Closing the Year with Boxing’s Best

by Kieran Mulvaney

What to do when HBO’s live boxing broadcasts have wrapped for the year? Revisit the very best bouts from an action-packed 2012, of course. The last 12 months have provided some jaw-dropping action, and for five days, beginning December 25, HBO will be showcasing seven of the year’s best examples of boxing brilliance. All times are ET/PT.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto
Tuesday, December 25 at 11 PM

In May, Puerto Rican superstar Cotto put his junior middleweight belt on the line against pound-for-pound king Mayweather. In one of the finest performances of his likely Hall-of-Fame career, Cotto pushed Money May to the edge, forcing Mayweather to dig deeper than he has had to in at least 10 years.


Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez
Wednesday, December 26 at 11 PM


Martinez was regarded as the true middleweight champion. But Chavez had the belt he coveted, and Martinez agitated for over a year for an opportunity to take it from him. When the chance came, the Argentine appeared well on his way to doing what he had sought to do, until a dramatic finale that was one of the most explosive rounds of the year.


Robert Guerrero vs. Andre Berto
Thursday, December 27 at 11 PM


Three years ago, Guerrero was campaigning as a junior lightweight, having begun his professional career as a featherweight. One month ago, he appeared on HBO World Championship Boxing in just his second bout as a welterweight, taking on a hard-hitting former 147-pound-title-holder whose own professional debut had been at 162 pounds – almost 37 pounds heavier than Guerrero’s. But Guerrero was the aggressor, dragging Berto into an old-fashioned down-and-dirty street fight that was one of the roughest, toughest and best of 2012.


Antonio DeMarco vs. Adrien Broner
Friday, December 28 at 11 PM


Flashy Adrien “The Problem” Broner inspires a gamut of emotions – and it’s safe to say that few if any of them are ‘indifference.’ Love him or hate him, it is hard not to respect him; increasingly tipped as the sport’s next big star, Broner went a long way to establishing his bona fides with a devastating and dominant performance against Mexican DeMarco.


Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson
Friday, December 28 at 11:45 PM


Light-heavyweight titlist Dawson took the unusual step of dropping down in weight to take on super middleweight kingpin Ward. He may still be regretting it, after Ward – in many pundits’ eyes, second only to Mayweather on the pound-for-pound list – opened his full bag of tricks and cemented his place among boxing’s elite.


Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado
Saturday, December 29 at 11 PM


The moment this junior welterweight clash was signed, boxing fans everywhere had the date circled on their calendars. Both Rios and Alvarado entered the contest unbeaten and with reputations for possessing that rare combination of immovable object and irresistible force. There seemed no way this could fail to be a serious Fight of the Year candidate, and so it proved. Each man dished out and received hellacious punishment, and the contest swayed back and forth, with first one man and the other seizing advantage and momentum, until an ending that seemed to come almost out of the blue.


Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 4
Saturday, Dec. 29 at 11:40 PM


Pacquiao and Marquez had pursued each other like Ahab and the whale, across eight years and 36 rounds, before meeting for a fourth time on December 8. Each man insisted beforehand that this would be their final battle, but after six rounds that exceeded even the dizzying heights of their previous encounters, and a conclusive, concussive ending that was among the most shocking and emphatic in years, who would bet against a fifth?


A Closer Look at Chavez’s Punch of the Night

by Eric Raskin

Sergio Martinez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. - Photo Credit: Will HartWhen fans turn on their televisions this Saturday night to catch the replay of the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. middleweight championship fight, whether they watched the fight live last weekend or are seeing it for the first time, they’ll be tuning in primarily to see one round: the 12th. For 11 rounds, Martinez painted a masterpiece on Chavez’s face. Then Chavez, to the shock of pretty much everyone, broke up the no-hitter and nearly ended Martinez’s title reign.

It was a near-miracle. And it left everyone asking themselves, “What the heck just happened?” The short answer is: Chavez threw the hook.

For 11 rounds, Chavez never landed a telling left hook. He didn’t land much of anything, frankly, but what he did land came mostly in the form of long right hands at distance and bodyshots in close. Against the fleet-footed southpaw Martinez, Chavez couldn’t get into a position where he was comfortable letting any hooks go. And the problem with his right-hand-heavy attack was that the punch was too looping and predictable and “Maravilla” saw it coming every time.

