(Saul Alvarez, left, at his weigh-in with Josesito Lopez, right; photo credit Tom Casino, Showtime)
Saturday night in Las Vegas, on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day, two major fight cards take place 16 miles apart as Top Rank and Golden Boy go head-to-head on HBO pay-per-view and Showtime respectively.
Top Rank has claimed that their bout between recognized middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and WBC beltholder Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. has sold out the 19,000+ seat arena at the Thomas & Mack Center. Golden Boy has claimed their 154-pound matchup between Saul Alvarez and Josesito Lopez at the MGM Grand has sold out as well. Only one of these statements was true when it was first made.
At the time of this writing, tickets were unavailable for purchase to Chavez-Martinez, a bout that boxing fans have been salivating over two years for since boxing politics interfered in the match-up taking place earlier. Conversely, tickets to Alvarez-Lopez were still very much available for purchase.
At the weigh-in for Alvarez-Lopez, a radio station DJ emceed prior to the fighters hitting the scales. During his shtick, he asked the not quite full curtained off part of the MGM Grand Garden Arena to tell 10 of their friends to buy tickets to the fight. Not 20 minutes later, he then said that Golden Boy publicist Monica Sears had informed him that the tickets were now in fact sold out. He said the fans must have listened to him and hopped online and picked them up right away.
Despite these odd lies, which instead could have possibly kept eager ticket buyers to hold off looking into seeing if any were available on their own, the Golden Boy card may in fact outperform what the boxing community initially thought possible given their running against the much stronger event topped by the more competitive Chavez-Martinez bout.
At the weigh-in for Top Rank’s presentation of what they think boxing during a Mexican holiday should look like, the atmosphere was unquestionably higher than that of the Golden Boy weigh-in.
Fight night may prove that Chavez will have an overwhelming majority of the support of the crowd, but at the weigh-in, there was a surprisingly near-even exchange between the two sides. The atmosphere resembled that of a raucous soccer matchup.
Martinez had long been dogged for not being a ticket seller, was in fact able to draw a large number of Argentinians to watch him and his opponent tip the scales. As well, a fairly large number of Argentinian press came out for this fight, which proves that the matchup is a level above any fight he had previously been a party to.
Chavez-Martinez has already surpassed the previous record for the Thomas & Mack Center, which was previously the 19,151 figure that was obtained for the 1999 rematch between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. One of the other top fights to take place at the venue was that of Chavez’s legendary father against Hector Camacho, which was a few spots down the list.
The fight is the most anticipated fight to take place at the arena since the October 2005 rematch between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo, which was a fight that didn’t quite live up to the expectations that were set by their first fight, perhaps the best lightweight title fight of all-time.
That bout was also marred by a bit of controversy as Castillo missed weight. Corrales went ahead with the fight though his titles weren’t on the line and Castillo stopped him.
Ironically, the last time Chavez fought in Las Vegas he failed a drug test for a diuretic, which (apparently) helped him make weight against unheralded Troy Rowland in 2009. The fight was overturned from a Chavez victory to a no contest. In the time since, Chavez has fought six bouts, with four of them taking place in the inept and possibly corrupt state of Texas, which has let Chavez slide with some things that it shouldn’t have.
For one, in a fight this February against Marco Antonio Rubio, Chavez managed to get by without having to take a post-fight drug test. This was chalked up to a miscommunication between the WBC and the Texas commission over who was supposed to handle the tests. Chavez weighed 181 pounds on fight night for that one, a 21.5 pound increase from what he weighed 24 hours prior at the weigh-in.
Some were worried that there would be some drama at the weigh-in — that Chavez would miss the weight.
Fortunately on Friday, Chavez Jr. came in at 158 pounds. It was an oddly low number for someone was has been perceived to be killing himself to make weight the last few fights. If anything, the worry was the Chavez Jr. would come in heavy like Castillo did in his rematch with Corrales and there would be some tough negotiations to keep the fight on.
