J., and then became the emeritus champion of the WBC after abandoning his regular title. (Martinez also is recognized by Ring magazine as the linear champion.) He will try to recover the belt that also once belonged to compatriots Carlos Monzon, Hugo Pastor Corro and Jorge Fernando Castro on Saturday, when he will face Mexico's Chavez at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
But behind this great boxer, there is a man. Or, perhaps more appropriately, the other way around.
"One day, I told my mother Susana: 'Ma'am, I am bringing money to this house, so I have my right to choose, and I choose to become a boxer,' and that's how it was. I was playing soccer and I was doing well, but when my uncle Ruben Paniagua started training me, he said I had what it took to become a champion. But even today, I don't know if I chose boxing or if boxing chose me. How is it possible that I had decided to train with all my energy to then go over and hit another man until I took everything away from him, like a predator? But that was my destiny, as a gladiator, and I embraced it."
Marty Rosengarten for Ringsidephotos.com A knockout of Paul Williams transformed Martinez into an instant star in the U.S. and abroad.
In Argentina, people discovered him unexpectedly. He moved to Spain a decade ago, making his debut in Barcelona with a points victory over Alvaro Moreno in a six-round bout in April 2002. That began a title campaign that ended eight years later with the victory against Pavlik.
Even though his most important fights were televised in Argentina, he was practically unknown until a popular TV talk show host, Alejandro Fantino, interviewed Martinez on his show. The interview was scheduled to last 30 minutes, but the response from the audience was so overwhelming that the fighter and host would wind up talking for more than an hour. Martinez's personal story, eloquence and demeanor on camera captivated the audience, and the interview was the snowball that started what has become an avalanche of a career.
The image of the knockout he scored in the second round against Paul Williams on Nov. 20, 2010, in Atlantic City has been replayed infinitely. And when Martinez accepted an invitation to participate in Argentina's version of "Dancing With The Stars," one of Argentina's most successful TV shows, his stock went through the roof. What more could he possibly do? As it turns out, a lot. Saturday's fight with Chavez could turn Maravilla into one of the most popular fighters of his generation.
But for that, he will need a little bit of help.
Here, we take a look at the men and women who make up Team Martinez: an Argentine, two Americans, an Uruguayan, a Canadian, a Venezuelan and two Spaniards. A truly international team behind the man who is one of the three finest boxers on the planet today.
Pablo Daniel Sarmiento, born in Las Varillas, Cordoba, is a fundamental piece of the Martinez machine, because his job is to train the fighter and conduct him through Martinez's fights.
Sarmiento, 41, finished his career as a fighter in 2010, leaving the ring with a record of 34-14-2 (16 KOs). He won the IBO junior welterweight title in 2001 after beating Billy Schwer by TKO in 11 rounds. In Argentina, Sarmiento fought virtually everyone in his weight class at 135 pounds. He is the brother of Gabriel Sarmiento, who is currently away from the team.
Pablo, known as "Bones" by most, says it was his brother who "put together the weight routine that explains [Sergio's] huge strength today." He says that it's hard to find a fighter who works as hard and with as much enthusiasm as Martinez, who has never asked how much money there is in a fight -- because what interests him more is glory.
"When he came to me and started training again in Spain, he was already like that," Sarmiento said. "He was an extraordinarily proud kid."
Martinez works out Monday through Saturday. "On Mondays, I get one extra hour of sleep -- that's why I get up at 4:30," he says with a smile.
"But he is also capable of climbing on a wooden plank and balancing himself on the sea for about 15 minutes, or he'll do abs until everyone is exhausted just from watching him," Sarmiento said. "He's a freak....