by Cliff Rold
The year is, let’s say, 2062. The family of Sergio Martinez is celebrating what would be 87 years on the earthly plane as they gather for a reading of his will. There is more to go around then there might have been after eleven rounds of his first bout with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. One of his grandchildren, a doctor who Grandpa Champ put through medical school, nods knowingly.
“I’m sure glad mi abuelo got dropped in that twelfth round,” he says, winking at the rest of the family.
The cries for a rematch started by the post-fight interviews. Bob Arum and Lou DiBella, the promoters of Chavez and Martinez respectively were mentioning Cowboys Stadium. A packed house at Las Vegas’ Thomas and Mack Center, and what will likely be a robust pay-per-view market, weren’t treated to a great fight.
For most of the night, Martinez schooled the younger man and was well on his way to a relatively easy fifth defense of the lineal World Middleweight Championship.
Timing is everything.
In a preview for the fight last week, this scribe compared the narrative of Martinez-Chavez to the classic Alexis Arguello-Ray Mancini bout in 1981. In wondering about how Saturday would play out, it was noted that Martinez didn’t have a 14th round to rely on, that being the round where Arguello stopped his fiery challenger.
It turned out it was Chavez who needed more rounds. Or Richard Steele. With shades of his father’s legendary comeback versus Meldrick Taylor, a dramatic knockdown in the final round had Martinez reeling. A fight that didn’t need to ever be seen again after the first 33 minutes of in-ring action suddenly set the cash registers rolling. A big fight just became an even bigger sequel.
For Sergio Martinez’s fiscal future, getting knocked on his ass in the final round might end up being the best thing that ever happened to him
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Martinez A; Chavez B-/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Martinez B+; Chavez B/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Martinez B+; Chavez B-/Post: B; C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Martinez A; Chavez B/Post: A; B+
Few will remember, caught up in the drama of the moment, that Martinez was actually firing back at the bell and seemed to have his legs almost back. Those among the fan who want the rematch, and there are many hardcore fans who will not, will pretend that the first eleven rounds weren’t as bad as appeared.
In sporting terms, a rematch doesn’t really feel too necessary and puts other fresh challenges on the backburner. Martinez still has good work to do at Middleweight. Unified titlist Daniel Geale was in town to take in the action and, on merit, is the deserving ‘number one contender.’ WBA titlist Gennady Golovkin looms as the biggest threat to anyone in the class (does anyone think he couldn’t have done better than Chavez on Saturday for the whole of the fight?).
But sometimes things happen that force competition aside for business. Chavez dropped Martinez at the perfect time and left room for more. If they can do Cowboys Stadium, if they can expand their pay-per-view audience, both realistic, then Middleweight has its biggest sheer event since Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad. For fans who really love boxing, that should be welcomed. Bigger crowds, more attention…these are things boxing can’t get enough of.
And how about the payoff for the new HBO/ESPN media deal? Anyone catch Sports Center on Saturday. Those weren’t still photographs recapping the event. Millions of viewers tuning in to see college football highlights also saw the knockdown. In a sports culture driven by highlight reels, boxing had one on one of the nights it rarely does.
There is an obstacle. Reports after the fight of say Martinez suffered knee ligament damage. It’s clear Chavez is struggling to stay a Middleweight. If there is going to be a rematch, at least for the title, it needs to be soon. Wait too long and the most important name in Chavez’s life might not be Martinez. It might be Nikola Sjekloca.
Sjecloka (25-0, 7 KO) is somehow the WBC #1 contender at Super Middleweight. A win over Khoren Gevor says he can fight a little, but he’s faced fighters with losing records in two of his last four. Andre Ward is of course the WBC champ at 168 lbs. right now but the WBC has already made noise about Ward having to choose between their belt and the WBA’s.
This is purely speculative, but would anyone be surprised, if Martinez-Chavez II can’t happen right away, to hear that Jr.’s godfather, WBC President Jose Sulaiman, is ordering an interim title bout or forcing Ward’s hand in such a way that he has to relinquish is belt?
Smells too much like Zbik to think boxing might not be stepping into that one.
For now, Chavez earned respect if not for the skill he showed Saturday (and there was little of that), then for the will he displayed. He could have quit. He didn’t. In boxing, any lead can be erased as long as the clock is running. Chavez reminded the world of one of the things that makes boxing so special.
And let’s credit Martinez for his revenge on the political front. Martinez was forced off the WBC belt he regained Saturday, a belt that passed to the unqualified Zbik and then to Chavez. While he entered as history’s champion, Martinez was treated like a challenger. He fought with all the hunger of one and showed a challenger’s heart to survive. In three huge fights since breaking out against Alex Bunema (the first against Paul Williams, his title win over Kelly Pavlik, and now Chavez), Martinez has come off the floor and left the winner.
