Sergio Martinez celebrates his knockout victory over Paul Williams in… (Al Bello / Getty Images )
Little has come easy for Sergio Martinez in life.
The 37-year-old emerged from some of the poorest, toughest streets in Argentina to ultimately embrace boxing, grinding through nothing bouts in Buenos Aires around a knockout loss to Antonio Margarito 12 years ago.
The southpaw sustained, continuing to develop through a draw and close loss in 2009 to become the Boxing Writers Assn. of America's fighter of the year in 2010 by defeating world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and knocking out Paul Williams in the second round.
Saturday at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Martinez (49-2-2, 28 knockouts) gets his showcase pay-per-view fight against Mexico's star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (46-0-1, 32 KOs), an opportunity to regain the World Boxing Council belt the organization effectively stripped him of in 2011 by elevating him to something called "emeritus champion."
How has training in Oxnard gone? Are you as prepared as you need to be?
"This is the best training of my career and I'm better than ever. That's why I feel so happy about this fight. I feel so strong and I believe I'll be better than I've ever been in my career."
You're obviously fighting the fight of your life. Does that change or alter you mentally, make you think differently about the significance of walking into that ring Saturday?
"I'm going into that fight the same as I usually do. Nothing's really changed. The only thing that has really changed is I'm more motivated than ever. Because I want to beat Chavez Jr. by a knockout."
The reason you want so badly to take this guy out … you obviously feel that the series of events that caused you to lose that belt were suspicious, but it's clear there's something more than that at play here?
"My greatest motivation is getting that belt back. That's my main goal and the No. 1 thing on my mind. For the Argentina people, that's the most important belt. Carlos Monzon had it."
The disparity you've pointed out between Chavez Jr. being raised in a life of leisure versus your own upbringing … is that what bothers you about him, or simply his personality?
"The most important thing to me has been working hard to gain my own position in life. There were different circumstances we were born into. I'm not the type of person to be bothered by that. What bothers me the most is that once he was champion," in June 2011, "they said, 'Oh no, we can't put him with the best. We have to have him learn to box, and then we'll put him with the best.' That's what bothered me. That's embarrassing. What bothered me the most was when he said on television that it's important to respect the sport. Chavez doesn't respect the sport at all. He trains when he wants. He disrespects his team, his trainer Freddie Roach. He trains at 2 in the morning, or 5 in the morning, or … the problems he'd had with the tests for anti-doping, he's been positive before for that, [a diuretic]. That's disrespect."
For you, this is another uphill battle in that you're fighting a guy who has had some of his road paved for him. He has a great champion in his corner, his father, plus Freddie Roach, and you're going to be the smaller guy. Do you find inspiration in that?
"I have best team in the world, I believe I have the best trainer. Chavez, the disadvantage he has is that I'm the one who's going to be in front of him. I don't need to fight his dad. Freddie Roach won't be in there. In the ring, it'll just be me and him."
We've spoken in the past about your anti-bullying efforts in the U.S., your acts of kindness. Yet, one thing I always hear is that if someone's boxing, they've got to have some kind of screw loose to step into that ring. Is that true? What makes you want to fight?
"I have a screw loose, but I just play it off really good. … When I think about the victory, that's the best motivation I have."
What are your thoughts on reaching the night you've spent your entire career working toward, a pay-per-view?
"Proud of myself. Everything I did was to get to now. I don't look at it as hard. Boxing is not hard to me. Life is hard."
What has been more difficult, growing up from what you survived, or the politics and forces of boxing that contributed to holding down your talent?
"What a hard question. The situation in my country was very sad and much harder. The politics of boxing affected me by myself, but life over there affects 40 million people. What I went through helped me a lot. It built in me the importance of honor and being appreciative for what I have now and where I'm at now."
How do you win this fight Saturday night?
"By knockout, before the 11th round. He's taller, I'm bigger."
If you win, I think the ideal opponent is super-middleweight champion Andre Ward, who looked great Saturday by knocking out Chad Dawson, and said he'd like to fight the winner of you and Chavez on Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas. That appeal to you?
"It's possible, but let me finish Sept. 15, and then we'll talk. On the 16th of September, I'm going to let you know."