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Azad Championship Report: A Lot Late but Way Too Little to Begin With

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. lands on Sergio Martinez
Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank

By Steve Kim


The record books will say that when Sergio Martinez took back his WBC middleweight title from Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the date was September 15, 2012 at the sold-out Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. But for three minutes, everyone harkened back to March 17, 1990 when Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., behind on the scorecards to Meldrick Taylor, scored a dramatic and improbable come-from-behind knockout. This past weekend, it nearly happened again.
 
Chavez Jr., who was thoroughly outboxed, outfought and outthought for 11 rounds, nearly hit the 20-run homer. Everyone inside that building, from fans to the media on press row, were on their feet and that’s exactly what came to mind.
 
“Meldrick Taylor. I saw Meldrick Taylor stretched and Richard Steele stopping the fight and [Lou] Duva protesting,” said Arum, laughing at the thought, knowing that while his client was whipped decisively for much of the night, that last three minutes kept much of his viability as an attraction and could lead to a lucrative rematch.

In one of the most memorable stanzas in recent memory, Martinez, who was shaken, stirred and then dumped on the canvas, finished on his feet and won a well-deserved wide decision in front of 19,186 passionate partisans who had the basketball home of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels sounding like a World Cup affair. Martinez won by the scores of 117-110 and 118-109 (twice). 
 
And honestly, it wasn’t even that close.
 
Yes, the ending was memorable and will be talked about for years but what took place for the first 33 minutes should not be forgotten. What this night represented was a victory for professionalism, blue-collar dignity and dedication to the craft of boxing. You could argue that Martinez somehow losing this fight would’ve been a miscarriage of justice in many ways. Martinez is everything Chavez is not - most importantly, a pro’s pro, one who treats his body and tools with the utmost respect and care. And uh…y’ know, does things like actually going to the gym on a regular basis and treating his trainer with professional courtesy. Pablo Sarmiento knows when and where his boxer will be everyday as they prepare for battle. Freddie Roach is left looking at his cell phone for hours, contemplating how many bars he has as he awaits the word on Chavez’s plans for the night.
 
For years there had been a certain amount (as in a lot) of enabling as it related to Junior. Everyone involved knew this young man served as an economic stimulus to the sport of boxing (which could always use another attraction) and if he didn’t make weight, no big deal. Some extra money would be thrown to the opposite corner. A close fight? Well, those can be, um…taken care of. And if he doesn’t feel like fighting, well, some alibi will be concocted on his behalf. Chavez’s success seemed ordained. After all, he was the heir to boxing royalty.
 
But on – and for much of it - this night, the coronation of a young prince turned into a beheading worthy of anything seen on “Game of Thrones.
 
Martinez showed that it’s much easier to develop as an elite fighter without a silver spoon in your mouth. It was a hard lesson for Chavez. His face was battered, bruised and bloody by the two-fisted attack of “Maravilla,” who gored him from all angles. “It’s an important experience for my life. In life, you lose and you win but I Iost with dignity and I tried my best,” said Chavez, who believed he had this fight won in the final inning. “I thought I was going to finish him in the last round but I couldn’t. He’s got heart and I promise in the rematch, I will knock him out.”
 
But let’s make this clear; this wasn’t about Chavez not doing enough to win the fight in the first 11 rounds. The bigger picture is that he didn’t do nearly enough to give himself the best chance to win this fight, period (and it says here that Martinez’s footwork and hand speed would trouble Chavez, regardless). Chavez is essentially his own boss and everyone surrounding him is reduced to a cadre of yes-men and hangers-on. His own father doesn’t even seem to get his undivided attention.
 
Every trainer in the world is happy and relieved that Martinez came out victorious but not out of any loyalty or adulation toward Martinez. The last thing they want to deal with is a new generation of boxers who believe that working in your living room at your own convenience with a sporadic schedule is the same as actually going to the gym. Many things have changed in this world but the general principles of boxing haven’t. You cheat the sport and eventually it’ll catch up to you. Top Rank’s matchmaking can only get you so far. Against Martinez, Chavez was operating without a safety net and for much of the night, he looked ill-prepared.
 
