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Pride or Prejudice: Martinez and Chavez Jr go head-to-head

As Matthew Macklin looks to get back to winning ways in Las Vegas tonight, Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr meet in a mouth-watering main event. Shane Curtis previews the world title showdown.

Sergio Martinez: can one of the world's best pound-for-pound fighters restore his pride?
Sergio Martinez: can one of the world's best pound-for-pound fighters restore his pride?
Image: Reed Saxon/AP/Press Association Images

SERGIO MARTINEZ IS not your typical fighter. He doesn’t believe in needless trash talk or embrace the circus-like promotional build up to fight night. He is more comfortable away from the cameras doing charity work and championing causes he feels passionate about.

However, something has stirred deep inside the hard-hitting Argentine over the past few months and that something will be standing across the ring in Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Across the ring will be none other than a member of boxing royalty. Across the ring will be a man that Martinez has called an embarrassment. Across the ring will be Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. The reigning WBC middleweight champion, long living in the vast shadow of his legendary father, has at last an opportunity to take a giant step towards creating his own lasting legacy.

Chavez Jr is an unusual boxer; he went straight into the professional game without an amateur career. He has had the most extreme on the job training imaginable and his promotional team has carefully plotted his march to a world crown. It is this careful match making and career building that has long irked his opponent.

Martinez turned pro in 1997 and travelled the world fighting in order to earn respect. He strongly believes that he has earned his place among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world today and he feels equally as strong that Chavez Jr has had his career handed to him on a silver platter. Martinez argues that it is an “embarrassment that Chavez is a world champion”, and that he is only a world champion because of his father, the legendary former three-weight world title holder.

Many experts feel that over the past 18 months Chavez Jr is beginning to earn his place at the top table in the middleweight division. In his last defence he walked right through Ireland’s Andy Lee’s punches and secured a stoppage win in the middle rounds. Chavez and his team can rightfully point to improvement made by the champion but his fight with Martinez is yet another step up in class.

At the pre-fight press conference Martinez was no longer the easygoing gentleman of previous fights. Instead the media was treated to a cold, deliberate speech, and one that was directed squarely at Chavez Jr.

“This will be painful for you,” Martinez said, as he stared callously towards his opponent. “You will suffer a lot before I knock you out.”

This type of pre-fight threat is not typical of Martinez but his pride has been hurt in the build-up to this fight. Since the fight was signed, the skillful Argentine southpaw has played second fiddle to Chavez, a man less experienced and in the eyes of many experts, less deserving of the spotlight. Indeed Chavez Jr is set to earn $3 million, almost double that of his foe and reported to have secured a 60/40 split on the pay-per-view.

Although it is hard to argue against the fact that the name Chavez does pull in the crowds, it is yet another indication to Martinez that Chavez Jr is living of the family name without the boxing CV to justify such lofty payment.

All sports-stars have pride but perhaps boxers have more pride than the rest of the sporting world put together. After all they compete in the most intense form of individual sport. They lay it all on the line with no place to hide when the going gets tough. However, such pride can lead to loss in concentration and an inflated sense of worth. It is this razor-thin tightrope that both boxers will attempt to overcome at the Thomas & Mack Center for the WBC middleweight title.

For Chavez Jr it is his moment at last. His opportunity to carve out his own place as the best middleweight in the world. It is his chance to say to his detractors that he is a world champion on merit and a proud carrier of the name Chavez within the sport of boxing.

For Martinez it is his moment to finally headline a major par-per-view. The 37 year-old will have the opportunity to take all his frustration and anger out on Chavez. A chance to show his younger opponent that respect is earned the hard way, not because you carry the surname of greatness.

Some words of caution for both fighters was laid down to them by promoter Lou DiBella. “Chavez wouldn’t have gotten this fight if his name weren’t Chavez,” DiBella said. “Chavez isn’t champion if his name isn’t Chavez, either. I’ve never seen Sergio like this. If Sergio’s emotions don’t get in the way, this fight could get real ugly for Julio.”

By early Sunday morning boxing fans will know whether Martinez restored his pride after being overlooked and undervalued in the build-up to this fight. Or perhaps Julio Cesar Chavez Jr will take pride of place, for at least this moment, alongside his legendary father.

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About the author:

Shane Curtis

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