by Eric Raskin
In boxing, the road to respect is usually a long one. You put in your time, pay your dues one marginally-more-challenging opponent at a time, and, if you keep winning, ultimately get your shot at the big fight. At least that's how it usually goes. What makes the Sept. 15 middleweight championship bout between Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. so extraordinary is that it completely defies the rules about respect being earned instantly. One minute, this fight fell somewhere between absurdity and atrocity. The next minute, everyone demanded it.
And to make things even more unusual, the moment we demanded it, we got it. That doesn't happen very often in boxing.
On the night of June 16, 2012, Chavez knocked out Andy Lee in seven rounds, and suddenly boxing's most popular "fraud," the kid who filled arenas but supposedly couldn't fight, had become the people's challenger for the lineal middleweight title held by Martinez. Maybe it's a slight exaggeration to say that Chavez's transformation happened all at once. Baby steps were taken in wins over Sebastian Zbik and Marco Antonio Rubio in the 12 months prior. But the Lee fight was a statement. And in combination with the 37-year-old Martinez looking more vulnerable than expected in his last two outings against Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin, we'd gone from a mock-able mismatch to a mega-fight for all the middleweight marbles.