WBC Strips Sergio Martinez, Orders Sebastian Zbik-Julio Cesar Chavez
Former southpaw WBC middleweight (160 pounds) king Sergio Martinez has been declared the WBC's Emeritus Champion, essentially stripping the Argentinian-born fighter of the crown he earned by dethroning Kelly Pavlik in April.
In addition, the WBC has elevated to the status of full champion, Germany's Sebastian Zbik (30-0, 10 knockouts), whom it has mandated to face Mexico's junior middleweight (154 pounds) and middleweight contender, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (41-0-1, 30 KOs), in his first defense.
Named the FanHouse Fighter of the Year for 2010, the 35-year-old Martinez (46-2-2, 25 KOs) is forfeiting his title for commencing with an HBO televised, March 12 bout opposite Ukranian-born southpaw WBO junior middleweight king Sergei Dzinziruk (37-0, 23 KOs) of Germany that will take place at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.
The 34-year-old Dzinziruk recently scored May's 10th-round knockout of Australia's Daniel Dawson (35-3, 24 KOs) in the sixth defense of his belt.
Martinez is coming off of a Nov. 20, second-round knockout of rival southpaw Paul Williams (39-2, 27 KOs) that avenged a disputed, December, majority decision loss during which both fighters were down in the first round.
Williams was rated No. 3 in most pound-for-pound lists behind six-time titlist Floyd Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs) and eight-division champ Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs), who is the current WBO welterweight (147 pounds) and WBC junior middleweight champion.
The win over Williams preceded Martinez's unanimous decision win that dethroned Pavlik (36-2, 32 KOs) as then-WBO and WBC king. Already the WBC's junior middleweight titlist, Martinez had given up that crown to move up in weight.
Martinez was stripped of the WBO's middleweight belt in July, being informed that the organization's decision was rendered because he had yet to make a final decision as to whether or not he planned to stay at middleweight.
Last month, Martinez's adviser, Sampson Lewkowicz, told FanHouse that Martinez would honor his mandatory defense by facing the 28-year-old Zbik, but HBO turned down the fight.
"The WBC is not necessarily wrong. In this particular situation, I'm not blaming the WBC. Zbik was our mandatory, and he's a legitimate, quality fighter," said Martinez's promoter, Lou DiBella.
"I'm not blaming the WBC. There are times where I blame the organization, and there are times when they're not wrong. In this particular situation, they're not wrong," said DiBella. "They're going to give Sergio Champion Emeritus status and he's going to fight for the Diamond Belt of the WBC. If we thought they were wrong, then we wouldn't stay with the WBC."
As Emeritus Champion, Martinez still can fight for the title against the available champion, in this case, the winner of Zbik-Chavez Jr., should that bout come to fruition.
So while Martinez battles Dzinziruk for the "Diamond Belt," Zbik could face the WBC silver champion in Chavez, after which Lewkowicz told BoxingScene.com that he believed that HBO might be more inclined to approve the Zbik-Chavez winner as an opponent in the fall.
"Sergio wants to congratulate Zbik on becoming the champion. The sole reason as to why Martinez did not fight him is because HBO did not accept him. However, if he fights Chavez and he beats Chavez, Martinez would be more than honored to fight him," said Lewkowicz.
"Meanwhile, we need to act like gentlemen and set the record straight. Martinez did not get stripped by the WBC," said Lewkowicz. "He was upgraded to a higher status, as the Emeritus champion. If Zbik beats Chavez, who is the mandatory, then Martinez will fight him and it would be an honor to do the fight."
The 24-year-old Chavez has a Jan. 29 fight against Ohio's 26-year-old world title contender, Billy Lyell (22-8, four KOs), at Estadio Banorte in Chavez Jr.'s home town of Culiacan, Mex.
According to Chavez's long-time match maker, Sean Gibbons, Chavez Jr.'s long-range goals were to face either Martinez or WBA junior middleweight (154 pounds) champ Miguel Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs), adding that Chavez will be trained for Lyell by four-time Trainer of the Year, Freddie Roach, along with strength and conditioning coach, Alex Ariza.
Gibbons said that the WBC's decision only hastens Chavez's goal of being middleweight champion.
"We did see that the WBC has made Sergio Martinez the WBC's Emeritus Champion, and mandated that Zbik has to fight Chavez. What that means to us, though, is that, first of all we're not going to take Billy Lyell lightly," said Gibbons, Chavez's seven-year match maker with Zanfer Promotions, which handles Chavez along with Top Rank Promotions.
"So I don't like to plan a lot forward until be get beyond Billy Lyell, but if we do, then definitely, that's what we're looking at doing next when we're done on Jan. 29. We would love to get a shot at the WBC title," said Gibbons. "That would be a dream for a guy like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for what it has meant to his family, to his father. The WBC, to win the green belt for any Mexican fighter, I think it means a lot. So if we're successful, we're going to look at going right into a title fight with Zbik next."
Chavez Jr. is coming off of June's unanimous decision victory on a Top Rank Promotions card over Ireland-born John Duddy (29-2, 18 KOs) of New York, who also has suffered a loss to Lyell by 10-round, split-decision in April of 2009.
Lyell is coming off of May's eight-round unanimous decision over Martinus Gray, which helped him to rebound from the fifth knockout loss of his career -- January's 10th-round stoppage at the hands of IBF middleweight king Sebastian Sylvester (34-3-1, 16 KOs) of Germany.