By Jake Donovan
Bob Arum continues to show why he and his Top Rank promotional company are head and shoulders above every other promoter in the United States.
For nearly his entire career, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (46-0-1, 32KO) has been accused of being many things by many in the media and the boxing public. ‘Fighter’ was almost never one of them, especially among his peers.
Ask Sergio Martinez (49-2-2, 28KO) and his handlers their opinion of Chavez Jr. a year ago, and words “coward,” “fraud” and “protected” would immediately fly out of their collective mouths.
These days, the lineal middleweight king and his entourage gladly share the stage with the second-generation titlist, having toured the country to help promote their September 15 showdown in Las Vegas.
“On September 15, we will be presenting the Hispanic Super Bowl of Boxing,” Arum proclaimed of the fight that takes place at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, serving as boxing’s centerpiece in its annual tribute to Mexican Independence Day. “This is the fight you’ve been asking for. This is the fight we will be presenting on September 15.”
Oddsmakers have placed Martinez as a slight 8-5 favorite, a testament to how much Chavez Jr. has improved over the past several years. The past year in particular has watched the Mexican icon grow into a full middleweight, where he picked up a title – one that was forced out of Martinez’ hands – and has defended three times.
This calendar year has seen Chavez pick up his two biggest wins to date, stopping Andy Lee last month in El Paso and scoring a decision win over Marco Antonio Rubio this past February.
In the post-fight press conference following the win over Lee, it was announced – or at least insisted – by Arum that a deal was reached for Chavez Jr. to face Martinez on September 15. Nobody knew what to make of the announcement, as Martinez and his team had chided Chavez Jr. all along in belief that the fight would never be made.
But once it was stated in public, everything else fell into place.
“Once Julio’s team agreed it was time for this fight, it took all of 30 minutes to make this deal,” acknowledged Lou DiBella, Martinez’ promoter for the past several years. “That’s what happens when you work with true professionals.
“This is the best fight that you can make for the middleweight division, period. People are going to want to buy tickets. We’re hoping to put 18,000 into the arena. This is how you save the sport, this is how you bring fans back. You put the best in with the best and this fight is the best you can make.”
The fight comes in the midst of several key matchups being inked in the middleweight division, all set to take place within a month of each other.
Longtime titlist Felix Sturm is set to take on Australian middleweight Daniel Geale in an alphabet unification match two weeks prior on September 1. Another pairing of beltholders was set for the week before, but a back injury forced Dmitry Pirog to withdraw from a showdown with Gennady Golovkin in a bout that was slated for HBO on August 25. Golovkin will still make his network debut on the date, as a quality opponent is being sought.
While both of those bouts come with major intrigue, none come with as much interest as the true middleweight championship taking place in mid-September. Just don’t tell that to Chavez Jr. and Martinez, neither of whom believe the other stands a chance of winning.
“Speaking of Sergio as a fighter, he’s one of the best fighters. He’s a very good fighter. It will be a great fight, a great fight,” Chavez Jr. acknowledges. “But on September 15, this fight will make me as a fighter. We are much stronger and you will know who Julio Cesar Chavez Carrasco is.”
The way Martinez sees it, September 15 will be the last time anyone will know who Chavez Jr. is, or at least what he looks like.
If (Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.) wants to recognize his own son, he better take a picture now. After the fight, he will be messed up,” Martinez insisted during the press tour, in which Chavez Jr. was accompanied as always by his Hall-of Fame father.
Martinez will make the fifth defense of the lineal middleweight crown he earned by decisioning Kelly Pavlik more than two years ago in Atlantic City. Each of his four defenses have ended inside the distance, including his eyes-wide-shut 2nd round knockout of Paul Williams in their Nov. ’10 rematch.
Still, what matters the most to Martinez is reclaiming what he believes was stolen from him. The alphabet belt Chavez Jr. will bring to the ring was once in the possession of Martinez, who chose to vacate after being told that Sebastian Zbik – his mandatory challenger at the time – was unworthy of their airtime.
Martinez vacated and instead accepted assignment against unbeaten 154 lb. titlist Sergei Dzinziruk. Shortly therafter, Zbik – who was granted title status – was suddenly greenlighted as an HBO-level opponent when Arum was in search of a network home for the Chavez Jr. tour.
More than a year later, none of this remains lost on Martinez, who has vowed to make Chavez Jr. pay.
“Not only will I regain my title but I will continue to demonstrate that I am pound-for-pound one of the best fighters in the world,” Martinez insists, before making a reference to his prior take on his opponent. “On September 15, I plan to pluck all of the feathers off of Julio Jr’s skin.”
Needless to say, the ‘chicken’ comment didn’t sit well with Chavez Jr’s turn. Luckily for them, they enjoyed the last at-bat behind the mic during each of the press tour stops.
“If Chavez has feathers, it’s because he’s a rooster not a chicken,” quipped Fernando Beltran, Chavez’ co-promoter. “If you want to take pictures now, take them of (Martinez).”
That said, even Martinez’ handlers acknowledge that there’s no time like the present for this fight.
“I said three fights ago this was a mismatch,” admits Sampson Lewkowicz, Martinez’ advisor. “Today, it’s a real fight. In the past, I didn’t understand why Bob Arum didn’t want the fight. Today I understand. He was not ready. Now he’s ready. He’s the bigger man and the stronger man.”
Chavez Jr. has repeatedly heard his opponents constantly refer to him as ‘the bigger man.’ The unbeaten star believes it’s time that everyone starts adding ‘better man’ to the description.
“I would like to say that on September 15, I will show you what type of fighter I am,” Chavez insists. “There will be no doubt who wins this fight. What I want to know is, where will Sergio Martinez go after he loses on September 15?”
Where everyone goes after the fight remains to be seen. Where the fight is going on September 15 is something that Arum knew all along, or at least for the time he even entertained the possibility.
“Sergio Martinez became known to the public by his string of fights on HBO. JCC Jr became really known by his last four fights being carried on the premiere network, HBO. It’s only right that a fight of this magnitude will be carried on HBO PPV,” Arum states of the forthcoming pay-per-view event.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox