Sergio Martinez is universally recognized as the middleweight champ, but the talented Argentine veteran has searched for a big-name opponent since taking THE RING championship from Kelly Pavlik via unanimous decision and defending it with a second-round KO of Paul Williams in 2010.
Until recently, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. had his father’s famous name but none of the credibility, despite becoming the first Mexican to win a major middleweight title last June. Chavez was viewed as no match for Martinez, No. 3 in THE RING-’s pound-for-pound ratings, last year. But “Junior” has evolved into a real contender since winning the WBC belt.
While Martinez (49-2-2, 28 knockout) appeared to struggle in RING title defenses against Darren Barker (KO 11) and Matthew Macklin (TKO 11), Chavez (46-0-1, 32 KOs) looked unstoppable in his seventh-round knockout of Andy Lee in June. The son of the legend looked so formidable that some fans and members of the boxing media now believe his youth, size and pressure-fighting style will be too much for the 37-year-old champ
Chavez will get his opportunity to prove that he’s more than a beltholder with a name when he battles Martinez for middleweight supremacy on Sept. 15. Here’s how the two match up.
HEAD TO HEAD
Skills: Chavez, a giant pressure fighter, has good inside technique and an effective body attack. Martinez, a dynamic southpaw boxer-puncher, relies more on skill and timing. Chavez relies more on his physicality.
Power: Chavez has a higher KO ratio than Martinez but he’s been in with weaker fighters and usually wears his opposition down. Martinez has scored one-punch knockouts.
Speed and athletic ability: Chavez’s main physical attribute is being able to boil his huge frame down to 160 pounds. Martinez is gifted with speed, power, coordination and superb timing.
Defense: Chavez’s ability to block punches has improved in recent fights but he still relies too much on his chin. Martinez uses head- and upper-body movement as well as footwork to make opponents miss.
Experience: Chavez, who grew up around boxing and has 48 pro bouts, is as experienced as a 25-year-old boxer can be. However, Martinez has more fights and more rounds (139) against better opposition.
Chin: Chavez inherited his father’s famous iron chin. He’s been hit flush by good punchers and has never been down or seriously hurt. Martinez has reliable whiskers but has technically been dropped three times.
Conditioning: Chavez’s conditioning is much better since taking on Freddie Roach as his trainer, but it still pales in comparison to Martinez’s year-around commitment to fitness.
Wear and tear: Martinez has not only fought more pro rounds than Chavez, he’s been in more ring wars, including his 12-round battles with Williams (first fight) and Pavlik and recent tough scrap with Macklin.
Ability to cope with external pressure: Born with the most famous boxing name in Mexico, Chavez was groomed for the limelight. Martinez is a mature veteran and a consummate professional. He should enter his first major pay-per-view event with poise.
Corner: Martinez’s trainer Pablo Sarmiento is one of the best young trainers in boxing, but Chavez is guided by a true legend in recent International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Freddie Roach.
Outcome: Chavez will seek to cut the ring off and impose his size on Martinez from the onset. The younger man will land punishing body shots whenever he presses the champ to the ropes. However, Martinez will counter Chavez with right hooks when in close and time the crowd favorite with powerful jabs and straight lefts from a distance. Martinez will wear down Chavez with his bombs and wobble the giant late in the fight, but the immense pride of the second-generation warrior will enable him to remain on his feet and make it to the final bell.
Prediction: Martinez by close but unanimous decision.