After Sergio Martinez’ gritty decision over Kelly Pavlik and shocking second round knockout over Paul Williams, questions swirled around who at junior middleweight or the surrounding divisions can beat Martinez–someone who has risen from obscurity to one of the most respected fighters in boxing in less than two years.
Manny Pacquiao is probably too small, which makes him an unlikely opponent. James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo might have too many defensive liabilities. Miguel Cotto is shopworn. Felix Sturm has managed to avoid fighting a top middleweight in the nearly seven years following a breakthrough performance against Oscar De La Hoya.
That leaves the man HBO pushed on Martinez, Sergiy Dzinziruk, 37-0 (23). The six- foot German has some of the same attributes and skills that Pavlik deployed to give Martinez fits. While not as tall as Pavlik, he’s a lengthy fighter with an active and accurate jab. He’s tough to hurt or deter, and he’s a southpaw that presents perhaps the stoutest guard Martinez, 46-2-2, has ever had to navigate.
Put it together, and Martinez faces a fascinating test Saturday night at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Not quite the tune-up or showcase we’ve become accustomed to following a series of tough matchups.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it will be an explosive fight, or that Dzinziruk, Hamburg, Germany, via Ukraine, is without exploitable flaws. His stout defense comes at the price of an inconsistent, jab-heavy offense which features a power hand that’s often glued to the holster. And while his punches can sting, he’ll never be mistaken as a knockout artist, and he isn’t particularly adept at finishing wounded prey.
Judges don’t seem too fond of his style either, even in his hometown. He beat Daniel Santos with three narrow 115-112 scorecards despite completely controlling the majority of the bout. Lukas Konecny received a very fortunate 114-114 card, while two 116-112 cards in Dzinziruk’s bout against Joel Julio also failed to accurately portray the ass-whooping that took place.
Nevertheless, Martinez, Oxnard, California, but originally from Buenos Aires, will likely have to find the second gear he found to secure his victory over Pavlik. After darting in and out with one or two punches stopped working, Martinez, 46-2-2 (25), began putting together eye-catching combinations. And that may be what conquers the technically-proficient Dzinziruk. Martinez, 36, seems more willing to take risks, while one can envision Dizinziruk riding a probing jab and occasional left hand all the way to a close decision loss.
But Dzinziruk is looking to duplicate Martinez’ jump from obscurity. A couple of years mired in promotional dispute, inactivity, and disrespect can push a fighter into performing well above a level he’s performed before. In that respect, Dzinziruk, 35, views Martinez as a career-defining fight. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the watermark moment.
What makes the bout intriguing is that while Martinez has been exalted into rarefied air, his rise was so sudden that most of us still don’t know all there is to know about his abilities. How does he adapt to different fighting styles? How does he handle someone who’s as hard to hit cleanly as he is? Kermit Cintron, Kelly Pavlik, and Paul Williams provided clues but fell short of painting a complete picture.
Sergiy Dzinziruk is sure to help fill in the blanks.