By Andreas Hale
Photos: Mary Ann Owen
It’s rare that two fighters meet at the right time. Usually, one is just a shade over the hill or the other simply isn’t ready. But for Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. and Sergio Martinez, the timing is perfect. A year ago, the fight would have generated little interest and odds makers would have seen it terribly lopsided for the surging Argentinean Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KOs) who had been a wrecking machine with impressive victories over Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams and Sergiy Dzinziruk. At the same time last year, Chavez was still toiling in mediocrity as victories over Billy Lyell and John Duddy didn’t exactly send chills down the spines of middleweights.
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
While Martinez has continued menacing the middleweight division as the current The Ring middleweight champion, Chavez (46-0-1, 32 KOs) has finally began to impress with solid victories over Peter Manfredo Jr., Sebastian Zbik, Marco Antonio Rubio and a stellar knockout performance against the heavy handed Andy Lee. No longer was he just the son of a legend; he was in the process of building his own legacy and the time to step out of his shadow is now.
“This would have been a 7-1 fight in favor of Martinez a couple of years ago,” Martinez’ promoter Lou DiBella stated during Wednesday’s final press conference where tempers flared. “I give Arum credit for waiting until this is a betting fight before making it happen, which is why it has garnered so much attention.”
The fight has certainly captured the attention of both the casual and diehard fan. With a record breaking 19,186 tickets sold at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas — eclipsing the 19,151 that saw Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield heavyweight title showdown — it is evident that Bob Arum’s strategy was brilliant.
“This event is a testament of what happens when promoters get together and give the fight the fans want to see,” DiBella continued, obviously alluding to the superfight that still hasn’t happened. “This is what happens when the best fights the best.”
“Believe me, the battle between Chavez and Martinez will go down in the annals of boxing history,” Arum gloated.
Now, if the fight can live up to the hype that these two have provided with their ruthless trash talking, boxing fans will be talking about this fight decades from now. Ever since the fight was announced, Martinez has shed his nice guy image and tore into Chavez for everything from being handled with kid gloves for his entire career to ducking him. Wednesday’s presser was no different.
“I trained a long time dancing,” Martinez said in response to Chavez’ constant jabs at him being a “ballerina” instead of Maravilla. “That’s all I need to break his face a thousand times. It will not be an easy knockout but I will deliver a lot of punishment. I will make him suffer before I knock him out.”
Martinez has made these claims since the fight has been announced. An intense HBO Face Off found Martinez at his rawest as he constantly berated his opponent and promised that he would finish him off on Saturday night in front of all of his fans. But the elder Chavez wouldn’t sit idle and allow his son to be disrespected. “Martinez have been disrespecting my son but now it’s time to fight,” Chavez said. “Martinez was invoking the devil but when he sees the devil coming he won’t know what to do.”
Team Martinez wasn’t exactly shaking in their boots from the threats. As a matter of fact, they welcome the barbs as it had been pretty one-sided early on. Martinez’ trainer Pablo Sarmiento also engaged in the conversation and launched his verbal jabs at the younger Chavez. “It’s very motivating to shut up Chavez because he really talked a lot on HBO 24/7,” Sarmiento said. “He talks to the cameras but not in front of Sergio because he can’t look him in his eyes like a man.”
You could cut the tension in the room with butter knife. The looks on the faces of everyone involved in the press conference outlined the seriousness of the situation. Except for Chavez, Jr., that is. The undefeated Mexican would often smile and shake his head at the cloud of trash talking that consumed the room. He took everything in stride before he walked to the podium and let of his own rounds of
“I’m happy that the fight is close,” Chavez said with a grin. It was obvious that he was scheming from the start as he began fishing for the correct words.
“I’ve seen him on the tapes getting knocked down or knocked out,” Chavez said as he went all the way back to Antonio Margarito’s stoppage of Martinez back in 2000. “He talks bullsh*t and says that he’s the best, but in the fight he runs. He doesn’t fight for the people or the sport.”
While Martinez promised suffering, Chavez offered a different guarantee.
“I’m not only going to beat you, I’m going to retire you.”
Saturday night can’t come fast enough.