So ineffective was Chavez that his exasperated trainer Freddie Roach, when interviewed by Max Kellerman during the 11th round, could only offer generic thoughts on how Chavez might knock out the Argentine: “He’s gotta punch with him. He’s gotta exchange with him. He’s gotta let his hands go. He’s walking in with his head first and not really letting his hands go.”

Not much changed in the first minute of the 12th, as Martinez jabbed and circled and Chavez was still clearly looking to land a fight-changing right hand. With 1:46 remaining on the clock, he finally did. Sort of. Martinez had his head in Chavez’s chest and then stepped back with his hands down—a classic mistake, but one Martinez’s reflexes usually allow him to get away with it—and Junior landed a looping right. Martinez was mildly buzzed, stood still, and absorbed a few more shots as the younger man let his hands go, but nothing major landed, and Martinez still appeared to be in complete control of the fight as he got back to flicking jabs and circling away just a few seconds later.

Then, with 1:29 on the clock, Chavez landed a straight right along the ropes. It was a clean shot, but it did no damage. Two seconds later, however, damage most definitely was done. Martinez was bent forward, just inches from Chavez, and as he popped out of his crouch to throw a jab, his eyes focused squarely on his opponent’s right hand, Chavez dropped in a quick left hook that beat the jab, and Martinez never saw it. It crashed into his jaw and sent him careening sideways, where the ropes held him up. Chavez let his hands go, landed two more flush left hooks, and down went Martinez.

We all know what happened from there: Martinez got up at the count of four, refused to clinch or run and instead got himself clocked several more times but survived the final minute without suffering another official knockdown and took the unanimous decision.

But let’s focus on the punch that created all of that late drama. Was Martinez tiring? Maybe a little, but his 108-punch output in Round 11 and general tendency to finish strongly suggest that wasn’t a big factor. Did he get sloppy? Not really. His hands weren’t any lower than usual — if anything, they were higher than usual. Did Chavez suddenly step it up? Perhaps a little bit. He seemed to be slightly more aggressive in the 12th, knowing there were no remaining rounds to save his energy for.

The best explanation seems to be that Chavez threw the right punch at the right time, that he’d lulled Martinez into not worrying about his left hook then picked the perfect moment to finally unleash it. It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t a lucky punch. It was just the kind of punch that Chavez wasn’t likely to use until he was desperate enough to stop worrying about being in perfect position and to stop worrying about getting hit in return. It was the kind of punch that lands when you start taking chances and start letting both hands go.

Martinez Dominates Until Chavez Nearly Repeats Father’s History

 by Kieran Mulvaney

 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Sergio Martinez - Photo Credit: Will Hart

LAS VEGAS – After eleven rounds of the WBC middleweight title fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez, one overwhelming thought came to mind:

“Hey, remember last year, when we thought that Martinez was way too skilled for Chavez? And then we changed our minds and decided that Chavez was good enough after all? We were right the first time.”

Going into the twelfth and final round, the only way Chavez could possibly stave off defeat was to do what his father had done 22 years previously – when, hopelessly behind on points, he had rallied in the final frame to drop and stop Meldrick Taylor with just two seconds on the clock.

But there was no reason to believe the younger Chavez would be able to do such a thing, no evidence that he possessed his famous father’s fighting spirit after all. For eleven rounds he had meekly and cluelessly followed Martinez around the ring, as the Argentine had rattled southpaw right jabs and straight left hands off his young face.

He wouldn’t be able to emulate his father. He didn’t have a miracle in him.

And then, suddenly, he nearly did.


