By Ivan G. Goldman
Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez match up like a tiger and a grizzly. Anything can happen and maybe it will when they face off September 15 in Las Vegas. This has to be the most intriguing contest we’ll see all year.
There’s nothing like watching two dangerous middleweights. They can move, they can punch, and they’re unlikely to waltz. These two are no exceptions. In fact, they’re recognized by just about everyone as the two best 160-pounders out there. Chavez holds the WBC title, and if alphabet gangs were legit, Martinez would hold all the rest.
Generally speaking, boxers — and that would be Martinez — defeat punchers (Chavez). But there are plenty of variables to complicate matters. First, Martinez, (49-2-2, 28 KOs), is a boxer who packs real heat, as he proved, for example, in his second match with Paul Williams. But slugger Chavez, 46-0-1 (32), is a pressure fighter with the impervious chin of his father, one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all time, which says a lot. Senior’s opponents worked and worked to catch him with the big one, and when they did, he blinked and kept throwing shots, undeterred.
Chavez Senior wasn’t the fastest fighter either, but his timing was magnificent. He threaded his shots into the right place at the right time, throwing thunder to the body. And Junior is showing some of that same talent.
Chavez Junior no doubt figures he will have to take some punches early and drive Martinez back. He won’t land so many of his shots at first, but as the fight goes on he expects to take the older man’s legs away, then his body, followed by the head.
Southpaw Martinez will try to work around his prey, hitting and moving until Chavez looks more and more like a helpless giant, swinging away and connecting mostly with the air-conditioned air of the Thomas & Mack Arena.
Chavez, 26, will be much, much bigger, very possibly coming in as a cruiserweight on fight night, while Martinez would probably be more comfortable with a 154-pound limit. He went up to 160 because he saw more opportunity there. Chavez is always larger than his opponents because he dehydrates himself before the weigh-in, which is set for approximately 30 hours before a contest, and then pours it all back in. But that kind of manipulation takes a toll on conditioning. A fighter who’s been beating himself up to make weight tends to fade in the later rounds, which is when Martinez figures he’ll stop him, though at one point he predicted a kayo by round seven. But at age 37, all of Sergio’s skills could depart at any moment, possibly the moment he climbs through the ropes to face Chavez.
It’s remarkable that this bout is even taking place. Just a few years ago Chavez was considered a joke, a clown act put on by Bob Arum’s Top Rank, which was milking Mexican fans’ love for the father by setting his son up with a succession of tomato cans. But then a funny thing happened. Chavez got formidable. It may have surprised Arum as much as anyone. But his skilled matchmaker, Bruce Trampler, was probably telling the truth when he described Junior as a future menace. The future is now, and his novelty act turned into a serious title holder.
But Chavez, a rich kid who slid into boxing like it was the front seat of a Porsche, has a history of losing focus when he trains, and sometimes even when he fights. He struggles with weight. His first outing nine years ago was set at 130 pounds. After a November 2009 contest with Troy Rowland in Las Vegas he tested positive for furosemide, a diuretic that cuts weight and can be a masking agent for steroids. His decision victory was changed to a no contest, he was fined $10,000 and suspended for seven months. For this contest, Nevada has imposed surprise urine tests on both fighters, an unusual move probably sparked by Chavez’s checkered substance history.
Martinez, who grew up poor in Argentina, doesn’t trash talk — at least he didn’t until he signed for this fight. He dislikes his privileged opponent and has pledged to pound him into a mess before putting him away. Chavez’s feelings towards Martinez are also less than brotherly.
This is pay-per-view TV on Mexican Independence Day, and HBO will give it a big push, hoping to pull in more than just boxing fans. After all, these are two handsome guys who can fight.
I look for quick, slick Martinez to wear Chavez down and take over. Providing the judges are honest and capable, I see Martinez scoring an easy decision in a fight that lives up to the hype.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE