IF Martin Murray wanted any further evidence of the esteem in which his next opponent - the great Sergio Martinez - is held in his native Argentina, then the South American nation’s media has provided it.

For Martinez has just beaten the world’s greatest footballer Lionel Messi to the title of Argentina’s greatest athlete.

Messi has enjoyed a record-breaking year, in which he has scored 90 goals, but the diminutive playmaker only came third in a poll of Argentine journalists, which was topped by Martinez.

WBC middleweight champion Martinez, who faces 30-year-old Paddington resident Murray in Argentina on April 27, also pipped taekwondo fighter Sebastian Crismanich, the country’s only gold medallist at London 2012, to the Olimpia de Oro.

Martinez, aged 37, will provide Murray’s toughest test by far in the boxer's quest to be crowned the greatest middleweight on the planet.

It represents a homecoming bout for the Argentinian, who has earned superstar status fighting in the United States and Europe.

The enormity of the fight was underlined by the fact the President of Argentina announced it.

Murray, accompanied by promoter Ricky Hatton, is currently in Argentina where they both attended a press conference to discuss the fight yesterday.

Speaking at the press conference, Murray, who hails from St Helens and grew up in the town, said: "He began at the bottom and today he's the most powerful in the division. But I'm better and can beat him.

"It will be a great opportunity for me to show the world who I am."

He later told his Twitter followers that he knew the fight was going to be big – but has realised how massive it is in Argentina.

It will be Murray’s second crack at becoming world champion.

He just failed to take the WBA title from Felix Sturm last year when he drew against the German.

However Martinez, who says Murray is a great sportsman who should be respected, has predicted he will win within eight rounds.