The World Boxing Council (WBC) recently announced the top four contenders that will take part in a tournament of sorts to determine the next mandatory challenger for current WBC Middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez. By “Of Sorts” allow me to provide an explanation. It was announced by the WBC that it has mandated current WBC number one rated Middleweight and longtime top Middleweight contender Marco Antonio Rubio to face former WBC Middleweight world champion and current WBC number two rated contender Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. in a rematch to determine interim status or “Interim champion.”
For the casual Boxing fan who may be a little confused, the term “Interim champion” basically means that whomever is the number one contender for a world championship is designated as having interim status. This means that if a world champion is unable to or refuses to meet the mandatory challenger, that challenger will often be named champion rather than being placed in an elimination bout between the top two contenders to determine a new champion for a vacant title.
While Rubio and Chavez will fight for interim status, current WBC number three rated contender Domenico Spada will face undefeated number four rated WBC contender Gilberto Ramirez with the winner to face the winner of the Rubio-Chavez rematch to determine a mandatory challenger for Sergio Martinez.
The WBC has stated that it will not begin this process until the fighters involved complete bouts that they are already signed to. The sanctioning organization however has also stated that it will name another contender should one of the fighters lose in those bouts that are already signed.
Chavez is tentatively scheduled to face WBC number five and World Boxing Organization (WBO) number one rated contender Brian Vera in a bout contracted to take place above the 160lb. Middleweight limit. Vera, the current North American Boxing Organization (NABO) Middleweight champion will come into the fight should it happen having won four of his last five bouts, winning two by knockout. Although the Chavez-Vera bout is tentatively scheduled for sometime in September, there is always the possibility that Chavez could opt to compete in the WBC box off first before facing Vera.
In February of last year Chavez, then the WBC world champion in the Middleweight division successfully defended his title with a convincing unanimous decision over Marco Antonio Rubio. Although some may be tempted to question why a rematch between the two would be warranted it is worth noting that Rubio had won ten straight fights prior to his encounter with Chavez and despite the loss did give a good account of himself. The difference in that bout was that although Rubio established and maintained a high work rate throughout the fight, he was unable to really hurt Chavez who consistently backed him up and landed the harder punches. It will be interesting if a rematch between the two does take place whether Rubio, who has won four fights since his loss to Chavez, will be able to make any adjustments from the first fight.
It will also be interesting no matter who Chavez elects to fight next to see he how fights. In his last fight Chavez was thoroughly out boxed by Sergio Martinez over the course of twelve rounds. Although Chavez was able to make a comeback in the late rounds including nearly pulling out the fight in the memorable twelfth round, Chavez failed to keep Martinez under steady pressure and simply did not let his hands go enough throughout the fight to earn rounds on the official scorecards. After losing his title in a convincing manner, an obvious question that will face Chavez upon his return to the ring will be whether Chavez can make the necessary adjustments to not only maintain a steady offensive output but also, the adjustments that may make a hoped for rematch with Sergio Martinez more competitive. Chavez however should not overlook anyone he faces while aiming for a potential rematch with Martinez.
What should also not be overlooked by fans and experts alike are the credentials of Domenico Spada and Gilberto Ramirez. Although neither are probably well-known to American fans due to neither fighting before in the United States, both are solid world-class fighters.
Spada, a veteran of forty-one professional fights has compiled a record of 37-4, with 19 Knockouts. One thing that some may say about Spada is that he has failed to successfully step up in quality of opposition. Spada has lost twice to former world title challenger Sebastian Zbik and Darren Barker, both of whom are top contenders and who have faced some of the best fighters in the Middleweight division. Looking at it from another point of view however Spada has never been stopped in his career and may look at this tournament as what could be his last chance on the top level of the division.
The undefeated Gilberto Ramirez has compiled a record of 25-0, with 20 Knockouts. Despite an impressive career knockout percentage of 80% an argument can be made that Ramirez has yet to be tested against world class opposition. This box off is an opportunity to show that he belongs with the elite of the Middleweight division.
The reason for the WBC box off is due to Martinez being sidelined with injuries. Martinez, who successfully defended his world title in April of this year with a unanimous decision over top contender Martin Murray, is not expected to return to action until sometime in 2014. For Sergio Martinez who is seemingly nearing the end of his career the current situation regarding the WBC title presents a couple of interesting possibilities. One possibility which should not be overlooked however is the potential of a would be unification bout between Martinez and undefeated WBA/IBO Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin.
If Martinez is indeed eying retirement, fights with the likes of Golovkin and whomever should emerge as the mandatory challenger out of the WBC box off will only continue to give Martinez the acclaim that he has fought hard to obtain. No matter what the outcome of this puzzle, Sergio Martinez has earned his place as not only the best fighter in the Middleweight division but also one of the best fighters in the entire sport.
Who will be next for Sergio Martinez? Only time will tell...
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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