The conflict boxing fans feel towards trash talk and mutual respect is palpable. Personally, I like it when fighters are gentlemen. But, and this is a big but... an abrasive moment or two can attract more fans to the event, even if it’s staged.
Martinez and Chavez were not acting. They resembled two rabid dogs itching for a fight. Their barking is personal. Martinez, the former middleweight champion is annoyed that Chavez, the current titleholder, steered clear of a match-up last year. Chavez says (in an honest moment) that he wasn’t ready. Martinez sneers and calls Chavez a chicken. Host Max Kellerman reminds Chavez that he called Martinez, nicknamed “Maravilla,” a ballerina. Chavez nods and connects the names. Martinez looks amused.
Martinez chides Chavez for using his father's name to build-up his resume.
“You’re living in a delusion, based on your legendary father," says Martinez.
When will you start being just Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.?”
Chavez counters back, “I will never stop being my father’s son. When I knock you out on September fifteenth, that day I’ll be whoever you want me to be.”
Martinez, with a bemused look on his boyish face asks,” How can you fight somebody you can’t hit?”
“You think I can’t hit you?” says Chavez.
Chavez will hit Martinez and vice-a-versa. Martinez might have had an edge in the verbal jousting, but Chavez was gathering momentum. Their fight could follow a similar pattern.
After watching HBO’s “24/7: “Road to Ward/Dawson,” I came away thinking how similar the two men are. Both grew up with fathers who boxed. Both have four children. Both are determined but modest. Moreover, as the 30 minute documentary makes clear, again and again, both are champions.
Ward, 28, has fought perceptions since his first big fight three years ago, a victory over heavily-favored Mikkel Kessler. He was perceived back then as a fighter with a weak chin. During the weigh-in, a Kessler fan yelled out, “You’re going down in two.”
Ward didn’t blink. His focus was straight ahead. His supporters yelled down the offender. The following day in front of 11,000 adoring fans, he defeated Kessler. He culminated his rise last December by beating Carl Froch to capture the Super Six Tournament.
Dawson, 30, admits that he occasionally loses something Ward never does, focus. Blessed with an abundance of natural talent, Dawson’s resume is very impressive. The reigning light heavyweight champion has defeated Tomasz Adamek, Antonio Tarver (twice), Glen Johnson, and Bernard Hopkins. Both guys have tons of pride.
They could have called Ward/Dawson, “The Battle of the Nice Guys.”
I met Chad Dawson during the press conference to announce the fight. He was sitting in the back of the Courtside Club in Oakland, not hiding, but blending in. There was no entourage lurking nearby. The experience was refreshing. The same goes for Andre Ward, who I’ve met and talked to many times. Some complain that he talks in platitudes.
I don’t agree.
Ward had a plan since he was ten years old. Win gold at the Olympics, turn professional, and capture a world championship. He achieved all three ambitions in five years.
The vast majority of boxing fans will never completely embrace Andre Ward and Chad Dawson. Many are predicting their fight will be a snoozer.
I see two elite athletes in their primes. Whoever coined the phrase, “The Sweet Science” will be grinning September 8.
Will the fight put a pot of coffee to sleep?
I don’t think so. I see a bout that exceeds expectations.
The fight can be seen on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET/PT.
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