As recently as a year ago, a Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight was laughable. Martinez was a top three pound-for-pound entrant while Chavez was viewed as an over-praised, overprotected commodity living off his legendary father's name.
Time -- and circumstance -- have a way of changing minds.
Martinez no longer looks like the overwhelming force that crushed Paul Williams while Chavez's development has accelerated. Unlike Juan Manuel Lopez-Yuriorkis Gamboa, Martinez-Chavez has been perfectly marinated into a top-shelf pay per view attraction.. Martinez is an 8-5 favorite (as of 8/20).
Will Martinez's experience or Chavez's youth and strength prevail? Their recent CompuBox pasts tell the following stories:
The Marvelous Chameleon: Martinez's talent level is such that he can adopt diametrically opposed styles to suit the opposition. Against the tall, jab-oriented Sergiy Dzinziruk, Martinez amped up the volume and slit "The Razor's" throat by giving him plenty of his own medicine. Martinez, who averaged 52.3 punches per round in the three fights before Dzinziruk, threw 78.3, averaged 50.7 jabs per round to Dzinziruk's 32, landed 38.2 percent of them to Dzinziruk's 33 percent and nearly doubled his rival's jab connect total (147-80).
Against Darren Barker -- who averaged 74.3 in his previous three fights -- Martinez took away his volume by cranking out 65.8 per round, landing 38.2 percent of his jabs and limiting his volume to 38.9. Matthew Macklin -- who averaged 77.3 in his three fights leading to Martinez -- was treated differently but the result (KO by 11) was the same. This time Martinez (who threw just 39.7 per round) used accuracy (41.9 percent overall, 33.8 percent jabs and 50 percent power) to force Macklin's output down to 41.9 and amassed connect advantages of 183-135 (total), 74-31 (jabs) and 109-104 (power).
Will the South American shape-shifter reappear against Chavez Jr., or will a growing problem be exacerbated?
More Reachable Martinez?: While Martinez successfully inhibited Barker and Macklin's offenses, they still managed to hit the Argentine alarmingly often. Barker landed 38 percent of his total punches, 35 percent of his jabs and 42 percent of his power shots while Macklin landed 40 percent of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts. Dzinziruk was even more effective as he landed 39 percent overall, 33 percent jabs and 47 percent power.
Comparing Martinez's last three fights to the three fights before that, Martinez is getting hit more across the board (27.7 percent total then, 35.2 percent now; 21.4 percent jabs then, 28.4 percent now; 34.1 percent power then, 42.5 percent power now).
Are the 37-year-old's reflexes slowing? And will Chavez take advantage?
An Offensive Machine: Over the past year Chavez's style is looking more like his father's -- ceaseless pressure, a superb body attack and knockouts created from attrition.
He also is victimized by slow starts. Chavez did little in the first two rounds against Andy Lee (20 per round over the first three) but once his engine warmed up he was almost unstoppable. He landed 46 percent overall and 47 percent of his power shots en route to a seventh-round TKO. The numbers were similar against Marco Antonio Rubio (42.3 percent overall, 48.7 percent power) and Peter Manfredo Jr. (44 percent overall, 52 percent power).
In his last three fights Chavez has averaged 43 punches per round (compared to 63.8 in the three before that) while maintaining his efficiency (43.7 percent overall now, 44.2 then; 48.7 percent power now, 46.1 percent then).
Improving Defense: One of the major knocks against Chavez was his shoddy defense. Against Sebastian Zbik, Billy Lyell and John Duddy, Chavez was struck with a combined 35.9 percent of their overall punches and 45 percent of their power shots.
But in his last three fights, those numbers have plummeted. Lee, Rubio and Manfredo have hit Chavez a combined 23.3 percent of the time overall, with just 16.8 percent of their jabs and only 27.6 percent of their power shots. The 26-year-old Chavez is rounding into prime form on all levels of his game at just the right time. But will they be enough to beat by far the best opponent he has yet faced?
Prediction: An incredibly difficult pick, for one can see the vastly bigger and stronger Chavez steamrolling Martinez or the smarter, sharper Martinez carving up the inexperienced (at elite level) Chavez like a Christmas turkey.