- Michael Woods, Boxing
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It would be the signature fight of Sergio Martinez’ career, if a bunch of “Ifs” comes to fruition. If Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. signs on the dotted line, and agrees to fight the winner of the June 16 Chavez Jr.-Andy Lee bout, and if the Chavez Jr. beats Lee, then a September clash between Chavez Jr and Martinez would be the biggest bout of the 37 year old Argentine’s career.
But his advisor Sampson Lewkowicz didn’t sound optimistic that current WBC middleweight champion Chavez would sign the contract, which he says has been with the son of the Mexican Hall of Famer for about two weeks.
“Will Chavez sign? I believe he will not sign,” Lewkowicz told me.
The advisor is laying blame at the feet of Chavez’ promoter, Bob Arum. He says not signing is likely Arum’s call, because Lewkowicz has heard from WBC president Jose Sulaiman that Chavez (45-0-1) indicated he wants to fight Martinez (49-2-2). And why would Arum not want this clash, just beneath a MegaFight on the buzzmeter, to go down? Because, Lewkowicz says, the Las Vegas-based dealmaker wants as many fights as possible to be in-house; that is, pitting Top Rank fighters against each other. Lee (28-1) has agreed to let Arum co-promote him--50-50, with his New York-based promoter Lou DiBella--in a Martinez clash. (Side note: A source close to Lee says that Team Lee has signed an agreement to execute a Lee-Martinez bout, if Lee beats Chavez, with the endorsement of the WBC, but that no bout agreements were furnished to them. That element doesn't sit well with at least one person in the Lee camp, I'm told. This essentially means Lee would have to fight Martinez right after Chavez-—no “soft” defense allowed--and that the Irishman doesn’t know what purse he’d get, or the fight’s location, or training expenses, etc.)
Basically, Arum wanting options is smart business. For the fans, smart business doesn’t always overlap with what they want. The part of me that is a fan wishes Arum weren’t such a savvy businessman. The part of me whose political leanings are (disclosure alert) far left likes to see the lower-level earners have maximum freedom and leverage in dealing with higher-level earners, and wishes that securing options weren’t part of any equation, usually. The part of me that understands that capitalism is like democracy, a frequently crappy, unfair system, but the best ones we’ve got, comprehends why Arum likes to keep things in-house.
Lewkowicz isn’t so in a mood for nuance. He told me he makes it a practice to respect all boxers, and therefore doesn’t want to talk trash, but says his man Martinez is ready and willing to scream to the heavens that Chavez is “the biggest coward Mexico has ever produced” if he doesn’t sign to agree to fight Martinez (if he gets past Lee first).
“If Chavez doesn’t sign, this tells me Sergio is totally right,” Lewkowicz said.
The advisor said he spoke to Sulaiman on Monday, and that Sulaiman told him he will be putting a deadline on Chavez to sign the agreement. If he doesn’t sign, Lewkowicz told me that Sulaiman indicated that his WBC would strip Chavez Jr of his belt before the fight with Lee.
I reached out to Top Rank, to get their take on the matter. VP Carl Moretti replied, “Julio Cesar Chavez is going to have his hands full with Andy Lee and Andy Lee is going to have his hands full with Julio Cesar Chavez. It would be simply disrespectful to both fighters, the promotion, their respective promoters and advisors and HBO to discuss ANY fights past June 16.”