Sergio Martinez, the best fighter in the world not named Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, today was recognized as an honorary member of the storied Argentine soccer club River Plate.
The 37-year-old Martinez, who is the lineal middleweight champion and No. 3-ranked boxer in SI.com’s pound-for-pound ratings, was honored in a ceremony Sunday at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, the club’s home stadium in Buenos Aires.
Dr. Gaston Gallino, River Plate’s president of public relations, presented Martinez with a plaque and a No. 1 shirt with “Maravilla Martinez” printed on the back.
A product of one of Buenos Aires’ toughest barrios, Martinez sought careers in soccer and cycling before taking up boxing at 20. He had been tabbed for a fútbol career as a precocious striker for local club team Claypole during his teenage years, but turned down a contract offer from Club Atlético Los Andes — a decision that perplexed many in a nation where the beautiful game is sacrosanct.
The late-blooming Argentine expat upset Kelly Pavlik for the middleweight championship in April 2010. He is coming off an entertaining 11th-round TKO of Matthew Macklin on St. Patrick’s Day in New York, his fourth consecutive defense of the 160-pound title.
With few big-money challengers at middleweight, Martinez has said he would come all the way down to 150 pounds and settle for pride-swallowing 80-20 split of the purse to make a fight with current pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.
– Bryan Armen Graham