LAS VEGAS — Tensions ran at a fever pitch during Wednesday’s press conference at the Encore Theater between WBC middleweight titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and southpaw RING champion Sergio Martinez as well as their camp members in advance of Saturday night’s sold out, HBO Pay Per View-televised clash at the Thomas and Mack Center.
One of the first vocal vollies came from the trainer of Martinez, (49-2-2, 28 knockouts), Pablo Sarmiento, who called Chavez Jr. (46-0-1, 32 KOs) “a chicken.”
“We’re very motivated to shut up Chavez Jr., because he really has talked a lot,” said Sarmiento, referring to an interview with Chavez on an HBO program.
“He talks a lot to the television cameras. But he doesn’t say these to Sergio’s face when he’s looking him in the eyes.”
“Fernando is talking too much, as if he were a boxer,” said Lewkowicz. “Maybe we’ll take care of this after the fight.”
Martinez was brutal in his description of what will happen on Saturday night.
“I want to let you know, everyone, that this is going to be a great fight, and I’m really ready for this one. I spent a lot of time dancing, and that would be enough to break his face in. It will not be an easy knockout. I’m going to punish him, and after that, I’m going to knock him out,” said Martinez.
“I am hoping that somebody in the corner, like the doctor, or the trainer, or your team, or your management makes sure that they stop the fight, because I will not stop. I will continue punishing you. You should not have taken this fight, because this fight will be very, very painful for you.”
During his turn at the podium, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr said that Martinez has “invoked the devil” by discussing the various ways in which he plans to defeat his son.
“Now it’s time to for the fight, and my son is going to win. The people with Martinez have been saying a lot of things about the fight, and now is the time for the fight,” said Chavez Sr., a former three-division champion who celebrated his 50th birthday in July.
“Martinez has been talking a lot about Julio and how he’s going to beat him. But he has invoked the devil, but when you see the devil coming, you are not going to know what to do. This Saturday, he’s going to eat all of the s–t that he’s been talking.”
When Chavez Jr. stepped up to the microphone, he was even more incendiary than his father.
“I have seen him in the tapes when he’s gotten knocked down and knocked out, and he looked pretty good. He only talks bulls–t,” said Chaez Jr. “He says that he’s the best fighter, but when he gets into the ring at the time of the fight, he’s going to be running and running. He doesn’t fight for the people or for the sport.”
Chavez Jr. then referred to a Episode 1 of HBO’s 24/7, during which Martinez referred to the difficulty he encountered in defeating the hard-punching former undisputed middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik.
“In the 24/7, I saw that he said that very few people could go the 12 rounds with Kelly Pavlik. That’s what Martinez said,” said Chavez Jr. “But this Saturday, he’s going to have me in front of him, and he has never experienced that. He will see that.”
A Mexican Independence Day weekend event, Chavez Jr.-Martinez sold its last remaining tickets on Tuesday, becoming the highest-attended boxing event in the history of the Thomas & Mack Center with 19,186 seats.
Martinez will fight in Las Vegas for the first time since February of 2000, when, as a 148-pounder, he was stopped in the seventh round by Mexican Antonio Margarito at the Mandalay Bay Hotel for his first loss in 18 fights.
To that end, Beltran finished with this caveat.
“We understand Martinez’s passion and everything, but he’s wrong, and his trainer is wrong. Because on Sept. 15, the guy who is going to get knocked out is Martinez,” said Beltran.
“Julio is a machine that has been proven, and Martinez has been knocked down not just once, but many times. He’s been knocked out by a Mexican, and he’s going to get knocked out again by another Mexican.”
If WBA’s “regular” titleholder Gennady Golovkin has an opinion on what will happen, he is not revealing it.
“We spoke about it extensively, and his feeling is that Martinez has better skills with more experience against better competition, but that Chavez is the younger and stronger boxer that seems to get better with each fight,” said Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler.
“He really sees it as a 50-50 fight, depending on if Martinez is able to hold off Chavez and how much bigger Chavez will be on fight night. Gennady has sparred with Chavez before and watched Sergio live against Macklin, and is very familiar with both boxers.”
