Sergio Martinez gets his homecoming dream bout at Buenos Aires’ fabled Luna Park on March 21
One obsession drives Sergio Martinez at his 48 years of age right now: a new title shot to become middleweight champion against all odds once again. And he will stop at nothing to get it.
And in a few days, his unlikely trip to the boxing cosmos may get an unexpected boost when he takes off in the very same launching pad in which many of his compatriots started their careers.
As crazy as it seems, Martinez (56-3-2, 31 knockouts) never fought in Buenos Aires’ Luna Park Stadium, the 90+-years-old venue that was synonymous with top-level boxing in the Southern Hemisphere for most of the 20th century. But he will get his chance this coming Tuesday (yes, Tuesday) March 21, when he will be facing Colombia’s Jhon Teheran (18-2, 15 KOs) in a 10-rounder as part of a card honoring one of the fighters who made the stadium famous.
“Happiness,” summed up Martinez, when asked about his feelings on this dream date. “Absolute happiness. Super happy for the opportunity of fighting in Luna Park, being part of the myth, of a temple of boxing, the boxing venue par excellence in Argentine history. It fills me with joy. And I also know it’s the product of a good job that I am doing now. And it arrives at just the right time, when I find myself wiser and more experienced, with my intelligence at full speed, with my body obeying every order that I give it. And this makes me feel that I am deserving this. I am taking this as a reward to my career. That’s how I see it. I don’t see a better time for me, past or future, to have this fight at Luna Park.”
The card has many unusual features. For starters, no tickets will be sold in this “Invitation-only” red-carpet event that will serve also as the premiere for “Ringo,” a TV series on the life and tragedy of late heavyweight contender Oscar Bonavena. With the backing of the local Disney franchise, it is a huge production that will be heavily promoted to the point of having its own “undercard” for the premiere, and featuring a former world champ at the top of the bill, no less. The show’s first episode will be shown in the stadium’s screens above the center of the ring before the first bell of this six-fight card.
The offer caught Martinez, a promoter in his own right, by surprise according to him.
“I was not training for any fights, I was trying to put together a card as a promoter before the end of March, and I got the call from ESPN and got the opportunity and I said yes, right away. The opportunity is really good to be a headliner. I was already working on something and I was already telling everyone that my next fight would be in Argentina, so this was perfect.”
The offer itself came from an unlikely source as well. Fellow former-fighter-turned-promoter Marcos “Chino” Maidana will be at the helm in this entire event, making it the first time they both work together.
Martinez’s focus, though, remains elsewhere, especially now that Gennady Golovkin has relinquished his two belts and Japan’s Ryota Murata has officially retired, opening a lot of possibilities for him.
“It is a great moment for me. My enthusiasm and my spirits are intact. I know that if there is a world title shot, which I think it could be a matter of time,” said Martinez, who claims he will know in five to six weeks whether there will be an elimination or title shot for him in the WBA’s infamous multi-belt multiverse. “I am No. 2 in the WBA ranking and I know I will have an opportunity. I am working on that, and I am working to stay in shape and be worthy of this ranking.”
In the unheralded Teheran, Martinez will likely find an appropriate test for this stage of his career. Teheran’s only losses have been in Argentina, and his fights in his native Colombia have been against non-descript opposition. Martinez hopes that Teheran’s glossy record will somehow validate his current position in the WBA’s rankings.
“I know that my opponent is younger than me, just like almost every other fighter on this planet (laughs). I know he has 15 KOs and has a respectable punch. I will have to do my job in the best way possible to win convincingly and clearly. That’s what I need, it’s my challenge. I want to win without any doubts and to demonstrate that if I am No. 2 in the world I can’t feel in any danger against a foe like Jhon Teheran. That’s how I see it.”
After ending his career due to the many health issues that plagued him in his last few fights, Martinez feels he has sufficiently recovered to find himself in a perfect position to make one last glorious run to the mountaintop.
“My body is responding as strongly or more than it was when I was a world champ, even though I was already ‘old’ back then at my 37 or 38 years of age. My mind is responding at that level as well or even better. I hope to continue in this path,” said Martinez. “I don’t know in what part of our lives we were taught to believe that 48 is an old age. I take it as a challenge for my personal life, not only as an athlete. I see it as an adventure and a challenge that is almost heroic, and I love it because I am enjoying it, I know I am doing it right and I know I have the conditions to do it. I know that my mind and my body are responding. I am going to resist until the title shot comes, and the opportunity is real. I will be here until I leave the ring after leaving up there all of the punches that I have in me.”
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.