Julio Cesar Chavez Jr picked up a belt last night, but now he's going to have to act like a champion soon. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Rick Reeno reports that legitimate middleweight champion Sergio Martinez is going to attempt to play the same game the WBC played with and around him, and as the emeritus/"Diamond" champion of the sanctioning body, will exercise his right to an immediate fight with new WBC middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, who won the belt last night from Sebastian Zbik.
Martinez won the lineal championship in April 2010 from Kelly Pavlik, and along with that, took Pavlik's WBC and WBO belts. Martinez gave up the WBO title to rematch Paul Williams, and later had the WBC taken after HBO rejected a fight between Martinez and Zbik. That led to Martinez facing top junior middleweight Sergiy Dzinziruk for no official title, but the "Diamond" belt was put up for grabs, and Martinez maintained some WBC recognition.
Now if you're wondering why Zbik wasn't good enough to face the real middleweight champion on HBO, but was a good enough opponent for a fighter HBO had never aired before (Chavez), well...welcome to boxing politics hell.
So what we're looking at now is Chavez, a weak titlist who defeated a weak titlist, staring down the barrel at the rightful ruler of the division, and if the WBC is fair and honorable (...), Chavez and Top Rank can't get out of this fight if they want to keep the green belt. Top Rank is known to be interested in matching Chavez with Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto, who is currently fighting small at junior middleweight, for September. Martinez has an October 1 date set aside on HBO for his return, and that date likely would work if everyone is interested.
But, you know, what are the odds? Chavez will probably be given some leeway to take something else first, if it's Cotto or a lesser opponent, and Martinez will have to keep flinging darts at the board trying to find an October 1 opponent. Marco Antonio Rubio is also in position for a title shot against Chavez, but he's also thought by many to be a poor matchup for the young star, so will that be any more likely? At least the money for Martinez vs Chavez would be really good with HBO backing.
This is a tough situation for Top Rank and the WBC to be in, in many respects. Chavez is a cash cow and a legitimate attraction, but his flaws are many and obvious. He has never beaten a true world-class fighter, nor has he ever been matched with one. Even Rubio would, in my estimation, be his toughest opponent by a pretty big margin, and Martinez would be an extremely heavy favorite. To maintain any credibility and not frankly embarrass a kid who despite his flaws and faults and pawn status, I do think would fight anyone put in front of him, the WBC and Top Rank are going to have to accept that Chavez has to fight someone dangerous sooner than later. That's what comes with the territory if you want to call yourself "champion," even if you have all the right backing.