Sergio Martinez has made his decision. He is staying at middleweight.
Martinez won the middleweight championship on April 17 in Atlantic City, N.J., by outpointing Kelly Pavlik with late-fight surge. But Martinez was also a reigning junior middleweight titlist when he challenged Pavlik, and the rules of boxing's sanctioning organizations prohibit a fighter from holding belts in multiple divisions.
Martinez had already been stripped of the WBO's middleweight belt on May 29 because he had not yet told the organization of his decision. Faced with a deadline from the WBC, whose belts he held in the 160- and 154-pound divisions, Martinez made his decision on Wednesday, informing the organization via e-mail that he would keep the middleweight title, Sampson Lewkowicz, Martinez's adviser, told ESPN.com.
"Sergio didn't like to do it, but he gave up the junior middleweight title," Lewkowicz said. "He's fought twice at 160 pounds and he built up muscles. He thought maybe he will have to sacrifice too much to be at 154 again."
At middleweight, Martinez (45-2-2, 24 KOs) also holds the Ring magazine title as well as the lineal championship. If a major fight presents itself, promoter Lou DiBella said Martinez would consider dropping down to defend his title at a catch weight between 155 and 160 pounds.
"By keeping the middleweight title, he would also have an ability to drop down to fight a big fight at a catch weight," DiBella said. "He bulked up for Pavlik and he knows his body. He said he would have a problem going all the way down to 154 and there is no mega fight for him in that weight class. If there is an economic reason to go down as low as 155, he'd probably do it, but he's a middleweight now."
As a middleweight, Martinez is 1-1, beating Pavlik for the title and losing a majority decision to Paul Williams in December in one of the most action-packed fights of 2009, a bout many observers thought could have gone either way.
There was another reason for Martinez's decision to vacate the junior middleweight title rather than the middleweight championship.
Martinez, 35, who lives in California, is from Argentina, whose greatest fighter was Hall of Famer Carlos Monzon, the longtime middleweight champion in the 1970s.
"What Sergio told me was that he preferred to stick at 160 because he wants to follow in the footsteps of his great idol, Monzon," Lewkowicz said. "It means a lot to him to have the same title as Monzon and there is more prestige he believes in being middleweight champion than in the junior middleweight division."
Martinez won the WBC's vacant interim title at junior middleweight with an eighth-round knockout of Alex Bunema in 2008 and defended it once when he was given a draw against Kermit Cintron in a February 2009 fight most believed Martinez had won easily. After the murder of titleholder Vernon Forrest last summer, Martinez was elevated to full titleholder. But he went up to middleweight to face Williams in a nontitle bout before making a defense.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.