With all due respect to Scott, I have drunk the Martinez-Chavez Jr Kool-Aid! I am expecting the fight to be formally made at some point this fall--though I shall be ready to regurgitate said drink at a moment's notice if it does fall through. For fans (or detractors) of both Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr, this is a fight that has been, at the very least, over a year in the making. Chavez had what was undoubtedly his most impressive performance to date against Lee, where he not only displayed brutal power punching, but also a remarkably resilient chin that took Lee's best shots and refused to bend. Like a lot of my fellow BLH members, I believe that TR felt that finally agreeing to the Martinez fight was contingent upon Chavez having an impressive, dominating performance against a legitimate contender. Andy Lee is not a world-beater by any means, but was undoubtedly a game fighter and Chavez's toughest challenge to date. And Chavez knocked him out with some brutal flurries in the seventh round.
Now that Chavez-Lee has been settled, we look ahead to the next matchup for the young upstart. If TR is to be believed, the next opponent is the "true" middleweight champion of the world, a P4P-ranked fighter, and a man who has just two losses on his record (the last coming more than three years ago). Martinez, likely the favorite, has been calling out the Chavez camp for years, and promoter Lou DiBella's (at least public) distaste for Arum and TR only adds more fuel to the fire. But for my first fan post, I don't wish to focus on the political or out-of-ring aspects of this fight. I wanted to discuss, and hopefully hear from my fellow BLH readers on, the keys to the actual fight--for both Chavez and Martinez. A fight that will undoubtedly be one of the largest and most exciting events of the year (if and when it happens).
First, let's focused on what we saw on June 16th, as Chavez Jr handed Lee a loss via TKO in the 7th round. The fight admittedly started off slow, with Lee winning the very first rounds based on his boxing, his jab, and controlling the ring for the most part. But the moment that Chavez started to come on was in the fourth round when, after coming out looking more aggressive, started exchanging some beautiful shots on the inside with Lee. For whatever reason, Lee was no longer concerned with making it a boxing match, and was goaded into a brawl by Chavez. Chavez landed some beautiful hooks to the body and some hard uppercuts. Though Lee would win round 5 on a lot of people's scorecards, this was the beginning of the end for him. Chavez continued to pour on those hard shots from the inside, even landing some big right hands on his man. Round 6 more than likely went to Chavez, and in round 7, Chavez closed the show with an attack to Lee's body that can only be described as ravenous. Without a doubt, the most startling element of the fight was Chavez's ability to take Lee's best shots (or what passed for Lee's best shots) and to keep on coming. He smiled, laughed, and even danced a bit (reminiscent of his fight with Zbik) in a defiant retort of Lee's attempts to damage him. Now Chavez has another stoppage to his name, a stoppage that came in his stiffest test to date.
So now, evidently, we have Martinez on the horizon. Though he shares a few qualities with Chavez (namely, good power, slow starter-ness, and an ability to goad fighters into fighting his fight), Martinez's style, I feel, is worlds away from Chavez's. Martinez, at least in his most current iteration, does not prefer to trade shot for shot with his opponent. He was led into that in his first fight with Paul Williams, and it did not work out well for him in the end. Martinez uses his jab--the best southpaw jab in boxing, I believe--to keep his opponent at a distance and prevent them from working their way inside on him. Then, from that distance, Martinez can either unload with his startlingly powerful straight left, launch in with a hook, or simply wait for his opponent to come in so that he can hit him with a huge counter shot (as was most recently seen in his fight with Macklin). Martinez's knockdowns of Dzinziruk came in this fashion--either using his jab to work his way in and unload with his power shots, or simply throwing that straight left out from a distance and catching him on the chin. Distance and timing is paramount to Martinez's game. This is not to say that Martinez has not or can't fight on the inside or trade shots with his opponent. But, at least for the 2012 Sergio Martinez, this is not in his best interests.
Which brings us to the matchup at hand: Sergio Martinez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr, for the Ring and WBC middleweight titles. First off, I would not be surprised if this fight starts off at a slow pace for both men. Martinez almost always uses the early rounds to feel his opponent out, and it wouldn't be shocking to see Chavez doing the same thing. One element I see being the deciding factor of the fight is distance, and how both fighters control the distance to their advantage. Most likely Chavez wants to close in on Martinez and keep the distance to a minimum for much of the fight, for a few reasons: to land most of his damaging blows, to keep away from Martinez's jab and his long punches, and to not be goaded into leaving himself open to a counter from Maravilla. Chavez's offensive strength is undoubtedly his body punching--an effective body attack from Chavez would both take some air out of Martinez's tires, as well as effectively damage his opponent. This is not to say that Chavez shouldn't target the head, but with Chavez's recent hesitance to set up his shots with his jab, along with Martinez's brilliant head movement, I doubt that he gets a lot of his head shots off effectively.
Martinez, on the other hand, has it in his best interests to control the distance between he and Chavez, and to keep a safe range away from Chavez's inside attack. Martinez has a brilliant jab that he uses both to frustrate his opponent as well as to set up his power shots, and he should stick it in Chavez's face and then move whenever he can. He should not be interested in trading blows with Chavez, and I don't think he will. Instead, Martinez should work his jab throughout the fight, land hard left hands on Chavez from a distance, and if possible, try to goad Chavez into coming forward briefly so he can unleash a counter shot. Martinez does not want to get into a brawl with Chavez. The more that they get into trading blows, the less beneficial it is for Martinez--as we saw on June 16th, Chavez can take a few shots and keep on coming
The key for Martinez will be where exactly he chooses to land his punches on Chavez. As we saw in the Lee fight, Chavez's chin is one of his best qualities. The man can simply take shots right on the button and keep pressing forward. Martinez should definitely target the head, since his style already makes use of it and since Martinez is no slouch himself when it comes to punching power. But I believe that Martinez's most effective offense will be his shots to Chavez's body. Marco Antonio Rubio had some success with landing body shots to Chavez, and with Martinez's power, I can see a steady body attack to Chavez reaping huge rewards for Maravilla. It will take some of the stamina out of Chavez, and thus take away the sting of a lot of his punching attack. The question is, can Martinez have an effective body attack with his straight punches and hooks from a distance? Because we've already mentioned that it is not in Martinez's best interests to get on the inside with Chavez and trade away.
So, to recap, I believe that this will be a much more competitive fight than people think. I think that both fighters have a decent chance to stop their opponent if they can work a strategy that benefits their style the most--as well as one that keeps them out of harm's way the most effectively. I think that Chavez will try to make this a brawl, to work his way inside with hard shots and get to a position where he can pound away on Martinez's body with those short hooks and straights. I believe that Martinez will want to box his man as much as possible, to stick the jab out there and control distance, to use his lateral movement to keep Chavez off him, and to land those thudding straight lefts and hooks to Chavez's noggin--or, better yet, to his body. I think that Martinez is powerful, but that Chavez's chin is a prevailing factor in this fight, so a body attack would serve Martinez better. Being able to goad Chavez in so that Martinez can counter will work even more in his favor. If it goes to the scorecards, I see Chavez getting the decision for more than a few reasons. But this post isn't about that type of thing, so let's move on.
How do you guys see this fight going? How do you think both fighters will perform? And who do you see winning the fight? I've got Martinez by 10th or 11th round TKO, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Chavez pull out a stunner. At least not as surprised as I would have been before June 16th.
Thank you for reading, and please comment!