NEW YORK – Sergio Martinez is generally considered the world's best middleweight, despite holding none of the major titles. He can take a major step toward proving his worth on Saturday night in his debut at Madison Square Garden.
Martinez hasn't picked the easiest of environments for the fight. He'll take on Matthew Macklin, born in England of Irish parents, on St. Patrick's Day.
The 37-year-old Argentine doesn't seem intimidated. He's got a 48-2-2 record, impressive wins in his last four fights and the incentive of his first Garden appearance. So what if it's in the Theater while the New York Rangers are busy in the main arena playing the Colorado Avalanche?
"It has been a dream my whole life to fight in the mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden," Martinez said. "I've thought about fighting here for so many years."
What he is likely to experience, aside from fulfilling that career wish, is a hostile atmosphere. The place is almost certainly to be filled with green-clad fans rooting for Macklin.
The 29-year-old Macklin is 28-3 and comes off a controversial close loss to WBA titleholder Felix Sturm in Sturm's home country of Germany. He's held English, British, Irish and European crowns and now is after the global title.
"This is for the No. 1 spot in the world for middleweights," said Macklin, nicknamed Mack The Knife. "It's 18 years to the day that I stepped into the ring for the first time, in Birmingham, England. I always believed I'd be a world champion."
The undercard features two super middleweights with nicknames that clearly depict their style of fighting. Unbeaten Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriguez takes on Donovan "Da Bomb" George.
Rodriguez has 14 knockouts in his 20 wins, while George has 19 knockouts in a 22-1-1 record.
"I'm ready to send a message to all the top super middleweights in the world that I am around," Rodriguez said.
Added George, "I've prepared very well for this fight, made a million sacrifices. I look forward to putting on a great show."
One that figures to end early given the fighters' knockout records.
Both fights will be show on HBO.
Martinez-Macklin is for the WBC Diamond belt, not to be confused with the WBC championship that Martinez held in 2010. He was forced to give up that title because of some sanctioning issues, but remains recognized by many as the middleweight champ.
"Sergio is the real middleweight champion," Macklin said, "and if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. I'm glad the opportunity came about.
"He's 37 now and on Saturday night, he's going to feel every single day of those 37 years. And there'll be a new middleweight champion."