Thankfully, we are literally as close as we can be to a fight where something would really have to go wrong for it not to take place. Despite that fact, there are a few still holding their breath until Michael Buffer makes it official with his introductions.
That precious moment is less than 24 hours away. It is already set to outshine the event taking place in the same zip code. All that is left is to see whether it outdoes any other fight to take place this calendar year.
UPDATE: Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated noted at 6:40 p.m. PT that Ticketmaster had pulled Alvarez-Lopez tickets from their site and that they were sold out. Note that this was five hours or so after the radio station DJ had said they were and that people were in fact able to buy them during the time in between.
MARTINEZ-CHAVEZ UNDERCARD WEIGH-IN RESULTS: Though he initially came in a pound heavy at 131, Miguel Beltran, Jr. (27-1, 17 KOs) of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico did make 130 pounds an hour later according to Top Rank. He will fight Roman Martinez (25-1-1, 16 KOs) of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title.
That WBO title has been in a bit of a mess lately. Adrien Broner lost it on the scales against Vicente Escobedo when he failed to make weight twice in consectutive days, The fight went on as scheduled but Escobedo got a hefty raise in pay and a rumored promise from the WBO that he would get a shot at the vacant title.
Things didn’t quite work out that way and Beltran, 130, and Martinez, 129 will fight a 12-rounder to determine the beltholder.
Junior lightweight beltholder and Cuban sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux (10-0, 8 KOs) defends his WBA 122-pound title against the green Roberto Marroquin (22-1, 15 KOs) of Dallas, Tex. Rigondeaux was rumored more than once to have fallen off the card due to an ongoing legal issue of his. Rigondeaux instead came in ready as both he and Marroquin made 122 pounds.
Middleweights Matthew Macklin (28-4, 19 KOs) and Joachim Alcine (33-2-1, 19 KOs) battle in a 10-round crossroads bout. A loss for either will probably signal the end of the road for meaningful fights. The winner would be positioned for another meaningful fight in the division. Macklin, 160.5, of Brimingham, England, hasn’t fought since losing a spirited fight to Martinez in which he was ultimately stopped after doing well for himself in the early going. Montreal, Canada’s Alcine is coming off a solid win against the once promising David Lemieux this past December.
Former Notre Dame Fighting Irish football player Mike Lee (10-0, 6 KOs) opens up the pay-per-view telecast against a Midwestern tomato can Paul Harness (4-3-1, 3 KOs), who weighed in with shorts and a belt on yet still only cracked 173 ¼ pounds while Lee, a Subway spokesperson, came in at 174. Their bout is scheduled for four rounds, though promises to end early.
The darkest secret of the undercard is the 10-round junior middleweight contest between John Jackson (13-0, 12 KOs), 163, and Willie Nelson (18-1-1, 11 KOs), 153 ¼. Jackson is the son of former multi-division beltholder Julian Jackson, who is considered one of the biggest punchers in modern history. Jackson has looked solid in the early stages of his career but will be taking quite a leap in class as Nelson has been in with a number of quality opponents, most recently beaten then undefeated Cuban prospect Yudel Jhonson in a ShoBox televised bout. Somehow this bout was left off the televised portion of the card in favor of the Mike Lee squash match.
Michael Medina (25-3-2, 19 KOs) of Monterrey, Mexico will fight Rugffin, N.C.’s James Winchester (15-4, 5 KOs) in an eight-round junior middleweight bout. Medina weighed in heavy and later came in still a half pound over, but an agreement was made and the fight will go on.
Opening up the card at 3:15 p.m. PT is Australian-based Wale Omotoso (22-0, 19 KOs) now of Hollywood, Calif., who fights San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Daniel Sostre (11-6-1, 4 KOs) in an eight-round welterweight bout. Omotoso works at the famed Wildcard Gym with Freddie Roach and should make quick work of Sostre. Omotoso came in at 147 ½ and Sostre weighed 145.
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com and followed via Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarkEOrtega. Mark also contributes to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and writes a weekly boxing column for the tri-weekly regional paper Martinez News-Gazette.