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THE BREAKDOWN: Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

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Martinez media day 120910 003aThis ain't Zbik, Manfredo, or Lee. Chavez Jr. will discover that Martinez is a different animal entirely, the writer says. (Chris Farina-Top Rank)

Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Televised by HBO pay per view
12 rounds for Chavez's WBC middleweight title

Many are now of the opinion that Julio Cesar Chavez jr 46-0-1 {31} is on the edge of greatness. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I just don't see it. It's not that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. hasn't improved in any way because he has, albeit, ever so slightly, it's just that he doesn't have the tools that are required to beat a fighter like Sergio Martinez 49-2-2 {28}. Allow me to rephrase that slightly. Chavez Jr. does indeed have the tools –size and strength– to beat Martinez, it's just that he's not skilled enough to enforce them upon a fighter like Martinez. I've always felt that the cracking of Sergio Martinez's stylistic code would transpire as a result of intellect and patience from a defensive minded fighter, whose sole objective would be a far cry from embracing the defensive trap doors that Martinez likes to set, or by an elite swarmer who could barricade all exits before grinding Martinez down at a hair's distance. Chavez Jr. may like to swarm, but he's far from elite at it.

We shouldn't confuse a swarmer for something else, fighting in this way takes more than a sturdy chin and body mass. It also requires sophisticated levels of craft, which is something Chavez is lacking. When I look at Chavez, I see nothing but a fighter who is going to oblige Martinez and play directly into the Argentinean's mercurial hands.

When the fight was first spoken of, many were quick to dismiss it's authenticity, claiming that Chavez was living off his father's name and that he wasn't a “real” world champion. Even Chavez's promoter, Bob Arum, seemed reluctant to make the fight, probably out of fear that his Mexican starlet would be outclassed and embarrassed by a superior fighter. In the eyes of many, Sergio Martinez was considered far too dangerous at that particular time. Well pardon me for asking, but what earth shattering event has taken place between then and now that's caused the general public to think any different? There's no denying that Chavez has ironed out some of the technical flaws that were painstakingly obvious to all but the uneducated observer, but do wins over Sebastian Zbik {whom he barely scraped past} Peter Manfredo, Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee, warrant him being thought of as the equal, or even the better of Sergio Martinez? Needless to say, everyone involved has done a magnificent job in the promotional work leading up to the fight, but I'm not buying into Chavez's apparent metamorphosis into this ultimate seek and destroy fighter who is now deemed “too big” and “far too strong” for Martinez. I think we're going to see plenty of seeking from Chavez alright, but any destruction will likely come via Argentina.

I'm not going to beat around the bush here. I could write from morning till night about what Chavez should or shouldn't do, but the reality is Chavez's tactics are blatantly obvious to even those who have only taken a remote interest in the fight and it seems pointless to talk of any other strategy concerning Chavez. He's not going to come out and attempt to draw the attack out of Martinez the way Matthew Macklin did, nor is he going to apply subtle, cautious pressure and try to get on top of Martinez the way Darren Barker did either. Needless to say, despite managing to get the cogs turning in his head for a while, Martinez didn't allow either man to hear the final bell.

No, there's no hiding Chavez's gameplan. He will be looking to close the distance at all costs by applying sustained pressure throughout the fight, looking to slow down and eventually break down his quicker and more elusive opponent by taking away his mobility with the left hook to the body and uppercuts in close. As is with the case Chavez, Sergio Martinez's style and strategy are no secret either. You seldom see Martinez taking a step forward {only when he's hurt his opponent); instead, he's constantly maneuvering side to side and away from his opponent. There probably isn't a fighter in professional boxing who's as cunning as Martinez is at drawing the lead out from an opponent. With his hands often below his waist and his constant rocking motion, fighters think it's safe to rush in and attack. Martinez's ability to land hard and unexpected shots as they are stepping in makes them soon see the light.

So what do you like: Chavez's size, strength and constant pressure? Or Martinez's speed, southpaw angles and elusive countering?

