The Sergio Martinez- Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. middleweight title fight Saturday night will determine more than which fighter should finally merit the World Boxing Council belt.
Given the bout’s pay-per-view designation, Martinez and Chavez also are fighting for a loftier place in boxing’s consciousness. In fact, for the first time in four years, the sport will feature a noteworthy pay-per-view event without Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao or Miguel Cotto as the headliner. Boxing could use a new wave of pay-per-view performers, crossover personalities that give the sport a bump in importance. During the closing years of Oscar De La Hoya’s high-profile career, concern grew that the six-division world champion’s departure would create a lack of A-List performers and their must-see fights. But Mayweather, Pacquiao and Cotto provided an important transition from the De La Hoya years.
Now Martinez and Chavez, 26, have their auditions at reaching pay-per-view stardom with their bout at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
“The people want to see [the fight], and I want to fight it,” Chavez (46-0-1, 32 KOs) said in a conference call last week that also featured Martinez. “I am about the people and to give the people the best fights in boxing.”
Chavez’s path to the middleweight title was helped by another absurd move typical of the sport’s sanctioning bodies. Martinez, 37, won the WBC belt after his dominant decision against Kelly Pavlik two years ago and retained the title with a second-round knockout of Paul Williams.
But the Mexico-based WBC “elevated” Martinez to something called “diamond champion.” Suddenly, the WBC created a championship vacancy for the Mexican-born Chavez to win the title against Sebastian Zbik last November.
Not surprisingly, Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KOs) felt slighted as the younger Chavez, son of the Mexican legendary fighter, found an opening and won a title that Martinez never lost in the ring. Consequently, the native of Argentina, who is considered among the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters, has found motivation in the buildup to Saturday’s bout.
“I cannot accept the fact he is world champion,” Martinez said. “The only reason he is world champion is because he is Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the son of the legend.”
• Andre Ward proved again why he is one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters after his 10th-round technical knockout win over Chad Dawson late Saturday in Oakland, Calif. Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) knocked down Dawson with lefts to the head in the third and fourth rounds. Late in the 10th, Ward floored Dawson again with multiple combinations to the head. A seemingly spent Dawson indicated to referee Steve Smoger that he had absorbed sufficient punishment, and Smoger stopped the bout at 2:45 of the round.
With the victory, Ward retained his WBC and World Boxing Association super-middleweight titles. Dawson (31-2, 1 NC) will return to the light-heavyweight class and resume his reign as WBC titleholder.
• Late Saturday, Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse scored a 10th-round TKO win over Nigeria’s Ajose Alusegun in their super-lightweight bout in Las Vegas. Matthysse-Alusegun became the headliner of the show after Miami’s Randall Bailey withdrew from his International Boxing Federation welterweight title defense. Bailey sustained a back injury two weeks ago, forcing the postponement of his bout against Devon Alexander.