Sin City awaits a modern classic as Chavez and Martinez prepare for battle
23:26 GMT, 14 September 2012
So powerful is the sense that ring history is in the making that not even a rival world championship promotion less than two miles down The Strip could prevent Julio Cesar Chavez versus Sergio 'Maravilla' Martinez selling out the biggest arena in town.
So strong is the urge to be able to say you were there the night these men hewn from the highest tradition of prize-fighting elevated themselves to the pantheon of middleweight boxing that attendance records at the Thomas and Mack Center are being shattered.
Tens of thousands of Mexicans – and not a few Argentinians – have responded to the potential of this fight to compare with the magical middleweight battles of the past.
Ready for battle: Julio Cesar Chavez and Sergio Martinez go head to head for the final time before the meet in the ring
This is an annual pilgrimage from south of the border in celebration of Mexican Independence Day but an unprecedented 50,000 are estimated to have made the crossing this year.
So even as 19,186 tickets have been sold for Chavez-Martinez, it is likely that the overflow will fill the 16,000 seat MGM Grand Garden Arena, at the same televised hour.
There another Mexican prodigy, the quirkily red-headed Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, will defend his world super-welterweight title against Hispanic Californian Josesito Lopez.
In normal circumstance this confrontational scheduling between Bob Arum’s Top Rank, who represent Chavez, and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy, who handle Chavez, should have cut off the noses of both promoters and left egg on the faces of them and their television pay-masters.
Pulling the crowds: WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr signs autographs
Yet the explosive potential of Chavez Jnr and Martinez, nine years his senior, has HBO predicting high pay-per-view sales and Showtime confident of a substantial spin-off viewing audience of their own.
Can they live up to the hype Their pedigree suggests.
Chavez, of course, is the same-name son of an iconic father. Julio Cesar Snr is here confident that his 26-year boy is ready to step out of his shadow and become a legend in his own right.
To do that, even though he already holds the lineal WBC world title, he must defeat now the successor to perhaps the greatest Argentine boxer , even though Martinez is a different animal from his own idol.
Carlos Monzon, who ranks among the best middleweights of all time, was a Bull (of the Pampas) by nickname and a bull of a fighter.
Mobbed: Martinez arrives in Las Vegas
/09/14/article-2203464-14E8D7A1000005DC-243_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”Chance to shine: Matthew Macklin fights Joachim Alcine in a world-title eliminator on the undercard” class=”blkBorder” />
Chance to shine: Matthew Macklin fights Joachim Alcine in a world-title eliminator on the undercard
If so Martinez, at 37, will be giving away not only those nine years but more than 20 lbs.
So you pay your money at the sports book at the fight-hosting Wynn Hotel and Casino and you make your choice between youth and crunching size or speed and dazzling technique. You also have to decide that even though last year would have been too soon for Chavez, whether Saturday might be a few months too late for Martinez.
As if that equation is not tricky enough, we also have genuine anger and resentment mixing spite and venom into this cocktail.
Martinez, a charming gentleman by nature, has been riled by his conviction that Chavez was manipulated to the world title at his expense, So he has accused the champion of disrespecting boxing and his fabled mentor Freddie Roach with his erratic training pattern and alleged drinking habits.
Chavez, very much in his famous father’s idiom, has labelled Martinez a liar who has prospered on easy fights.
Undefeated: Chavez is the slight favorite
Each has threatened to seriously harm the other.
The plot thickened when Jose Sulaiman, Mexican president of the WBC and godfather of Chavez the younger, was heard betting an expensive dinner on Julio Cesar Jnr winning.
Martinez joked: ‘I wish he had made the bet with me. Then I could have had a fine meal to go with the title I am going to win.’
Then, seriously in view of the recent results controversies in Las Vegas, he added: ‘I don’t want a gift from the judges. Only justice.’
The odds, marginally in favour of Martinez a the start of the week, are expected to close to dead even as more Mexican money comes in.
Personally, I was inclining towards Chavez until his team kept predicting that body shots would slow down the older man. Since Martinez’s otherwise dangerous habit of carrying his hands low by his sides should offer him protection against that plan, he can win with a typically late stoppage.
Still, it is a desperately close call. More importantly for boxing, it could be a middleweight classic.
Chavez-Martinez and Macklin-Arcine is live on Primetime from 2am via Sky Ch. 498 and Virgin on Demand, 14.95 and Alvarez-Lopez live on BoxNation from 2am via Sky Ch. 437 and Virgin Ch. 546