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Will Sergio Martinez Be Chavez Jr.’s Meldrick Taylor or Pernell Whitaker?

BY: Sergio L. Martinez

As September 15, 2012, approaches, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. prepares for the biggest fight of his young career as he will face pound-for-pound dynamo Sergio Martinez at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Chavez Jr. will defend the WBC Middleweight title in what has quickly become one of the most anticipated fights of the year. There are so many possible scenarios that have emerged since it was announced: will the speedy, awkward and experienced Martinez be too much for the young Mexican lion? Or will size, strength and sheer will lead Chavez Jr. to his career defining win?

The answer is but a day away.

Being the son of Mexican boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez has led to an almost impossible metaphorical mountain for the young Chavez Jr. to climb, as he seeks to forge his own legacy. He has slowly made his way up the slope, and though the summit appears to be within reach, it is by no means guaranteed. His impending battle with Martinez is exactly the type of fight that can define a career and remain as an eternal memory regardless of what comes after.

Chavez versus Martinez: A fight for the ages? (PHOTO: Chris Farina – Top Rank)

Julio’s father, Chavez Sr., is a living testament to this assertion. The patriarch competed in 115 fights over an illustrious career that began in 1980 and concluded in 2005, winning multiple titles in different weight classes. He faced and vanquished numerous top notch, respected boxers throughout his professional tenure, but is most remembered for his amazing come-from-behind twelfth round, last second knockout of Meldrick Taylor.

The Chavez Sr.-Taylor fight took place on March 17, 1990, at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, and was eventually named the Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year.” Meldrick Taylor entered the contest as an undefeated former American Olympian with incredible hand speed, an abundance of natural talent and a heart befitting a true Philadelphia warrior. Chavez Sr. was the beloved Mexican icon with the will and determination to match his iron chin and heavy hands that could fracture stone.

Taylor shot out of the gate and appeared to completely dominate the first half of the twelve-round contest, landing speedy combinations to both the head and body of the revered Mexican combatant. Taylor’s flashy boxing approach and early perceived dominance had fans and media looking on mesmerized, and not realizing that Chavez Sr.’s heavy hands were landing with precision, slowly eroding Taylor’s skill, speed and will round after round.

After the eighth round, a shocking revelation occurred when the television cameras focused on Taylor as he sat on his corner stool getting ready for the next round. His face was grotesquely swollen and the former Olympian looked battered, winded and, as boxing writer Ron Borges put it: “He (Taylor) looked like somebody put him through a glass window.”

The ensuing rounds showed the valiant but rapidly fading Taylor attempting to hold on to his momentum as Chavez Sr. viciously attacked him, ripping hellacious bone-crushing punches that were visibly taking their toll. Taylor – having the heart and attitude of a true Philly fighter – refused to back down and/or coast to an apparent points victory, as he stood there and traded with the stone-fisted Mexican.

In the final round, with less than thirty seconds left, Chavez Sr. began a rally which ended with Taylor hitting the canvas after a devastating right hand found its mark. Taylor slowly rose to his feet and beat the ten-count, but had a blank look on his face as fight referee Richard Steele questioned him about continuing the fight. Steele was not satisfied with Taylor’s lack of response and called a halt to the bout. The official time of the stoppage was two minutes and fifty-eight seconds of the final round. This fight catapulted Chavez Sr. from superstar to mythical status. Taylor was never the same and faded into obscurity.

In stark contrast, there is a blemish on Chavez Sr.’s resume which is not openly acknowledged anymore but cannot be erased or denied.

On September 10, 1993, Chavez Sr. traveled to San Antonio, Texas to defend his WBC Light Welterweight title. His assignment that night was the once-beaten defensive wizard Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker representing Virginia, U.S.A. Chavez Sr. was an astonishing 87-0 and appeared invincible.

Whitaker was able to befuddle the Mexican early, as he kept Chavez Sr. turning and popped him with counters consistently. Everyone kept waiting for the Mexican icon to come on like a freight train and dispose of Whitaker in true fashion, but that just never happened. Chavez Sr. had his moments in this fight, but ultimately Whitaker’s defensive approach and counter-punching accuracy kept the fight uneventful. The contest was ultimately called a draw, but most observers felt that Pernell Whitaker deserved a unanimous decision victory and the distinction of handing Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. the first loss of his career.

Chavez Jr., who witnessed both of the aforementioned contests, appears to be completely cognizant of what is at stake on September 15, which goes far beyond maintaining an undefeated record and a championship belt. Chavez Jr. is at the cusp of defining himself as his own man and taking a huge step toward boxing immortality.

In Chavez Jr.’s case, Sergio Martinez can be considered a cross between Meldrick Taylor and Pernell Whitaker, as the Argentinian is a speedy, mobile southpaw with cat-like reflexes and deceptive power. He has a solid understanding of distance and timing; he also has world-class experience against top-tier competition. Martinez is adaptable, as he can lead when needed and/or counter-punch depending on the style in front of him. Martinez is always in supreme condition and appears to have significant punch resistance. Basically, Martinez is by far the better all-around fighter/technician.

What Chavez Jr. does have is a size and strength advantage. He also seems to possess a solid chin and is a vicious body puncher, traits inherited from his father. The young Mexican is oozing with self-confidence and seems to truly believe that he is going to destroy Martinez this Saturday night. Although he is definitely not the better fighter, the aforementioned traits could be enough to carry Chavez Jr. to a win and on to becoming his own legend.

Will September 15, 2012, be remembered as the day Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. officially declared independence from his father’s shadow? Or will it be remembered as the day that showed he was not ready for the pinnacle of the sport?

The only thing that appears to be certain at this time is that should both fighters show up and do what they claim will be done, this will be one fight that will live on in boxing lore.

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