Usually, I'd lean towards the stronger and more physical pressure fighter as opposed to the more elusive boxer-mover. I believe this is what many are alluding to when they feel Chavez has a chance to pull off an upset. Just two weeks ago in the middleweight division, we saw a fighter who resembled Sergio Martinez who was easily hunted down and stopped within five, one-sided rounds. Food for thought? Possibly, but I have to digress. Yes, there are certain stylistic similarities between the fighters involved, but believe me when I say, Sergio Martinez is a lot quicker and hits way harder than Grzegorz Proksa and everyone knows that barring size, Gennady Golovkin is superior to Julio Cesar Chavez in every way imaginable.

The bigger they are.

Once the opening bell sounds, Martinez is going to be confronted by a fighter weighing somewhere in the region of 180-plus pounds. With that in mind then, should Chavez succeed in pinning Martinez up on the ropes for long periods, it could be a long, or even short night for Martinez, who may succumb to Chavez's superior physicality. However, in this instance, I believe that Chavez may end up paying the price for being overly reliant on his physicality, not to mention his chin, which he seemed all to eager to point out during the recent HBO face-off. If Chavez believes his chin will be his saving grace in this fight, forget about it. Chavez hasn't been cracked on the chin yet by anyone who's as precise as Martinez is. A lot of fighters lose some of their accuracy as they opt for more speed and power. Not Martinez, who remains deadly accurate without conceding any of his speed or power as he lands his straight lefts, right hooks or his signature right-left-right-left combination. It's fair to say that Chavez hasn't been in the ring with anyone who throws punches quite like Martinez does.

I could go on and mention all sorts of things like how despite being a southpaw, Martinez gravitates towards his opponent's right hand, looking to draw it out so that he can then shift his weight back across and land his straight left hand up the middle. Or how Martinez likes to throw jabs away from the target, so that his opponents are parrying his jab away from their chin, leaving an opening for a counter. I'm afraid, though, that science isn't going to play a big part in this fight. Martinez, probably the best conditioned athlete in boxing despite being 37 years-old, may not be blessed with solid fundamentals, but that won't hurt him here. His natural gifts of speed, power, athleticism and instinctiveness should be more than enough. I believe that there's quite a gulf in quality between the two fighters. Truth be told, Martinez has fought far better quality opposition than what Chavez has. Don't believe me? Reverse their opponents and tell me if Chavez remains unbeaten.

Speed kills.

Chavez is going to soon realize that he's in way over his head. Ask anyone why they think Chavez will win, and they'll all tell you the same thing– because of his size advantage. Well, Kelly Pavlik was alot bigger than Martinez and he got chopped up because of a deficit in speed. Antonio Margarito, way bigger than Manny Pacquiao, he got sliced up and busted up because of a deficit in speed. John Ruiz, a heavyweight, was dominated from start to finish by a natural super-middleweight…you know the rest.

Sergio Martinez's speed of hand and foot are going to trump any advantage Chavez has in size and strength. And besides, I don't think Martinez is all that small for a middleweight anyway. Chavez has fought and beat southpaws before, but he hasn't faced a southpaw like Martinez. Martinez has tremendous hand speed, footwork, power in either hand, can feint his opponents out of position and can adjust the angles of his punches and attacks throughout a fight. A brilliant athlete yes, but he's also a very smart fighter who knows exactly what he has in front of him. Chavez isn't a bad fighter by any means, but his style is is going to do nothing but complement that of Martinez's, which just so happens to thrive on aggression. Should Chavez try anything other than pressure Martinez, then he'll soon find himself beaten to the punch anyway –Chavez can only fight one way and that's straight ahead. Like I mentioned earlier, for Chavez to have success against Martinez implementing a pressure style, he would have to have far better boxing skills. His father, perhaps the greatest ever boxer from Mexico, wasn't just about unrelenting pressure and a granite chin. Chavez Sr. was one of the finest ring mechanics of his or any generation. He could slip, block, parry or weave his way inside, and he was also one of the best combination punchers you're ever likely to see. Junior has improved, but fortunately for Martinez, he can't replicate what Senior could do back in the late eighties/early nineties, otherwise this analysis would look a lot different.