It’s hard to keep a real champion down.
As to the rest of Saturday’s biggest action, a few quick thoughts.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Saul Alvarez B; Josesito Lopez B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Alvarez B+; Lopez B/Post: B+; C+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Alvarez B-; Lopez B-/Post: B; C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Alvarez B+; Lopez B+/Post: B+; A
This fight ended as most suspected it might. Lopez showed some fighting heart, and had a few moments early, but he wasn’t big enough and the extra flesh around the waist showed off the work it took just to be at Jr. Middleweight. Alvarez beat a smaller man who had no business being in a 154 lb. title fight to win his belt (Matthew Hatton). Alfonso Gomez and Shane Mosley had names without the game. Now there is Lopez. The thinking here was he could stay up for the route. He couldn’t.
It’s time for Canelo to start facing real guys in his class. Erislandy Lara-Vanes Martirosyan is supposed to determine his mandatory. If Lara wins, and he should, then we get a test of Alvarez’s fighting character. Will he take what might be the toughest fight in his division? If he’s not fighting Floyd Mayweather next, and that would be an acceptable trump to anything, there’s no excuse for not taking the Lara-Martirosyan winner.
Oddly, Alvarez-Lopez still ended up being more entertaining then the fight everyone had circled as can’t miss.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Jhonny Gonzalez B; Daniel Ponce De Leon B-/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Gonzalez A; De Leon A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Gonzalez C; De Leon C/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Gonzalez B; De Leon B/Post: Same
Who would have thought this would play out as almost a pure boxing match. Jabs and counters, fairly sound defense, and an absence of bodies hitting the floor for most of the night ended with a bad cut and an awkward decision. Ponce De Leon, despite missing more than landing for most of the first five rounds, got credit for coming forward while Gonzalez landed more consistently.
De Leon did score a knockdown, rocking Gonzalez in seven and then bodying him out of the ring. It was one of the lone highlights. It wasn’t a bad fight. It just wasn’t what most hoped for and, in some ways that is a credit to both men. They have shown real growth technically since earlier losses.
Maybe a rematch will see a little less of that.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Yoan Pablo Hernandez B; Troy Ross B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Hernandez B; Ross B/Post: B; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Hernandez B; Ross B/Post: B-; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Hernandez B+; Ross B+/Post: Same
No fight weekend this full would be complete without a little controversy. This scribe saw Ross do enough to take the Cruiserweight title from Hernandez at a score of 114-113. Ross survived a rough, thrilling ninth round and appeared to sweep the final three rounds. A tight score the other way, which one of the judges had in Ross’s unanimous decision loss, would have been reasonable.
For two of the judges to have Hernandez winning around eight rounds was a joke.
The action in the fifth may be where fate was sealed. Ross dropped Hernandez and him in a world of hurt. Referee David Fields didn’t have his best day in those three minutes. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding of the rules here, but picking up the mandatory eight count on Hernandez from the ringside count at two when it should have been closer to six ended up being charitable. The count was followed with Hernandez slipping to the floor moments later and being allowed his sweet time to get up. With Hernandez trying to hold, there were some far too long separations of the fighters.
When a fighter is hurt, every second counts. Ross had too many taken from him. It was a good fight, but it can be said Ross has been unlucky in two title opportunities to date, previously dropping Steve Cunningham before a hasty cut stoppage the following round. Ross deserves a rematch after Saturday.
Maybe the third time will be his charm.
Report Card Picks 2012: 48-16
Cruiserweight: Ross moves up after his game performance.
Middleweight: Thought was given to moving Chavez past Dmitry Pirog in the ratings but, ultimately, Jr.’s only win against a proven contender is still Rubio and a dramatic two minutes isn’t quite enough to get carried away.
Welterweight: Despite a rough loss, Josesito Lopez showed moxie in going up a class and remains as rated as was at 147 lbs.
Jr. Welterweight: Marcos Maidana may now be at Welterweight permanently, but this corner will give a little more time before determining if he’s really gone from 140 lbs. His win over Welterweight tough guy Jesus Soto Karass ended up the fight of the night in any arena, but his biggest fight could be an all-Argentina showdown at 140 with Lucas Matthysse.
Jr. Lightweight: Roman Martinez got a close, spirited win over Miguel Beltran Jr. this weekend, but there really wasn’t anywhere to go for him in the ratings. That said, wouldn’t a unification bout with Juan Carlos Salgado just be some beautiful violence?
Featherweight: Ponce De Leon moves up five slots while Gonzalez drops just one.
Bantamweight: Leo Santa Cruz gets a nice bump. Eric Morel, stopped for the first time in his career, slips to the ten slot and it wouldn’t take much to push him out of the top ten.
The full results of note and impact on the ratings are a click away.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]