The aftermath of the surprisingly thrilling finish between lineal and WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and former belt-holder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has many fans begging for a rematch. While the 12th round of their fight certainly produced drama worthy of boxing’s status as the theatre of the unexpected, the punch stats suggest an even greater discrepancy than was obvious from casually watching the bout.
Chavez Jr. (46-1-1, 32 KO) certainly showed tremendous resolve and self-belief despite taking a horrendous beating for 11-and-a-half rounds. For this, he must be given credit. That said, before anointing him as truly worthy of sharing the ring with the likes of Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KO), his late-round rally must first be attributed to admirable stubbornness and a bit of blind luck.
In boxing, of course, luck is never simply straightforward chance—Chavez Jr. was, after all, able to walk Martinez down—but little in Chavez Jr.’s statistical output suggests that he was consciously building towards his 12th-round rally in a knowing bid to stop Martinez late.
In examining statistical trends (h/t Boxing Scene) of Martinez’s last three fights and Chavez Jr.’s last four, the numbers suggest different but equally effective styles—granted, Chavez Jr.’s level of opposition has been vastly inferior to Martinez’s.
During the aforementioned stretch, Chavez Jr. averaged 50.8 punches thrown per round with 19.6 connects, or 38.7 percent. Conversely, Martinez averaged 57.4 punches per round with 20.5 connects for a success rate of 35.7 percent.
Compared to middleweight averages, Chavez Jr. threw six less punches per round—the division average is 56.9—while Martinez threw slightly more. That said, both men landed a greater number of total punches per round and strike at a higher connect percentage than most.
As one would expect, the most telling difference between Chavez Jr. and Martinez is in jabs and power punches. While Martinez lands 9.6 of his 32.2 jabs per round, Chavez Jr. only connects on 2.3 of his 8.8 attempts. This difference in boxing ability was sorely evident for the majority of their fight as Chavez Jr. aimlessly stalked Martinez, unsure of how to effectively initiate his offense.
Traditionally, Chavez Jr. has made up for his lack of jabs and boxing with aggression and power punches. With an average of 17.4 connects on 42 attempted power punches per round, Chavez Jr. crushes the middleweight average (12.5-of-33.1). Interestingly, Martinez falls just below the division average with 10.9 connects out of 25.2 attempts, but this has more to do with his boxing style and level of opposition than an unwillingness to engage.
If Chavez Jr.’s calling card is his aggression and sustained power, Martinez was essentially able to negate Chavez Jr.’s identity for practically their entire fight. Chavez Jr. was such a shell of his recent self that the numbers were shockingly one-sided, a testament to Martinez’s superior skills and class.
Dividing the fight into thirds makes for an intriguing breakdown of how both Martinez and Chavez Jr. evolved or sustained, and increased or decreased their output throughout the fight. From Rounds 1 to 4, Chavez Jr. averaged a mere 26.3 punches thrown per round with only 10.5 connects. These numbers are essentially half of his usual output, and much of this has to do with Martinez negating Chavez Jr.’s offense through effective aggression and movement.
Martinez averaged 23.5 connects out of 65.8 attempts during this same period. From the outset, Martinez was throwing approximately eight more punches per round than his conventional average and landing almost four more. Over this same stretch, Martinez also threw 33.5 power punches per round—approximately eight more than his average of 25.2—which speaks to how Chavez Jr. is an extremely hittable target.
The middle rounds proved even more telling. In Round 4, Chavez Jr. had his highest punch output of the fight up to that point, with 41 attempts, but he was only able to follow this with a paltry six connects out of 14 attempts in Round 5, whereas Martinez landed 25 of 76 punches in that same stanza. It seemed that as Chavez Jr. started to build momentum, Martinez would completely reassert his dominance throughout the fight.
In terms of averages, Chavez Jr. threw 30.8 punches per round between the fifth and eighth stanzas, though the numbers were wildly inconsistent: 14, 55, 22 and 32, respectively. These numbers suggest that Chavez Jr. was unable to sustain or build on his success and that he was essentially letting Martinez dictate his output.
Conversely, Martinez averaged 73.8 attempts per round during that same stretch, though Round 8 proved to be significantly lower (61 attempts) than his wildly productive stretch between Rounds 5 and 7. More impressively, Martinez limited Chavez Jr. to 15 attempted power punches per round with only 8.8 connects. While Chavez Jr.’s connect percentage was excellent, the miniscule number suggests there was little sustained effort.
Over a stretch where Chavez Jr. should have been working hard to garner some momentum and reverse Martinez’s dominance, the shift to the fight’s final third proves that Chavez Jr. was almost as lost as at the beginning of the contest.
In Rounds 9 and 10, Chavez Jr. threw 22 and 29 punches, respectively, while Martinez countered with 78 and 81 of his own. A case could be made that Chavez Jr. began his rally in the 11th as he landed 20 of 45 total punches (including 18 of 34 power shots), but this output was met by Martinez at his most productive: 39 total connects out of 108 punches thrown, including 21 of 48 power punches.
Was Chavez Jr.'s Round 12 rally blind luck?
In Round 12, when Chavez Jr. hurt Martinez, the tide certainly turned. Over the final stanza, Chavez Jr. landed 37 of 66 punches—all but five were power shots—which was by far his most impressive output. Still, it is obvious that he only opened up because he had hurt Martinez, which could be attributed to both a lapse in Martinez’s defense and Chavez Jr. finally landing that desperate home-run bomb.
Case in point: the 66 punches Chavez Jr. threw were 10 more than his next best round (55 in Round 6) and 21 more than his third best round (Round 11). This lack of consistency suggests that Chavez Jr. had not been consciously building towards his final round onslaught, even if his heart and determination were always there.
Ultimately, Martinez out-threw Chavez Jr. by 508 punches and out-landed him by 144. He even hit Junior with 53 more power punches and, as expected, connected on 91 more jabs. To get so thoroughly out-landed and to keep pressing is a credit to Chavez Jr., but the fact remains that but for one home-run punch, he was never in the fight.
Chavez Jr. undoubtedly learned a tremendous amount from this fight, and it will only serve to hasten his development as a viable, championship-level fighter.
If a Martinez-Chavez Jr. rematch makes the most logistical and financial sense, then by all means it should get done. That said, Martinez first deserves the opportunity for the mega-fight he so desperately covets, and everything, except for one Chavez Jr. punch, backs this up.