RingTV.com culled the opinions of several boxing insiders as to their thoughts on what will transpire on Saturday night.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. UD 12 Sergio Martinez: I think that it’s going to be a great fight. I have a feeling that Sergio Martinez is going to start off strong and win the earlier rounds. But I think that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will turn it on.
I believe that the keys are going to be the championship rounds, and that Chavez will stay on his feet and do enough to come out with a unanimous decision here in Las Vegas.
Sergio Martinez W 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: Initially, I liked Sergio Martinez in this fight. Then the news of the threats against him came out and I wonder how much it has sidetracked him mentally. Of course, he’ll stay he’s fine. But I wonder.
Still, Julio Cesar Chavez’s camp hasn’t gone all that smoothly either and while I think he continues to improve and has defended his title well, this could be a tough night for him. Martinez overcomes the distractions and wins by decision in what figures to be a close, competitive fight.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. KO Sergio Martinez: Two years ago, I thought the fight was a mismatch. But the years lapsed have been kind to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
While JCC has sharpened his game — he’s learned on the go with no amateur career — Sergio Martinez has slipped a tad with age. I see Martinez dominating the first few rounds.
But if Chavez Jr. can take his overhand lefts — and it says here Chavez’s granite chin can — then Martinez will be in for a long night.
Chavez will weather the early storm and then wear down the RING champ with his size, heavy hands and will. Chavez Jr. will find his mark with devastating power shots and will stop Martinez late for the slight upset.
Sergio Martinez, UD 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has youth, size, momentum and a nation of Mexican fans anxious to be as proud as his legendary father expects to be.
There are many ways Chavez can win. But there are a few reasons he won’t. He’s never encountered anybody with Martinez’ unique blend, which defies the fundamental principles Chavez has just begun to master.
With his hands-down, Martinez appears vulnerable. The left-hander looks awkward. Looks are deceiving. First, they will tempt Chavez.
Then, they will draw him into traps that will allow the athletic Martinez to deliver precise punches from angles Chavez has yet to see.
Sergio Martinez W 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr: I think that it’s going to be a close fight. I think that it will be an interesting fight. I think that it will be a bit up-and-down.
But I’m sort of leaning toward Sergio Martinez by a decision. I think that it’s going to be fairly close and that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will come on fairly strong.
It all depends. Chavez Jr. can get a late knockout, but I think that Martinez is going to be a little bit too fast, and I think that, in the end, he’ll be alright.
Sergio Martinez UD 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: Sergio Martinez will use his speed to win a unanimous decision against a very tough Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. I think speed kills in this match up.
Sergio Martinez UD 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: If Julio Cesar Chavez cannot make this a physical, borderline-dirty fight, cut off the ring, and dig regularly to Sergio Martinez’s body, he’ll be in for a long night.
Martinez still moves very well, even at the age of 37, and his high ring IQ will enable him to make the necessary adjustments to combat Chavez’s aggression.
Despite repeatedly talking about knocking out the iron-chinned Chavez, Martinez won’t try to do it in a reckless way.
Sergio Martinez TKO11 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: There’s no denying Julio Cesar Chavez’s durability and rapid development into a legitimate threat to Sergio Martinez.
Add that to the external factors of a pro-Chavez crowd, and Martinez’s losing two years of his prime before finally getting the fight, and you have an intriguing matchup.
However, I still like Martinez to confound Chavez with his movement and speed, and stopping him either on his feet or by cuts.
Julio Cesar Chavez SD 12 Sergio Martinez: For the last year or so, I’ve been thinking Sergio Martinez will just have too much of everything for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. However, I think Chavez is continuing to develop and get better, especially when he is focused and senses danger in an opponent.
That certainly is the case this time. Chavez is a real warrior and will put it all out Saturday night. At first he will be outfoxed, and outmaneuvered by the slick Martinez. But when Julio starts getting inside and making a fight of it, things will change.
