LOS ANGELES – Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s fight against middleweight titleholder Sebastian Zbik on Saturday on HBO, Junior’s first world title shot, is supposed to mark his arrival as a legitimate world-class fighter if he can win.
The same goes for Zbik.
The personable German holds the WBC 160-pound belt, is undefeated (30-0, 10 knockouts) and is recognized by those familiar with him as a well-schooled, experienced boxer.
However, he has three glaring flaws on his resume:
One, he was handed his title while he was interim “champion” after Sergio Martinez was stripped for fighting Paul Williams in November, which isn’t how any fighters wants to become a “champion.”
“At the moment I don’t feel like a real champion,” Zbik said in solid English before a recent workout in Hollywood, Calif. “It’s not very nice for a sportsman to get the belt on a green table. It’s better to fight for it. So when I win the fight next Saturday, it will be the first step to feel better with the belt.”
Two, he hasn’t fought anyone within punching distance of the Top 10 rankings during his seven-year pro career. Most have been good, but limited Europeans and South Americans.
“(Chavez is) undefeated in over 40 fights but is in a little bit the same situation like me: He doesn’t have big names on his record,” Zbik said. “He never fought somebody like me before. And for me it’s also a very hard fight.”
And, three, he has very little punching power.
“I’m not a knockouter,” he said, inventing a useful word. “When I say I have 10 knockouts in 30 fights and I’m a knockouter, no one would believe me.”
The fight on Saturday will give him an opportunity to change the perception of him.
Chavez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) isn’t recognized as a great fighter but he has a great name. Thus, a victory over him a large stage probably would catch the attention of boxing fans here and in Germany.
Plus, Zbik will have the chance to make history: He would become the first German to win a world title fight on U.S. soil since heavyweight legend Max Schmeling stopped Young Stribling in 1931.
And any German mentioned in the same breath as Schmeling will score points back home.
“When I win the fight here, I’ll be very famous in Germany,” he said.
Can he win?
Zbik has some disadvantages. He has fought outside Germany only five times and never outside of Europe. The crowd at Staples Center will be passionately pro-Chavez, although Zbik says a small, but loyal contingent has come from Germany to back him.
And, in the ring, Chavez is seen as the bigger and stronger man. He also happens to have the top trainer in the world in his corner, Freddie Roach.
Zbik doesn’t seem to be fazed. He has an easy-going, even playful personality but also has the confidence of someone who doesn’t know what it is to lose.
"He’s undefeated and that means something," Chavez acknowledged.
Zbik knows what it’s like to fight outside his homeland, even if it was on the same continent. He knew when he signed up for this that 99 percent of the fans would be cheering loudly for his opponent, the idea being to shut them up with his fists.
And even if Chavez is the more-powerful fighter, Zbik believes he’s a better boxer.
“I think we will win the fight here in a very clear way,” he said, “so after 12 rounds … if it goes 12 rounds … there’s no question who won the fight. … I have many advantages. Speed. My reflexes. My defens. And some other things that we don’t want to talk about before the fight.”
Zbik was asked what he would tell Chavez if he were face to face to him at the gym in Hollywood and, not sure how to translate, gave his answer in German.
The meaning was simple: “Be prepared.”