24/7: Chavez Jr./Martinez Ep. 1 & 2

Jim Lampley Looks Ahead to Chavez-Martinez

by Kieran Mulvaney

As always, Saturday’s HBO PPV card will be called by Jim Lampley, who brings his expert analysis, honed from years of sitting ringside for big fights. We asked him to break down the main event between Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

The Smaller Martinez Needs To Hurt the Bigger, Granite-Jawed Chavez

“At some point, if Martinez can land clean shots, he’s got to be able to at least get the sense he’s hurting Chavez at times, or he might get discouraged. I think Andy Lee got visibly discouraged when he was able to land pretty much what he wanted to land and it meant nothing. I have to assume, based on what Matthew Macklin says and other opponents have said, that Martinez has more pop than the other guys who’ve been hitting Chavez – and he’d better, because he’s going to have to make his punches count, or else he’s probably going to face the same fate as those other guys, in that you’re going into the late rounds against somebody you can’t move, can’t do anything with, and he’s walking to you with complete confidence, because he has what appears to be an impregnable chin.”

 Chavez Jr. May Not Be Benefiting from the Presence of Chavez Sr.

“I think that the 24/7 experience was uncomfortable for Chavez Jr., because I don’t think he liked his father’s constant involvement and constant presence. I think he was happier and more self-possessed when his father was not around him every day. I think he wants to be seen as anything other than merely Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and it’s simply impossible for him to get away from it, because his father’s id is just too big, his father wants to be in front of the cameras, posing as the trainer from time to time.”

Both Men Are Going to Have to Dig Deeper Than They Have Before

“There’s a high level of unknown for both fighters, and that’s what makes it so fascinating for fans. We know what these guys can do against other people. This is the unique equation in the middleweight division. This is the division’s best, fastest, most fluid fighter against someone who is bigger and stronger than everyone else. And it’s one thing to be big and strong with a questionable chin; I’ve seen plenty of that. But when a guy is big and strong and appears to have a chin of complete granite, that’s a different kind of creature, and that’s something that Martinez has to be concerned about, despite his clear advantages in almost every other area.”

This Is a Much More Interesting Fight Than It Might Have Been 12 Months Ago

“When I closed the show in El Paso (when Chavez defeated Lee), I said – and it was surprising to me to be saying it – that I don’t now know who wins the fight. Up until that moment I was absolutely certain who would win, but after watching Chavez Jr. against Lee that night, I dispensed with that certainty, and I went to a different place, where I cannot say for sure who wins.”

24/7 Overtime: Chavez Jr./Martinez

Weigh-In Live: Chavez Jr.-Martinez

Martinez, Chavez Trade Words Before Trading Punches

by Kieran Mulvaney

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Sergio Martinez - Photo Credit: Will Hart

In the end, despite his reportedly dilettante approach to training, and notwithstanding the informal pool among reporters as to whether he would make weight, Julio Cesar Chavez weighed in at 158 lbs. on Friday, two pounds inside the middleweight limit and – the bigger surprise – one pound lighter than opponent Sergio Martinez. Indeed, there were some who felt that, instead of looking too hefty, Chavez had perhaps tilted too far in the other direction, that he appeared drawn.

We shall see. Either way, it seems immensely improbable that the present weight ratios will remain come fight time; the consensus among the cognoscenti is that Chavez will likely weigh around 180 pounds by the time he steps in the ring, outweighing Martinez by close to a stone, as the British would say.

Whether that will be enough for the Mexican to blunt the Argentine’s perceived advantages in speed and skill remains to be seen. But the weigh-in appeared to confirm what 24/7 had suggested: Martinez and Chavez genuinely do not like each other.

Of course, boxing occupies the shadows between reality and deceit, and it would not be without precedent for two boxers and their camps to exaggerate personal disdain in pursuit of sales. But Martinez, waving to the packed and passionate crowd at the Wynn’s Encore Theatre, wasted no time after the two men had stepped off the scales in walking across the stage toward his foe.

They stood nose-to-nose, their jaws moving but their evident insults unheard above the baying crowd.

“I told him it will be a war, because I want a war,” Martinez told HBO’s Max Kellerman. “I’m going to punish him, I will hit him. I will give my life for Argentina.”

“I told him I was going to be here tomorrow,” said Chavez. “He told me he was going to rip my head off.”

And with that, as the exuberant Martinez continued to play to the crowd, Chavez Jr. stalked off backstage, no longer needing to focus on trimming excess weight from his frame, able now only to channel his energies toward the challenge that awaits him from Martinez.