I think Martinez is a tremendous talent, but I do believe he has plateaued and will be edged out by a younger, determined challenger, in what I suspect will be a physically grueling, exciting battle.
Sergio Martinez KO 6 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: Too classy, too fast and too powerful, Sergio Martinez will further cement his position as the third best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
This is a mismatch, which is why Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has spent the last year running from it. Well, time’s up on Saturday.
Sergio Martinez W 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: I like Sergio Martinez by decision. I think that he’s the more skilled boxer and he’s been through several tough fights in his life.
He hasn’t been built up or protected like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and I think that overall skill will shine on a night like this.
Obviously, you have to account for the size advantage that Chavez Jr. will have, and I think that that could result in a change in how the fight will procede.
But that I think that in the end, Martinez wins this fight by doing what he has always done to get to this point.
Sergio Martinez UD 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: I like Sergio Martinez to pull out a tough unanimous decision over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. I feel that Chavez will actually control the fight early.
But I see Martinez digging down and finding a way to come on strong over the second half of the fight. I just feel that Martinez will frustrate and tag Chavez once he gets into a rhythm and it will be a little too much for the young champion to handle.
Sergio Martinez W 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: I see Julio Cesar Chavez doing much better than some might assume, especially in the first six rounds. Against Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin, Sergio Martinez warmed to the task, and Chavez has more firepower than either.
If he can grind enough, 37 year old champion’s legs could look their age on the back half. I think Martinez will be careful not to stay in the pocket enough to accelerate down the stretch.
Ultimately, talent takes over, and Martinez has more of it. He’s beaten some of the best. Chavez is leaping from borderline contenders to the man. It’s a big leap. He’ll fall short.
Sergio Martinez TKO 9 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: Julio Cesar ChaveZ Jr. deserves credit for his progress. He has beaten capable opponents convincingly. One problem, though: Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee are at one level while Sergio Martinez is at another.
The Argentine will prove to be far too good and athletic for a fighter who remains limited in spite of his recent success.
Chavez won’t know what hit him. I believe Martinez will hand Junior a horrible beating until the fight is stopped because of an accumulation of punches in the ninth round.
Sergio Martinez KO 7 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: I’m not a believer in Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. I believe he was moved along very smartly and I’m not convinced he can take on someone as good as Sergio Martinez, who who’s been in with much better fighters.
Chavez has relied too much on his size to win, which masks his obvious lack of skill. Martinez is too quick, too strong, and too skilled and will terribly expose Chavez Jr.
If Chavez Jr. can pull this off, it would certainly be a gigantic step toward what his old man was.
Sergio Martinez W 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: I’m going with Sergio Martinez over Julio Cesar Chavez, possibly by late stoppage. I’ve heard it all — “A Chavez win is good for boxing, he can be a future star…”
Maybe, but I don’t think it happens this time around. I believe that Martinez, though looking vulnerable of late, still has one great performance left in him.
Martinez, as a fighter, needs someone to pressure him, because his ability to set up offense of his own is somewhat limited. Martinez likes to draw fighters in with his hands low and counter their advances.
Chavez, I think, will do all the work for him. I think Chavez has the potential to be a legitimate world champion some day.
But his lack of seasoning — Andy Lee and Sebastian Zbik are his toughest challenges to date –will be his undoing.
What happens if Chavez gets hurt? Does he know how to survive and box? I don’t think so, which is why I can’t board the Chavez bandwagon just yet.
Sergio Martinez W 12 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr: I originally was picking Julio Cesar Chavez to win this fight, thinking he was too big and had too good of a chin to get hurt by Sergio Martinez.
And with Sergio fighting with his hands down-style as he does, all Chavez needed to do was to catch him with one good combination, and then walk through anything that Martinez could throw at him. And it still might play out that way.
But I’m thinking Chavez may not be taking this fight seriously enough, from everything I’ve read, and could begin tiring in the later rounds. That’s where Martinez’s speed will pick him apart. Sergio takes this fight seriously and will prevail.
By a vote of 14-3, the experts have Sergio Martinez defeating Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., adding his WBC belt to the RING middleweight championship he already owns.
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]