LAS VEGAS – The Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. weigh-in today at a small theater at the Wynn Las Vegas was compelling as weigh-ins go.
The actual stepping on the scales was uneventful, as both fighters made the 160-pound limit. Martinez, THE RING champion, weighed 159 and Chavez 158. The fact Chavez came in two pounds under was somewhat surprising given that the Mexican is a big middleweight.
The interesting part was the passion of the fighters and their fans. A group of Argentines was there to support Martinez, who has built a following in his native land even though he has fought out of Spain and the U.S. A larger group of Mexicans were in Chavez’s corner.
Some of the Argentines wore the blue-and-white, vertical-striped shirts of their national soccer team. Their soccer-style chanting and positive spirit made for a festive atmosphere. Martinez, grinning throughout, fed off their support as he stood on stage.
The Mexican fans have long been devoted to the Chavez family, a sentiment that has grown more intense as the younger Chavez has evolved as a fighter. They also chanted, “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!,” and booed vociferously whenever the Argentines became too colorful.
The fighters and their handlers provided the greatest drama.
Sampson Lewkowicz, Martinez’s 61-year-old advisor, tried to attack much-younger and bigger Chavez advisor Fernando Beltran for a perceived slight and had to be held back by his colleagues moments after the weights were announced.
“I told him earlier that ‘one more time,’ that Fernando Beltran, that if he insulted my fighter again, that I would not take it any more. So what did he do? He insulted my fighter again. It’s wrong, and I believe that it’s only OK for the boxers to do that,” said Lewkowicz.
“Fernando Beltran is not a boxer. He’s only a promoter. But he is continuing to go after my fighter, and that’s my fighter, so I have to protect him. That’s all. Specifically, he pushed him, and he’s not supposed to touch him. He pushed him. So I pushed him back.”
Said Beltran, who denied putting his hands on Martinez: “I just put the Mexican flag up because it’s Mexican Independence Day, and I was very happy with the Mexican flag. But then this stupid guy [Lewkowicz] said something to me, like, ‘if you want to get it on, we can be the semifinal to the fight.’
“Nah, nah, that’s not true. I respect his fighter. I didn’t do anything like that. I just put the Mexican flag up. I was a little angry, but I just say, ‘let’s let them fight, Martinez and Chavez,’ and then we can take care of ours. I will take him, no problem. I would be a little bit overweight, but you could bet on me. I would win the fight with [Lewkowicz].”
Then, during the traditional stare down on stage, the fighters – with fire in their eyes and their lips moving 100 mph – exchanged threatening words with their noses only a few inches apart.
Martinez, angry that some perceive Chavez to be his equal, was asked in an interview afterward what was said. “I told him I’m going to punish him a lot,” he said through a translator.
Chavez was asked the same question. “He [Martinez] said he was going to rip my head off.”
Martinez and Chavez will meet again in the ring on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Arena on HBO Pay-Per-View.
Photo by Naoki Fukuda