(Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., left; Sergio Martinez, right)
There are plenty of people out there, this writer included, who won’t believe we will be seeing Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. fight Sergio Martinez until Michael Buffer makes it official on Sept. 15 with his signature spiel.
It is a fight that has been years in the making, has featured more than its fair share of politics and lack of balance, but now that we are just more than a week away, it might be time to look at things in the context that we are getting a much more compelling, evenly-matched fight than it would have been two years ago, when rankings of a certain sanctioning body dictated it SHOULD have happened.
There is still plenty of time for something to go wrong. Perhaps Chavez’s police scrambler fails to notify him of an upcoming DUI checkpoint or Martinez contracts something from a porn star pal of his, causing him to fail a blood test. That aside, many would have bet their homes on this fight never even reaching this stage.
At the center of all of the controversy regarding this fight was World Boxing Commission president for life Jose Sulaiman. He is the all-powerful ruler of the WBC who also doubles as the godfather to Chavez thanks to his close relationship with the 26-year old’s legendary father.
Many would say that relationship was a complete conflict of interest for Sulaiman, who looked as though he went out of his way to setup Chavez nicely into a vacant world title.
If you are unfamiliar with how things played out, here is the gist. Martinez was the recognized middleweight champion after dethroning Kelly Pavlik in April 2010. After starching Paul Williams in the 2nd round of their rematch, Martinez found himself in a quandary with premium network HBO.
Martinez had a mandatory defense due against European middleweight Sebastian Zbik. HBO would not approve Zbik as an opponent for their airwaves, forcing Martinez to instead fight unbeaten junior middleweight Serhiy Dzinziruk. The WBC stripped Martinez of his trinket, coincidentally opening up an opportunity for Chavez to fight Zbik for the vacant belt.
Though Zbik was not approvable as an opponent for Martinez, HBO found him a good enough opponent for Chavez to make it on their network. Though there is a vast difference in drawing power between the son of a legend from Mexico and quiet Argentinian Martinez, it seemed as though the middleweight king was shafted out of his title.
The WBC then played a game of declaring Martinez the #1 contender to Chavez, but two more fights for Martinez and three for Chavez would take place before they were signed to fight each other.
Obviously, things don’t often go this well when fights are said to need more marination before they take place. Look at the once blockbuster potential fight between featherweights Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez. Both were under the Top Rank banner, often fighting common opponents.
Unfortunately for Top Rank and boxing fans, the bout went from marinated to overcooked as Lopez suffered shock stoppage losses to Mexico’s Orlando Salido, all but torpedoing a salivating scrap with Gamboa. True, if that fight were made tomorrow it would be announced to great interest, but not on the level it would have been at its peak.
But now that Chavez-Martinez is on the verge of actually happening, should boxing fans be thanking HBO and the WBC for the way in which things shook out? Aren’t we getting a much more meaningful and interesting fight out of it?
“I never found reason the reasons for criticism,” Sulaiman told TQBR on Thursday afternoon. “The fight is taking place, just as the WBC had unanimously ruled at our last convention.”
“We let the fighters do their scheduled fights, with a commitment that they would meet if both won,” he said. “It is exactly what happened and I am very proud of the respect of both fighters to our rulings. What happened is what had to happen for the fight to take place.”
The Chavez-Martinez fight is reminiscent of when you were a kid and your parents said they’d take you to Disneyland if you were good. They didn’t put a timetable on things and it may have come a few years after their initial declaration, but when you walked into those gates, all that disappointment in waiting fell by the wayside and you were overcome by anticipation.
“I agree with the people who believe that the fight and the sport benefited by time time it took for the fight to be signed and take place,” Sulaiman said.
The fight has become so close that many in the boxing community who thought of this fight as a mismatch a few years ago are actually picking Chavez, such as RingTV’s Mike Coppinger.
“I think Chavez Jr. is actually smart to have waited two years,” said Coppinger on the phone to TQBR on Thursday. “People forget that he had no amateur career and used his early pro fights to learn on the go.
“Now he is knocking out guys like Andy Lee whereas a few years ago he was struggling to win a decision against the likes of Matt Vanda. I also feel that Martinez has slowed down a bit,” he said.
There are few fights in boxing available that would be as anticipated as the Sept. 15 fight between Chavez and Martinez. What two years ago would have been considered an easy drubbing in favor of Martinez, could now serve to be what could earns him something on the level of a Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight.
For Chavez, there is more pressure to win than ever since there are quite a number of people picking him to win a fight they didn’t think they had any chance in two years ago.
“Because this fight is taking place now, Martinez is finally going to be able to headline a pay-per-view and that wouldn’t have happened two years ago,” said Coppinger.
“This fight is so big that it’s one of the biggest fights of 2012 and it wouldn’t have been that way two years ago. People genuinely care about this fight now, probably more-so than any other fight on the schedule,” he said. “What was a fight people once wanted because they wanted to see Martinez give this spoiled kid a lesson, now they want to see it because it is a competitive matchup and a tough fight for both guys.”
Those supporters of Martinez who saw it as a one-sided drubbing a few years ago have to be a bit more nervous given his decline in his past few bouts and the improvement Chavez has earned. The moments before the opening bell could prove to be the sport’s highest energy moments of 2012.
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 is a member of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America and RING Ratings Advisory Panel.