Looking at his last few fights, Junior doesn't seem as lineal with his attack as he used to be, as he'll now look to come in from the sides. I've also noticed that he steps around his opponent more when he's got them up against the ropes, looking for openings as opposed to just throwing blind punches at arms and elbows. That's good. Here's what I think could be bad for Chavez though. He doesn't jab his way inside. In fact, he doesn't really throw punches at all until he gets there. Chavez is unusual for a pressure fighter in that his style doesn't translate well on the scorecards. Even though Chavez will be the aggressor, Martinez will still likely outwork him on the back foot, even though he isn't known as being high volume himself.

Prediction:

Sergio Martinez is uber confident for good reason. Plainly and simply, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr won't be able to prevent himself from walking onto straight left hands, right hooks and one-twos for however long it lasts. Martinez's superior footwork is going to keep him one step ahead of Chavez throughout. As Chavez steps in, Martinez will be simultaneously countering before sliding off at angles, where it will be a case of rinse and repeat. If Chavez's chin isn't as good as he says it is, then it could be over by the mid-way point of the fight. I'm going to give Junior the benefit of the doubt here, but I still don't think he makes it to the final bell. I don't think Martinez will render him unconscious, but I think the speed and accuracy of his punches could slice Chavez up and force a stoppage, or his corner may decide that enough is enough and not allow their man to partake in any further punishment.

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

When it comes to professional boxing down in the Tampa Bay area, Canadian transplant Garry Jonas is a one-man band.

The architect of the Wednesday Night Fights series, Jonas doesn’t have to pay a site fee for the shows that he promotes because he owns the venue. The shows that he stages at his Whitesands Events Center in Plant City air on his live streaming platform ProBoxTV. His series currently has only one sponsor, a bookmaking operation called SportsBetting.Ag., and he owns that too. (A self-styled serial entrepreneur, Jonas continued his assault on the established order last week with his purchase of the respected Boxing Scene website, but that’s a story best saved for another day.)

Jonas promotes high-grade club fights. When he started this venture, he promised entertaining, well-matched fights and tonight he delivered. The “A” side fighters in the co-main events were matched tough.

In the featured bout, lightweight Justin Pauldo (17-2, 1 NC) was upset by Mexico’s Miguel Madueno. Managed by Jolene Mazzone, the former VP and matchmaker for Main Events and trained by Ronnie Shields, Pauldo, a resident or nearby Orlando, was unbeaten in his last 12 heading in.

In his previous start, Madueno turned in a lackluster performance against surging Canadian campaigner Steve Claggett. His showing (he was 30-1 with 28 KOs heading in) was inconsistent with his record. Tonight, he was more pugnacious, out-working the man in front of him, a 4/1 favorite. The decision was split; 97-92 and 95-94 for Madueno, 95-94 for Pauldo. There were no knockdowns, but the Mexican had a point deducted in round 5 for leading with his head.

Co-Feature

The co-main was an entertaining 10-round light heavyweight affair in which Edgar Berlanga stablemate Najee Lopez improved to 10-0 (8) with a hard-earned majority decision over Marcos Escudero (14-3). One of the judges had it a draw (95-95) but he was overruled by his cohorts who had it 97-93 and 99-91.

Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent but was born and raised in the Atlanta area, hadn’t previously gone beyond six rounds. He was the house fighter. Named the 2023 Prospect of the Year by the ProBox team of TV commentators, Lopez was making his eighth appearance at Whitesands. Escudero, a South Florida-based Argentine had won four straight heading in at club shows in Delray Beach, FL after back-to-back setbacks in competitive fights with Joseph George.

