Recent reports of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. possibly balking at going to the Philippines for training leading up to a December 4 clash with Miguel Cotto have it seeming more and more like that fight might not come off after all. It's a minor PPV cash cow fight for Top Rank, as it plays on the long-standing Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry, the fighters' respective popularity with their fanbases, and its potential big money appeal as a live draw in New York.
But what if it doesn't happen? The cast of characters revolving around this fight right now is something like one of those delightfully quirky indie dramedies with a lot of names not sharing a lot of screen time.
Cotto had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, but said that wouldn't affect a December 4 fight. When that was reported, Alfredo Angulo offered to face Chavez, which of course is not going to happen. There's no way Top Rank risks Chavez against another promoter's fighter, especially one as ferocious as Angulo.
Chavez would have to train in the Philippines because his trainer, Freddie Roach, will be there to prepare Congressman Manny Pacquiao for his November 13 bout with Antonio Margarito. Pacquiao will do most of his training at home this time, or at least the first part of it, and the times conflict for Roach, who has several fighters in big bouts around that time. Chavez is also desired by Roach as a sparring partner for Manny, feeling that his size will be a help in replicating Margarito's probable attack. That can work two ways, too. Though Manny is a lefty and Cotto is not, Cotto and Pacquiao are right about the same height, and Chavez will have worked with a much faster and potentially stronger opponent in sparring, which could be a big help come fight night. Vanes Martirosyan, who is likely to fight Pawel Wolak on the Cotto-Chavez undercard if the event happens, will also be there to train, and Amir Khan, another Roach star, is also likely to be in attendance. Quite a camp, really.
The Possible Back-Out, Pt. 1: The Weight
Chavez has some reasons to back out of this fight. For one thing, Chavez has had difficulty in the past making the 154-pound limit. He started at 130 pounds in 2003, but he was 17 years old then, and his body has continued to mature. He blamed difficulty making weight on his failed drug test after fighting Troy Rowland last November, and hasn't returned to the weight limit. In typical eye roll-worthy fashion, the never-biased WBC expressed concern usually reserved for finding out a close relative is a heroin addict, and assured the world that they'd help Chavez meet with the right people and determine his optimum future fighting weight. It was really dramatic stuff.
Since the Rowland bout and his suspension for failing the drug test (it was a diuretic, but also a diuretic commonly known to be used as a masking agent for something more serious), Chavez has not fought at 154 pounds again. He has taken up Roach as trainer, and in his last fight with John Duddy, showed serious improvement for the first time in years.
Enough improvement to face Cotto? Maybe. He's got size to spare in that matchup. Chavez is about six feet tall with a 73" reach. Cotto, who was not a big welterweight and is a positively dinky junior middle, is 5'7" with 67 inches of reach. That's a huge difference, and though Cotto was able to handle Yuri Foreman with relative ease (even before Foreman injured his knee), Chavez is, frankly, a better puncher than Foreman, stronger physically, and those who had watched Yuri's prospect rise knew he didn't like being hit. Chavez has taken shots over the years.
But then there's this other guy.
The Possible Back-Out, Pt. 2: The Other Guy
The Other Guy is reigning middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez. Recently, the WBC named Chavez -- in another hilariously transparent WBC/Chavez move -- the mandatory challenger to their middleweight title, one of the belts that Martinez holds. Of course, if you think Top Rank is going to match Chavez with Martinez, you're probably out of your mind, but what if Chavez really, really, really wants it? At the end of the day, the fighter does have some control over these things. And you better believe that Lou DiBella would be psyched to put Martinez in with Chavez, an easy opponent on paper who also can draw money.
Right now, Martinez is in the middle of dragging negotiations to rematch Paul Williams on November 20, another fight that looks like it might not happen after all. Could they all hold off for a couple more months and schedule Martinez-Chavez instead? Sure, may-- HEY HERE COMES ALFREDO ANGULO AGAIN
HEY HERE COMES ALFREDO ANGULO AGAIN
Ah, yes. A couple of weeks ago, Angulo was all ready to replace Cotto if Cotto's injured shoulder was too badly hurt to fight Chavez. This was kind of funny when you consider that Angulo, a relative non-star, was offered $750,000 to fight Sergio Martinez for the middleweight championship of the world, and turned it down. Oh! And HBO was promising him another fight if he lost, and say, he decided that 160 wasn't for him, since he's been fighting at 154.
But he turned it down. Against his promoter's wishes, against his manager's wishes, against HBO's wishes (the network without whom he'd REALLY be nobody), he turned down a huge money offer and a promise of another fight after no matter what.
Now! Today! Here's the new Angulo plan: He'll take on Cotto if that sissy Chavez doesn't want to, as reported by BoxingScene.com's Ryan Burton.
Not only did he turn down a big payday and a shot at the middleweight championship that he hasn't really earned and a promise, a guarantee of a follow-up fight even if he lost, but now he has unleashed this quote on the world when trying to pick off Cotto, a natural junior welterweight, and let's not forget, a man that his promoter thinks might not be able to get in a full camp thanks to his surgery:
"I will fight whoever they put in front of me."
Good timing, "Perro." Good timing.
Listen, I don't want to argue against a Cotto-Angulo fight, really. It's a fun fight on paper, albeit one that might get Cotto beaten up since he's not really a junior middleweight and Angulo really is. That fight has its advantages, but the way Angulo has gone about his business recently has not been flattering. He turns down huge money in an economy where a lot of talented fighters would probably fight with their ankles taped together to get $750K, then starts making grandstand challenges for easier fights.
Where We Stand Right Now
As far as I know, the plans are still for Cotto-Chavez, Martinez-Williams II, and Angulo-nothing at the moment. Oddly enough, it's Angulo who just might stand to gain the most from Cotto-Chavez falling apart. Top Rank would still probably prefer to look in-house, but how on earth are you going to sell Miguel Cotto against Vanes Martirosyan or something similar? Gary Shaw is right when he says that HBO would almost surely find some room in the budget to put Cotto-Angulo on the air, as the network has supported both fighters and it's a potentially damn good fight. Cotto has never turned down a challenge, and I wouldn't expect him to say no to Angulo as an opponent.
That leaves everyone else. The Martinez-Williams stuff seems at a standstill right now, with Martinez's team saying that the Williams camp is dragging their feet badly. Could Martinez-Chavez come about? Only if Chavez actually demands it. The WBC, which has gone to great lengths to help hype, build, protect, glorify and defend Chavez, have installed him as a mandatory at his preferred weight. And they've said that if he fights Cotto, they'll remove him from that standing.
This all has to play out still, and the likelihood is still pretty decent that everything comes off as planned, and then maybe Angulo fights Cornelius Bundrage or someone in early 2011. Really, I don't think there's a bad way for this to go, as all of the potential fights -- yes, even Martinez-Chavez -- hold some appeal to me.
Here's hoping it all just gets done, whatever the hell "it all" is going to wind up being.