Winning hides many ills and there is a thought process that if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Under the protective cocoon of Top Rank and Fernando Beltran, Chavez had been largely sheltered from the brutal realities of this business. Martinez represented his day of reckoning. Arum admitted, “I was very disappointed [by Chavez’s performance for the first 11 rounds] but Sergio’s a helluva fighter and my guy couldn’t solve him.”
 
Chavez was asked during the post-fight presser if the results on Saturday night would perhaps spur change in his unorthodox training methods. He replied, “No, I don’t think the training hurt me at all. I proved that in the last round. It’s not a problem of conditioning; in the last round, I figured I was OK. It was only a bad night.”
 
But his trainer, Freddie Roach, had a dissenting opinion, telling Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, “Overall, we didn’t work hard enough for this fight. Living rooms are overrated. Boxing gyms are there for a reason. I’ll work with him again. First day he misses [coming to] the boxing gym, I’ll go home.” He later added, “Cutting off the ring was something we knew we needed to work on doing, every day, every day, every day. With me [simulating Martinez], he had it down pat. With the sparring partners, he didn’t have it down pat.” Trainers like Roach will tell you, there’s a big difference between a real training camp and camps where the whole purpose is to just lose weight.
 
This past weekend, the better fighter didn’t just win; the better professional did. This was about respect. Chavez, who had been so dismissive of Martinez during this promotion, learned to respect his elders on Saturday night. The question is, will he now show this sport more than he has had to?
 
Will there be changes moving forward? Arum, who talked openly of staging the rematch at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, said (as only he can), “[Chavez] better f**king make changes!”
 
REMATCH?
 
OK, will there be Martinez-Chavez II? In my opinion, yes, because for all the talk of Martinez facing the likes of Andre Ward and Floyd Mayweather, he’s not moving up to 168 and he’s not moving down to 154. And based on the economic success of this past promotion, it’s only natural that Arum and Lou DiBella pull the trigger on this. And based on DiBella’s excitable nature after Martinez’s win, it looks like he clearly wants to go in this direction.
 
’”My philosophy is when you have lightning in a bottle, you don’t let it go. My philosophy is that a rematch between these two guys sells out Cowboys Stadium,” he said. 
 
12TH ROUND
 
The best part of this gig is being ringside for truly memorable moments that take place in the ring. And for this reporter, what took place in that final frame between Martinez and Chavez is something that will be right up there with the first encounter between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales and the ending of the first Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo bout. Not only were all the fans on their feet (and the roof of the arena nearly came off as Martinez hit the floor and was dazed) but so was much of press row (which I know is kinda against the rules). But hey, we’re boxing fans too (and besides, I had no choice. The guys in front of me were off their chairs and there was no way I was missing this).
 
Honestly, it took me a few minutes to actually catch my breath after it was all through. And there was quite the buzz throughout the arena. It’s amazing; what was largely a one-sided contest and a bit of a disappointment was essentially salvaged with the last round. Personally, I’m glad I was there to witness it. 
 
Doing this job, you get to see a lot of fights (some better than others) but what’s really special is when you get to see history that will be talked about for years. That’s the great thing about this game; three minutes can leave you with a lifetime of memories.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
Between 122 and 126, who beats Guillermo Rigondeaux?...I actually thought Miguel Beltran edged Rocky Martinez but my vote doesn’t count...I really like lightweight Terence Crawford. The question is, can he catch as well as he pitches?...I’ll say this about Martinez; for a guy who hasn’t drawn all that well in the States, he brought a pretty good contingent of Argentine fans to the Thomas and Mack. I’d guesstimate that it was about a 70-30 ratio of Mexicans to Argentineans on fight night...Right now, the UCLA Bruins are the best college football team in Los Angeles. Yeah, I said it...Stanford now officially owns USC...Duke Johnson, Heisman Trophy candidate by next season...It’s great to have “Boardwalk Empire” back on HBO...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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