By Chris Robinson
Sitting ringside inside of the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on Saturday night, HBO analyst Larry Merchant had a very intimate view of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s 7th round stoppage of Andy Lee. Defending his WBC middleweight belt successfully for the third time, Chavez showed a relentless aggression and a wicked body attack that will likely make him a handful for anyone at 160 pounds.
Chavez has improved immensely during his two-plus years with trainer Freddie Roach and Merchant can spot the progression.
“I thought he was very impressive,” stated Merchant early Sunday, as he was moments away from boarding a flight to head back home to Southern California. “Nobody’s ever done to Andy Lee what he did. I didn’t sense that Lee was that vulnerable and that, once he got rolling, would roll over him. Although it was a very close fight at the end because of the scoring.”
The stage now seems to be set for Chavez to tangle with Argentina’s Sergio Martinez on September 15th at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. It’s a fight that the boxing world has been clamoring for and despite an apparent reluctance not to stage the event in the past from Bob Arum, who co-promotes Chavez, Merchant seems to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
“Well, call me a cock-eyed optimistic, which you’d have to in boxing just to sit down at ringside, but yeah, I do think it’s going to happen,” said Merchant. “I think they want it happen and that both guys want it to happen. I think Julio wants it to happen. It’s the only serious challenge out there.”
An interesting subplot in a Chavez-Martinez encounter is the fact that Golden Boy Promotions also has that date on hold in Las Vegas for a Saul Alvarez-Victor Ortiz faceoff at the MGM Grand. Ortiz, if successful against Josesito Lopez this weekend, will be moving up in weight to challenge Alvarez for his WBC junior middleweight bauble and that match is guaranteed fireworks yet Merchant didn’t have too much hesitation when asked what card he would prefer if forced to choose.
“I’d have to say Chavez-Martinez,” added Merchant. “It’s the true middleweight championship of the world. But hopefully I don’t have to make that choice and I’m curious whether the Las Vegas commission would even allow it. There is a backup date I understand, October 6th. The main thing is they want it to happen as soon as possible and that’s a good thing for fans.”
Asked to break Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez down in his head, Merchant seemed to come up with more questions than answers and that exact curiosity seems to intrigue him.
“Martinez would be a favorite but a whole lot shorter favorite than anybody would have imagined six months ago,” said Merchant. “With Chavez beating [Marco Antonio] Rubio and Lee and doing it impressively, it’s going to be maybe 8-5 or something like that. How it plays out, I don’t know. One guy is a tough, young pressure fighter and the other guy is an athletic, older guy who has some sock. Until we see it, you don’t know how it’s going to play.”
READER’s NOTE: For an inside look at Pacquiao-Bradley fight week in videos, including the post-fight press conference, grand arrivals, and exclusives with Bob Arum, Juan Manuel Marquez, Alex Ariza, Joel Diaz, Adrien Broner, Freddie Roach, Juan Manuel Lopez, Ana Julaton, Sampson Lewkowicz, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Miguel Diaz, and several other please visit Chris Robinson’s recently-launched Youtube page at CRHarmony YouTube Page