The boxing world moves quickly. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was once reviled by many boxing fans, seen as little more than his father's name with promoters pulling strings to get him big money fights, titles and favorable conditions at all turns. The idea of Chavez facing Sergio Martinez seemed laughable just earlier this year, the idea that he'd enter the fight as only a slight underdog was downright absurd.
But one thorough drubbing of solid B-tier fighter Andy Lee by Chavez, a ballsy move by Top Rank to stick their star against a top level fighter and a heated build-up brings us to tonight's bout, one that the Vegas oddsmakers seem to think Chavez has a fair chance of winning.
While Chavez has been given as easy a path as seems possible to boxing superstardom, Sergio Martinez has lived the life of the working man's fighter.
Scott Christ of Bad Left Hook touched on the differences between the two men in his stunningly good preview of the fight at Bad Left Hook:
The main angle -- and rightly so -- of this fight is the differences in upbringing, both in life and in boxing, between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Sergio Martinez. Chavez was, as Lou DiBella noted at yesterday's press conference, a kid that boxing fans saw on TV dressed in a tuxedo and held above his iconic father's head. Chavez Jr has never wanted for anything in his life -- he's never been denied the things he desired, never really had to put in the work.
Martinez, on the other hand, was a poor kid in Argentina, who came up the hard way, and had to earn his living in the ring by repeatedly convincing American fans, finally, that he was legitimate. This is a fighter, now considered one of the best in the world, who didn't get on HBO until he was 33 years old, back in 2008 when he smashed Alex Bunema and opened some eyes.
While one should never put too much stock in a preview show that was edited for entertainment purposes, HBO's 24/7 series profiling the fighters and their preparation showed that even this version of Chavez isn't too far removed from the brat that turned so many fans off when he was coming up in the game. Chavez didn't show too much dedication to his training, continually showing up late to sessions, skipping training altogether..etc. But he did look in good shape at the weigh-ins and didn't have any of his old weight cutting issues.
Meanwhile, Martinez looked his usual ripped self after what appeared to be another "business as usual" training camp. Working hard because that's the only way Sergio knows how to work, mixing in a little hyperbaric recuperation because all that matters is performance and the fight.
In so many ways, Chavez represents what the blue-collar, working-class man despises. While the sanctioning bodies that flood the sport with trinkets and silver titles and regular titles and diamond titles are one of the worst parts of boxing, one only has to see a Randal Bailey weep after winning a shiny belt to understand that the title of "world champion" means something to a boxer. Martinez earned his titles the hard way, coming up a long road and having to wrest the gold from the hands of dominant middleweights like Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams, he lost one of those titles to politics that seemed directly played out to benefit young Chavez.
Again I turn to Bad Left Hook to describe the circumstances:
What happened was that Martinez held the WBC title, and, well, the WBC wanted Baby Boy to have it. Sebastian Zbik was named the mandatory challenger, which was fine with Martinez. It was not, however, fine with the old HBO regime, who turned down the fight and had Martinez instead fight Sergiy Dzinziruk, as if somehow Dzinziruk were a more notable or legitimate challenger than Zbik was. Dzinziruk is a better fighter than Zbik, but that cannot be used as reasoning to defend a move like this. It had absolutely nothing to do with quality.
Lo and behold, HBO approved Zbik as an opponent for Chavez Jr for a fight just three months after Martinez beat Dzinziruk, and wouldn't you know it, but Zbik had been promoted from interim to full champion, and Julio got to face a weak titleholder. They -- the WBC and HBO -- might as well have put a bow on the green belt.
For Martinez, a lifetime of work and the belt that represents the greatness he has achieved was taken by Chavez Jr. and many members of boxing's power elite. It's a story that resonates because it's a story that we see too often in the world. And it may not be entirely fair to Julio to cast him as the representation of all that is not pure in boxing, but that's just how things are.
Still, it should be noted that Chavez is a good fighter and, more relevant to the discussion, fights like his old man...like a man of the people. That's something that Carlos Acevedo pointed out over at The Cruelest Sport:
While some still believe that Chávez, Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, draws thousands-and produces blockbuster TV ratings-on name value alone, the truth is he has also earned a following due to his style. Unlike manufactured stars like Chad Dawson-who resembles a repressed Victorian in the ring half the time-Chávez all but guarantees action between the ropes. This concept is quickly becoming a relic in a sport now dominated by network suits and a clueless media apparatus that often doubles as a PR machine for fight racket power structures. Chávez went toe-to-toe against John Duddy, Sebastian Zbik, Andy Lee, and Marco Antonio Rubio in the last two years-providing what this industry needs most-entertainment.
Ultimately, for all the drama surrounding the fight, and for all the things wrong with Chavez's rise, what we have tonight is a real fight. A fight between two men who bring the fight regardless of their upbringings and backgrounds.
Martinez is the more proven fighter at the elite level, but he's also getting up there in years. Chavez hasn't yet proven himself against anyone anywhere near Martinez's pedigree, but he's a bull once the bell rings.
A win in this fight is going to have to be earned because there are men of every class who only know one way to fight, and these are two of those men.