With an assassin's eyes and a tone of controlled fury, Sergio Martinez promised to inflict pain on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. during Max Kellerman's "Face Off." (Chris Farina)
A different Sergio Martinez, less mellow, more focused, more nasty, emerged on the latest installment of Max Kellerman's "Face Off," which is currently running on HBO ahead of the Sept. 15 Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. clash.
Martinez, the favored vet, takes on young gun Chavez, the son of the legend who has come into his own in the last year or so, on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas. That scrap will be offered on pay-per-view.
The event taped on July 12, the same day as an NYC press conference. At that gathering, Martinez called Junior a chicken. Max asked the former WBC middleweight champ, aged 37, about that remark. He answered that the 26-year-old Junior wanted on the job training while he was already champion, and said that is wrong. "That's chicken attitude," he said in Spanish. Junior admitted that maybe he wasn't ready a couple years ago, to his credit, but said he is ready now.
Martinez said he doesn't agree with the stance that his marketability wasn't what it should have been, so he didn't bring enough to the table back then. He reiterated that a champion, a proper champion, shouldn't be given latitude to keep learning while wearing a belt.
With a sneer on his face, Junior went at Martinez, asking if he picked all his fights. Why did he fight Darren Barker and Matt Macklin, he asked, and why not Miguel Cotto or Floyd Mayweather? Because those guys didn't want to fight him, Martinez correctly pointed out.
Junior was asked about calling Martinez a "ballerina." That's because he dances, he said. "I've won my last four matches by knockout," the Argentine noted, implying that for a dancer, he can crack pretty good.
Junior said he thinks he knows how to beat Sergio already. Sergio disagreed and said history agrees with him. During these first few minutes, I assessed that Martinez had the look of the assassin on his visage, controlled and intense, with a suppressed vibe of violence in his eyes, while Junior looked like a frat boy fronting during a yackfest preceding a barfight. Junior's occasional grin to me looked like a nervous reaction, while Martinez' looked like the show of teeth of a man born without a conscience. Of course, I welll know Junior is no joke, that he has come a long way in a few years, and that it is to his immense credit that he didn't secure a trust fund and laze away decades in Culiacan. But in my eyes, Martinez was winning the fight before the fight, at Kellerman's table.
"After I beat you, I will be nipping at Mayweathers' heels," Martinez said.
Is Junior a true challenge, after meeting and beating fighters like Paul Williams or Kelly Pavlik, Max asked? No, he's not at that level, the vet said. Junior said Martinez will learn different.
"I hope your corner protects you, I hope the referee protects you, I hope the doctor protects you," Martinez said, as Junior's eyes widened.
Max had the men stand up, and talked about size. Junior said his size will help but his skills will be the difference.
Max asked about the surlier Martinez, who has talked of hurting the kid. "I'm not insulting him, I'm just telling the truth," he said.
Martinez said his foe wasn't handed the fight, but that he was handed a belt. Junior said folks don't give him credit, and think he's helped because of who his dad was. He seems OK with that perception, to me a healthy level of acceptance which reduces mental stress.
"Chavez will hit the canvas, he will be sitting in his corner, or with the doctor or referee stopping the fight," Martinez declared, again reiterating his belief that he will win by stoppage.
Junior said the left to the stomach weakens foes but that he will be ready to do the distance.
Do you think you will knock him out, Max asked? "Of course I can knock him out," he answered. Notice he didn't say he WILL, he said he COULD. Is he deep down confident of his chops, or is there a hint, or more than a hint, of doubt which will hinder him on fight night? I lean towards the former, based on this linguistic tell...
The increased stakes, Martinez said, help him, because it motivates him. For ten years, he has been an outsider, fighting away from home, so he is soaking this up. Junior said he has already exceeded expectations, and that everyone underestimates him.
Junior noted that Sergio's first loss, way back in 2000, was to a Mexican (Antonio Margarito) in Las Vegas. Martinez didn't seem phased.
"I will probably make you retire from boxing because I will beat you up," Martinez said in closing. "I'm going to win, I'm going to hurt you," he said.
"I just want to wish him luck, lots of luck," Junior said, in answer, while offering a handshake. This struck me, as I thought a sharp, "Eff you" might have been more appropriate. "On September fifteenth, you will realize what type of fighter I am. I'm the new Julio Cesar Chavez."
Me, I like Martinez via UD, with close rounds galore, because Sergio, I think, will fight his usual patient match. He will dissect, wait, pounce when the time is right. He hasn't had a Darren Barker or Matt Macklin training camp, he's gone back to the level of motivation he had for the Pavlik fight in 2010. I caution fans to not go overboard in making too much of Junior's wins over Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee. If either of those two ever secures a world title belt, well, then we can revisit my stance...But Lee is no Sergio, he is a step down, or maybe two steps down if Martinez delivers the sort of showing that his motivation reservoir could propel him to. Readers, what say you?
Who's the best Mexican boxer today?