Leading up to this Saturday’s megafight between current WBC middleweight title holder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (46-0-1, 32 KO’s) and former WBC and WBO, plus current Ring Magazine and lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KO’s), HBO’s 24/7 has done a masterful job of setting the stage by showcasing the road taken by both men that has led to this point.
At the moment, the consensus among sports books is Sergio Martinez is a little more than a 2-1 betting favorite at -220, with the take-back on the undefeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at +180. Thus far the price for “total rounds” has yet to be offered but rest assured the ultimate outcome will most likely be left in the hands of the judges.
At the moment, there’s an atmosphere throughout the sport of boxing that promoters as well as the sanctioning bodies are finally beginning to get it.
Maybe we should credit the meteoric rise in popularity of MMA, most noticeably the UFC, and their ever growing fan base as the catalyst for motivating my beloved sport to make the fights we all want to see, happen.
Of course there will always be the lack of cooperation from the fighters themselves, as was the case for the now rarely discussed mega fight between top pound-for-pound boxers Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Yet for the most part, we have recently been treated to some highly anticipated bouts, while both combatants are in their prime.
Just this past week we witnessed two current world champions face off when Chad Dawson faced Andre Ward. Now this Saturday at Thomas & Mack, the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked middleweights meet. When all is said and done, there should be no doubt left as to who is the best.
The judges will be Stanley Christodoulou, Adalaide Byrd, and Dave Moretti. The third man in the ring will be referee Tony Weeks. With a sold-out crowd expected coupled with pay-per-view buys that will be through the roof, it’s obvious the Nevada State Athletic Commission has chosen the judges carefully, as this is an exceptionally experienced group.
A note on the referee: though he’s quite competent, he does have a history of breaking the fighters up when in close quarters. That should benefit Martinez since Chavez will want to keep this fight in a phone-booth.
For Chavez, he is a much more menacing fighter when able to get inside. In fact, watching a few of his prior bouts it was obvious he struggled against opponents who can keep him at a distance. His trainer, Freddie Roach, has attempted to teach Chavez to use his jab more and work from the outside, but it’s been a challenge as his pupil prefers to work opponents’ bodies into submission.
Chavez has very good combinations, which he throws both high and low, but seems to fight in spurts; and the lack of a superior defense leaves him open to get hit when not on the offensive. Defensively, Chavez likes to clam-up and rarely retaliates with punches while absorbing shots in an attempt to take any bombs flush.
The question is whether Chavez will bulk up excessively after the weigh-in. In the past he has been known to put on almost 20 lbs. and enter the ring on fight night hovering around 180 lbs. The extra size has shown to be an asset against lesser competition and we’ve seen him cut off the ring, walk an opponent down, and simply over power them with punishing blows.
Against Martinez, he may be better served to forgo some size and aim to increase his speed and maneuverability since it’ll be difficult to force “Maravilla” to stand right in front of him.
For Martinez, he’ll surely look to expedite his movement even more against Chavez. He’s a pure boxer who has amazing timing and the ability to move in and out just long enough to do damage, but not enough to take much himself. Martinez is profoundly accurate with both his punches and counters and he, too, prefers to fight in spurts as not to waste any shots.
On offense, Martinez knows how to create the distance needed and truly has a knack for timing opponents. Defensively, he likes to keep his hands low in an attempt to bait opponents for the purpose of landing thundering counters. Although his footwork, quickness, and cleverness have served as the foundation for his success, do not be fooled into concluding he don’t like to bang. Many fighters have been systematically broken down with Martinez growing stronger as the fight progresses, then going in for the kill to finish and close out the show.
Martinez will be only the second southpaw Chavez has faced and stylistically, he’s a nightmare for the dog. Chavez has fought only one southpaw and he has shown to be wide open for uppercuts. He also drops his left after throwing a jab, which falls right into Martinez’s wheelhouse, the vicious right hook he possesses.
Though many believe Chavez is the much bigger puncher, let’s not forget that 30 of his 32 knockouts have come at light middleweight. Since moving to his current weight class, Chavez has only finished two opponents in seven fights.
More importantly, he has not been in with any power punchers who went into the fight with the ability to actually hurt him. A quick look at Chavez’s recent opponents shows us the majority only had a 25% to 35% knock-out ratio, and the level of competition is incomparable to what he’ll face in Martinez.
Chavez’s lack of being a true professional have been well documented throughout his career. From getting arrested for DUI just two weeks before a fight, to training when he feels like it, the picture I’m seeing is one of a young man who just isn’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be among the truly elite.
There’s an old saying that Larry Merchant reminded me of this past weekend. You can “play” baseball, “play” basketball, and even “play” football…but you don’t “play” boxing. For Martinez, the fight game isn’t a means to entertain himself or get out from under a shadow, it’s his profession and one he takes very seriously.
For those who may not know it, there’s a second world title fight this Saturday night at MGM Grand between WBC junior middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and challenger Josesito Lopez. I’m very happy for Lopez that he’s been able to parlay his shocking win over Victor Ortiz based on the betting line that night into a pay-day of this caliber.
I also believe oddsmakers got this one right when they installed Alvarez as a -1500 favorite against Lopez. Sure, he’s done the improbable before and one always has a puncher’s chance in boxing, yet this is one big dog I don’t expect will bark.
VR RECORD = 73-44 (62%)
Vegas-Runner, a pro sports bettor in Las Vegas, has been featured on CNBC/ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @vegasrunner, at Pregame.com and on AM 1100 ESPN (also FM 98.9) on Fridays and Sundays from 11 pm to midnight when he co-hosts First Preview. Contact Vegas Runner at [email protected]