On Saturday at Staples Center, the right man didn't necessarily win (I had Zbik winning at least seven rounds, probably eight), but the more interesting one did from the perspective of his next fight.
It was better for boxing that Chavez Jr. advanced through this, his toughest test to date. He certainly wasn't beaten decisively so he came away with a hard-fought, if probably undeserving decision. That fate was likely predetermined.
Harold Lederman lost some credibility in my book with his squeaky pronouncements of Chavez winning a fight in which he looked to be losing (you can make an argument that he took over and swept the late rounds, but Lederman seemed to favor JCC Jr. from the outset). The referee constantly chided Zbik and two of the three judges were clearly more swayed by Junior, though for the name and the fanatical following or for his more powerful attack to the body, we can't be sure.
I had Zbik winning seven of the first nine rounds, and I have a suspicion Max Kellerman may have leaned the same way, when he vaguely referred to "seeing things a bit different" from the other announcers, without really articulating exactly how he had seen or scored the fight. And I see where he's coming from in not pressing the issue. It wasn't exactly Sweet Pea getting robbed against the original JCC.
There is a very legitimate argument for Chavez Jr. winning at least six rounds and there were several tight rounds where Chavez was out-landed 2-to-1 but arguably did the most damage with just a few blows...unfortunately the cynic in me believes that explanation is terribly naive. The sad fact is, this proceeding was handled with something less than pure objectivity from the HBO crew, the referees and two of the three judges.
I had Zbik winning close, but clearly winning. In the end, the general reaction from the boxing scribes seemed to be "who cares"? Because now we will all be spared from the fight that would have happened if Zbik had gotten the nod, a fight between Zbik and Sergio Martinez, which would have been like Martinez-Dzinzurik 2, only more one-sided. Instead with Chavez winning, Martinez' opponent remains unknown.
Meanwhile, the next fight being mentioned for Chavez is Miguel Cotto. I will believe it when I see it, because we all know how Bob Arum likes to let things marinate, and Chavez' significant size advantage aside, every other variable tilts heavily in Miguel's favor, even if he has lost a step.
It's not horribly dangerous for Chavez, because as long as he hangs in there and makes an entertaining fight, which he very well could, he will earn credit win or lose, because no one expects this kid who's best opponent to date was Sebastian Zbik to actually beat a fighter of Miguel Cotto's stature at this point in his career.
Unless Arum and company desperately want to preserve Chavez' zero in the L column, it's actually an ingenious gambit. Chavez goes down in heroic fashion or he pulls what would be a great upset.
With Miguel Cotto turning into more of a boxer-puncher, and playing it safe in his last couple fights after brutal defeats to Margarito's loaded gloves and Manny Pacquiao, the odds are against Cotto beating Chavez so bad it completely derails his career. Arum will still have a marketable product and that seems to be his utmost concern.
However, though Chavez is a much bigger, much younger, and much less damaged fighter, he is still not close to the league of boxer Miguel Cotto is, and Cotto will demonstrate that in convincing fashion should the two meet in the fall.
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