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Has Chavez Jr. Prepped Hard Enough For Martinez?

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Chavez Jr workout 120731 003aLAS VEGAS – Freddie Roach is feeling uneasy. It’s a common trait among trainers less than 48 hours before a major fight but this time it is not so much the fight he is worried about. It is his fighter.

Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. has according to many reports been a reluctant student in his preparation for Saturday night’s middleweight showdown with linear champion Sergio Martinez. It is by far the biggest fight of Chavez’s career yet it has been one of the more difficult training camps Roach has had with him, a fact that can be unnerving as fight night approaches.

Roach was repeatedly seen on HBO’s 24/7 documentaries waiting for Chavez to show (or not) at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas, where he insisted on training rather than at Roach’s preferred Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. Roach has learned to be liberal about such matters once a man becomes a champion but regardless of the venue the work must be done.

Whether it has been is a question that will only truly be answered Saturday night when Chavez steps in with the 37-year-old Martinez, an aging champion who has shown signs of slippage yet who remains an obsessive preparer for all the possibilities inside the ring.

At 26, Chavez is unbeaten (46-0-1-1, 32 KO), wearer of the WBC strap that was, in Martinez’s opinion, handed to him because of the power of his father’s name, and outwardly at least brimming with confidence. Yesterday Roach insisted that while he was not happy with the manner in which Chavez prepared – which included late-night jogs in the Vegas neon and even later training sessions in the gym – the hay is in the barn. The work, he says, has been done.

“It’s been a little bit of an unusual training camp,’’ the five-time Trainer of the Year admitted. “Sometimes we were training at 1 a.m., 3 a.m, finishing at 6 a.m. Sometimes I had to wait for him but you wait for a world champion. In the end, we got the work in. You’ll see it Saturday night.’’

Perhaps so but it seemed an odd way to prepare for the greatest challenge of your career. Unless, mistakenly, you think it is not. Whether Chavez is wiser than the rest of the boxing public and believes Martinez is now walking on the shady side of the street or whether he is simply a fighter afraid to face the reality of what is coming for him and so he cuts corner in the same way students refuse to study for an exam so that if they fail they can later say, “Well, if I’d studied I would have aced it.’’ remains known only to Chavez himself.

“I’ve seen him knocked down (as recently as in his last fight with British contender Matthew Macklin before Martinez stopped him in the 11th round),’’ Chavez snapped angrily this week. “I’ve seen him knocked out (early in his career by Antonio Margarito, in a fight he was nowhere near ready for). He looked pretty good (then).

“He talks b——t and then at the time of the right he’s only running, running, running. Saturday he’ll have me all over him!’’

At that the visibly irked Chavez turned toward Martinez, who was sitting only a foot or two away from him and he wagged his finger threateningly.

“I’m not only going to beat you, I’m going to retire you from boxing!’’ Chavez hollered before turning his back on Martinez and walking away.

It was not an act. It was an expression of raw emotion but, one wonders, from what source? Did it come from a deep well of confidence that this is his time and that he is far more than his critics, who say he is a creation of his father’s greatness, insist? Or was his anger spawned from a deeper sense of trepidation, knowing the hour is almost upon him and can no longer be avoided and he is not sure now whether he is up to the task he is about to face?

Saturday night becomes the proving ground for young Chavez, whose resume is a thin one. That doesn’t mean he can’t fight, it only means no one can say for sure if he can. His improvement since Roach took over his training is clear and to be expected. Not only are his workouts now directed by a master craftsman but Chavez is also someone who came late to boxing, having had no real amateur experience before deciding six years ago at the age of 20 to suddenly enter his father’s trade after living his teenage years in the lap of luxury, a dilettante who visited the gym only to see his father sweat.

Now it is his time to sweat and, frankly, some whisper he has not visited the gym often enough this time. They see his decision to take unscheduled off days and to arrive on his own time schedule as fundamental signs of both his immaturity and his lack of understanding of the difficult trade he has entered.

His way, thus far, has been smooth, paved by his father’s legend and the promotional skills of Bob Arum and matchmaking expertise of Bruce Trampler. Unlike most fighters, Chavez had the luxury of being brought along slowly and it has led him to this moment. But now the speed of everything increases. Whether he is up to that, no one knows.

“When we talk boxing now, it’s as equals,’’ the younger Chavez says of his father, a thought that is absurd on one level and the innocence of blind youth on another. Certainly they now both share the same trade and the same right to be called champions but they are not equals and never will be. In a sense however that is unimportant because the only man he must be the equal of now is Martinez.

“I feel very confident in what I can accomplish,’’ Chavez says. “I know how hard it has been working day after day to get to this point. I’m not going to disappoint anyone. You are going to see a complete boxer. I don’t train to lose.’’

That is not the question. The question is have you trained at all? Or at least enough to match Martinez’s movement, ring intelligence and finishing ability?

Like his father before him, Chavez is a hellacious body puncher who can do real damage on the inside if he can get himself in position. He has chopped down many of his opponents with the same relentless body attack that made his father the greatest Mexican fighter in boxing history.

But it is one thing to hit Andy Lee or John Duddy, tough guys who tend to apologize to you if you don’t hit them, and someone like Martinez, whose footwork is sublime from his days as a dancer and soccer player and whose patience is his greatest asset.

Roach has said they have plotted a plan filled with traps set to lure Martinez into places where young Chavez can tear at his body and no one doubts that early in the fight the young champion will attack. Even the challenger said as much, although the reason for it in his mind does not bode well for Chavez.

“What else can he do?’’ Martinez said. “If he tries to box, he just loses faster.’’

Roach has told Chavez Martinez cannot fight backing up but few people can. Then again, backing him up may be a goal difficult to accomplish if his fighter has not laid all the ground work and done all the hard labor in the gym required because unlike his father, who cut corners many times in his preparation, Chavez, Jr. has not been blessed with all the gifts his father was given.

And so we wait to see, anxious to learn if Freddie Roach’s anxiety is simply the normal reaction to the ticking of a clock or the more alarming one to the ticking of a time bomb.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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