When undefeated Mexican fighter Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. entered the ring against Ireland’s Andy Lee, there were a lot of questions in the air regarding the young fighter.
It's a testament to Chavez Jr.'s history that there was still some doubts as to whether he could win the fight against Lee to set up the dream matchup in the middleweight division between the paper champion, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and the "true" champion according to most critics: Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez.
The Mexican boxer stepped it up on Saturday night with a seventh round technical knockout, showing a power and attitude that for some time has not been seen at the top of the sport. As Lee continued to find ways to hit Chavez inside, it only inspired the young Mexican to taunt Lee.
The fight was a brawl, with both fighters exchanging hits but with Lee doing little to no damage while Chavez Jr.'s punches almost always seemed to jar Lee and even lift him off the ground. The damage proved too much for Lee by the seventh round, when an upper cut and ensuing combination dazed him and left him unable to protect himself.
While the win, and fight, were impressive there are still a lot of questions left open, especially if Chavez Jr. who proclaimed after the fight that he would "knock out Martinez and shut him up," wants to beat the fighter that many consider the third best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.
All judges had Chavez Jr. losing in the scorecards when the fight ended, since Lee was succeeding technically with his jabs in distancing Chavez and he was throwing a lot more punches. The Mexican fighter also came in looking like a very big middleweight, an advantage he may not have against the larger Martinez.
Martinez himself is not coming off the best performance in his career, in a slightly disappointing win by technical knockout in the eleventh round against Mathew Macklin, a fight in which the Argentinean often looked uncomfortable, though never in danger.
While the powerful win against Lee was impressive, the problem is that the power and bravado that Chavez Jr. showed against Lee may not be strong enough to upend Martinez who, while smaller, is more powerful and technical.
Julio says it was leg cramps that kept him from finishing Saturday's fight sooner and if that's true, then the Martinez fight gains a lot of hype as it's slated to be a pay-per-view on September 15, 2012. But, his approach will have to change a lot more than Martinez' when they face off in three months' time.
Martinez won't let himself be hit as easily as Lee did; he's a much faster and more technical fighter. And as previously mentioned, the hits Chavez lands won't be as effective. On the other hand, Martinez will be able to cause a lot more damage against a boxer that continuously has showed little interest in improving his defense throughout his career.
With both fighters having so much to prove in September, the fight might quickly devolve into a brawl after a few cautious rounds from both fighters. The winner might be determined by who can cause the most damage per blow, though Chavez Jr. will have greater pressure to deliver a knockout, as the more technical fighter, Martinez, could get the better treatment from the judges.
While the Mexican's great performance against Lee has suddenly made the match against Martinez look like a possibly explosive brawl, rather than a rude awakening, he will have to improve his technical skills, especially defensively, if he really wants to retain his middleweight title.