Let's just jump right into this, because I gotta say: I don't think Julio Cesar Chavez Jr has all the facts, and if he does, then there are other issues. Here's something he said about a fight with Sergio Martinez, via BoxingScene.com:
"I have no fear of anyone, not Sergio or any other fighter. To be in boxing it takes great courage and that is something I have a lot of. I never made him any promise to fight him. ... My promoters are not interested in a fight against him, for now, but if they want me we can make a good deal and fight whenever he wants."
No, Julio never made a deal to fight Martinez, and no, his promoters do not want him to fight Martinez. However the WBC made a very clear promise to Martinez that he would be facing Chavez or Chavez's stupid green belt would be taken away like a noisy toy you finally snatch from a child who, let's face it, is probably getting a little too old to be that humored by it in the first place.
Ah, but he continues with this gem:
"When I got the opportunity to fight for the championship it didn't matter who I had to face. I went against Sebastian Zbik, a fighter that [Sergio] rejected, and I beat him. Now I'm going to defend my title against Rubio, and I hope to to win to open up the door for bigger things in 2012."
As you likely recall, Sergio Martinez did not reject Sebastian Zbik. HBO, the TV network that pays for Sergio Martinez's career, essentially, rejected Zbik as an opponent, and instead everyone paid $850,000 to Sergiy Dzinziruk like he was some big name.
It's not all so simple, so let's just break it down: Yes, Dzinziruk is a better fighter than Zbik. No, it didn't make a difference which unknown, undefeated European dude HBO put in Atlantic City. What they did was give Martinez the runaround, get him stripped of a WBC belt (for which the WBC is also to blame for yet another idiotic, transparent decision), and then allow Chavez vs Zbik in June. They'd avoided Chavez forever because his fights weren't good enough. But somehow, Chavez against another fringe contender for a belt was good enough.
As Nick Nolte said in Blue Chips, it's about money (goddamn money), and I understand that. HBO was also in a spot where they needed to make good with Top Rank after losing Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto to Showtime in the spring.
And there is this, which unfortunately is the way it is: HBO gets a heavy say in Sergio Martinez if they're going to televise him. DiBella and Martinez can both complain, but Chavez is simply worth more money. He does better ratings, does better gates, and has a far bigger fanbase. Sergio Martinez is a better fighter, but not close to as big a star.
So you've got this whole big boxing thing pulling from both sides. The boxing fan in me notes that oh my stars, yet again boxing is unfair, and Sergio Martinez deserves better than this. But I also understand why all of this happened. And no, it isn't fair, and it sucks.
Arturo Gatti got a lot more money chances than a lot of better fighters, too. The difference between Gatti and Chavez is that Gatti and his handlers weren't afraid to lose. I don't know if Chavez is afraid to lose, but I know Top Rank is handling him with the kiddiest of all kid gloves. Chavez is taking heat that should be directed entirely at Top Rank and the WBC, in my opinion. I do not think Chavez is to blame for being popular and good enough to stay popular.
Speaking of the WBC, they've yet to sanction Chavez's February 4 fight with Marco Antonio Rubio. Maybe they're waiting until the outrage -- some real, some fake, some dumb, etc. -- dies down to quietly say, "Sure, but seriously guys? Next fight. Sergio. We mean it."
And to up the drama and maybe get everyone talking about something else, Chavez offered this quote:
"Rubio has said in the past that I would never face him. But here I am now. ... If I have to die in the ring, then I’ll die in the ring. This is a fight that I really want to win."
Dying in the ring would seem to hamper the odds of winning, so hopefully he has a better strategy.
The ultimate thing about boxing that I've had to come to grips with in the last five years of running this site is that the results don't matter here, and you can not expect talent to rise above hype or popularity. Look, in the NFL playoffs this week, the Saints are red hot. If they lose to the Lions, though, they go home, their season's over, that's it, and the Lions move forward to something bigger. That's not how it works in boxing. You can pick someone easier than the Lions if you want to, and say, "Well it makes financial sense," and that's just how it works. And if you lose to the Lions, then screw it, blame the referee or the judges or the gloves or your shoes or the ring canvas or food poisoning or whatever else you need to blame, and play another playoff game next week anyway. And maybe the Lions don't make as much money next time out because nobody wants to play them now.
I mean, that's not new -- it's just something that becomes abundantly clear when you dedicate this much time to discussing the sport, and something that sets in and makes a person realize that boxing is its own bizarre, corrupt, fascinating world. It's almost not a sport, because even the results get spun to mean whatever people in power want them to mean.
This isn't like other sports where everyone has to prove it. Perception is more than good enough in boxing. Money makes the world go 'round. If you convince enough people that you're worth coming to see fight, or worth watching on TV, you're good as gold, particularly given that the sport has become such a niche attraction and so marginalized over the years. Boxing is not dead or actively dying. Boxing is, however, your bitchy old grandma who has a habit of ruining holidays.
So I just can't muster up too much true outrage or fire over this Martinez thing. I'm not dying to see Sergio face Chavez anyway; I think Chavez is wrong as can be when he says Sergio is more interested in his name than his belt. If anything, Sergio believes in the value of the belt to an almost shocking degree, and he believed that the WBC would be fair to him. In some ways, Sergio Martinez is coming off like some doe-eyed innocent, shocked at the world of boxing and its ways. And Chavez just bangs away on the big green drum, and nobody's taking it from him. They just say, "Goddamn, he's getting better at that."