Escudero, who did most of the leading, had many good moments. The 99-91 tally against the Argentine was a head-scratcher. (Commentator Paulie Malignaggi said the offending  judge, Alvaro Rodriguez, should have his fee withheld and be forced to serve a one-year suspension.)

Also

In an 8-round lightweight contest, former two-time Olympian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 27-year-old Mongolian southpaw who began his pro career in China and now resides in southern California, improved to 9-0 (4) with a unanimous decision over Guinea-born Mohamed Soumaoro (11-3) who was a willing mixer but was out-classed. The scores were 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

As one would expect from a two-time Olympian, Erdenebat is a good technician who puts his punches together well, but doesn’t have a lot of power. If his name rings a bell, he’s the fellow who purportedly sent Ryan Garcia to the hospital from the effects of a body punch during a sparring session.

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Two Featherweight Title Fights Top a Strong Bill at Turning Stone on Saturday

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When Top Rank announced in December that they would be returning to Turning Stone Resort & Casino for an ESPN+ show on March 2nd featuring two featherweight world title fights they promised a deep action-packed show. Usually such words fall by the wayside as the event ultimately comes together but in this instance the docket is loaded from top to bottom with name attractions, undefeated prospects, local grudge matches and two very well-matched co-headliners.

In the first of the co-headliners, Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) makes the third defense of his IBF featherweight belt against Japan’s Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs). Lopez is a popular brawler whose aggressive style and lack of attention to defense usually makes for entertaining fights. Abe, a southpaw, is a slick boxer who is coming off a career best win against Kiko Martinez last April. Abe has a style similar to that of Ruben Villa who outboxed Lopez to a ten round unanimous decision win in 2019.

The co-headline finale is being contested for the vacant WBA featherweight title between Otabek Kholmatov (12-0, 11 KOs) and Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs). Both fighters were highly touted heading into the pro ranks. Ford has the speed advantage but Kholmatov has a big edge in power. Social media seems split right down the middle on this fight and oddsmakers agree installing Kholmatov as a very slight favorite as of this writing.

Also on this show is the return of the ever popular Nico Ali Walsh (9-1, 5 KOs) who bounced back from his first career defeat on Dec. 16 at a show in Guinea where he defeated a Frenchman with a 9-2-1 record (mysteriously, that fight isn’t yet listed on boxrec). He will face off against Luke Iannuccilli (7-0, 3 KOs). Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, will make his debut at Turning Stone Resort Casino in the same exact arena where his aunt and Boxing Hall of Famer Laila Ali made her professional boxing debut in October of 1999 with her legendary father sitting ringside. This will mark the fourth time a member of Muhammad Ali’s family has fought at Turning Stone.

The card also includes several contests featuring up-and-coming undefeated fighters. One match in particular to keep an eye on is an eight-round welterweight bout between a pair of unbeaten fighters in Rohan Polanco (11-0, 7 KOs) and Tarik Zaina (13-0-1, 8 KOs). Zaina opened some eyes last November when he defeated Marcelino Lopez and Polanco is coming off three consecutive wins against opponents who had a cumulative record of 39-3.

Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t notate the local grudge match on the docket between Gerffred Ngayot (6-1, 5 KOs) of Buffalo and Bryce Mills (14-1, 5 KOs) of Syracuse. They are scheduled to face off in a six-round bout in the 140-pound division. They are on this show because each have solid local fan bases and matching them was a way to help fill the stands. Mills is a sharp accurate counterpuncher with all-around solid skills. Ngayot is an aggressive fighter who is not afraid to be first and fire away to the body. Stylistically this could turn into quite a barnburner and each have plenty of motivation to make a statement on what is a much bigger stage than they are accustomed to.

We are often quick to criticize those in the sport when cards come together that are seemingly either loaded with mismatches or bouts that just don’t pique much interest. This is an instance where those involved need to be applauded for putting together a card from top to bottom that will certainly give fans plenty of bang for their buck.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ Jake Paul and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, an influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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