Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Andy Lee set
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will defend his middleweight title against Andy Lee on June 16 on HBO's "World Championship Boxing" at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, both camps said Tuesday after agreeing to terms.
Contracts are not signed yet, but both sides said they are confident the deal will be finalized. Adding intrigue to the fight is that Chavez promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank and Lou DiBella, Lee's promoter, are also working on a deal under which the winner of Chavez-Lee would challenge lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez -- who is promoted by DiBella -- in September.
I've taken my swipes at the kid, so I'm giving the kid props for taking the fight. That's the kind of fight a champion takes.” -- Lou DiBella, Andy Lee's promoter, on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
"The Chavez-Lee fight is done between me and Bob. We've agreed to everything and we are putting everything to paper," DiBella told ESPN.com. "And now we're working on the contract for the winner to face Martinez. Arum and I have had substantive conversations and I'm confident we will get that done in short order too."
Arum is on vacation, but Top Rank president Todd duBoef tweeted, "Andy Lee set for June 16 against Chavez Jr. in El Paso at Sun Bowl."
The promoters have agreed to terms and are finalizing deals with their fighters.
"We have agreed in principle to the terms but we need to see a contract. But I'm optimistic," Billy Keane, Chavez's manager said. "I'm hoping that a contract will come that will reflect the terms we verbally agreed on."
There had been previous talks between Top Rank and DiBella about making the fight. However, Top Rank wound up going in a different direction because it said it did not want Chavez to fight a southpaw.
Chavez was supposed to fight England's Martin Murray, a right-hander, on June 16. However, he dropped out two weeks ago because of past criminal convictions that were going to prevent him from getting a visa in time to fight in the United States.
Top Rank considered matching Chavez with junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan, an undefeated 2004 U.S. Olympian it promotes, but ultimately decided on Lee (28-1, 20 KOs), a 27-year-old 2004 Irish Olympian who now lives in Detroit with trainer and co-manager Emanuel Steward.
"I think it's a very exciting and hard fight," said Steward, who once trained the great Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. for three consecutive junior welterweight world title fights in 1994. "I think it will be a very tough fight. Chavez has developed into a real fighter. He's become a serious fighter. He has very high energy in the ring. He cuts off the ring very well and smothers you. He gets inside and works the body like his daddy did. Him and Andy, they're both big guys for middleweights, they're both good punchers and they both get hit, which makes it a good fight."
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Said DiBella, "These are two long, lean middleweights, two big guys. Chavez is improving and is big and strong and will have the home-field advantage in El Paso. We might as well be going to Mexico. But Andy is a lefty, he's strong and he can box. Andy Lee will be the best guy Chavez has ever fought."
DiBella has been vicious in his verbal attacks on Chavez and Top Rank, saying they have avoided Martinez. But DiBella said Tuesday that Chavez deserves credit for taking the dangerous fight.
"I've taken my swipes at the kid, so I'm giving the kid props for taking the fight. That's the kind of fight a champion takes," DiBella said. "It also says to me he is serious about Martinez if he wins because he's taking on a lefty, and I don't think he'd be doing that if he didn't think he'd fight Martinez if he won. This is a fight that Andy has been waiting for. He was p----- that he didn't get Martinez in March, so he is thrilled with this opportunity. He knows it is the opportunity of a lifetime. HBO got themselves a good fight here."
The 26-year-old Chavez (45-0-1, 31 KOs), of Mexico, will be making his third defense, all in Texas. He made his first defense in Houston by knocking out Peter Manfredo Jr. in the fifth round in November and he scored a unanimous decision against Marco Antonio Rubio at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Feb. 4.
Now he will fight Lee at the Sun Bowl, where Top Rank hopes to draw a crowd of some 40,000 to rival the last fight it did there, an HBO card in 1998 on which then-welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya defended his crown via third-round knockout against Patrick Charpentier of France.
Even though Lee will be in hostile territory with a largely Mexican crowd, Steward is confident.
"I feel very good about it," he said. "I know it's not the ideal situation for us because everything is against Andy, but I have the confidence that he has the ability to score a knockout. We know what we're going up against with the whole situation. But this is the type of opportunity we can't pass up."
Lee said he has no concerns about going to fight Chavez on enemy turf.
"I'm actually looking forward to it," he said from the Kronk Gym in Detroit. "I like having that bunker mentality when everything is against you. We're gonna train hard and Emanuel will have the right plan and we will go in there and get that belt. It's my turn. I've waited a long time and it's been a long journey. The time is right for me physically and mentally and I am just glad it's here.
"I never thought I would get this fight. But I spoke to Lou and he said the fight's a go, so it's very hard to contain my excitement. I don't even know what I'm getting paid yet and I don't even care. I'm fighting a champion and I will take that belt."
I never thought I would get this fight. But I spoke to Lou and he said the fight's a go, so it's very hard to contain my excitement. I don't even know what I'm getting paid yet and I don't even care. I'm fighting a champion and I will take that belt.” -- Andy Lee
Keane said if Chavez wins, they definitely want to finalize a fight with Martinez, who was stripped of the belt that Chavez now holds. Martinez has wanted it back since.
"That is 100 percent the fight Julio wants subject to a reasonable deal," Keane said of a pay-per-view fight with Martinez later in the year. "All we're looking for is a reasonable deal. We're not looking to hold anyone for ransom, just to be treated fair and reasonably.
"It certainly doesn't hurt to have Julio have a southpaw look and a southpaw training but their styles are so drastically different that I don't think Andy Lee is any great preparation for Sergio Martinez. But it doesn't hurt to get that southpaw look."
Lee also hopes to win and get the fight with Martinez. Lee, after all, won HBO-televised bouts on both of Martinez's 2011 undercards but was disappointed that DiBella and HBO did not press for him to face Martinez on March 17, when Martinez fought Matthew Macklin, another DiBella fighter, instead. Lee was so upset that he did not get Martinez in March and was also unhappy with the deals presented to him for the undercard spot that he dropped off the card and fought a low-level, untelevised bout March 10 instead.
"We wanted to fight Sergio for a long time and Andy got tired of being on his undercards, but we always wanted Martinez," Steward said. "Now we can get him by beating Chavez."
"I can beat up Chavez and it will make me a star and then I can beat Martinez and that will make me a superstar," Lee said. "It's very exciting to be two fights away from that. This will be a vindication of my lifetime of work. I've been in the gym already today. I know what's ahead of me. I know there is hard work to do. I'm ready for it."