Four of the best fighters in and around the Middleweight divisions will be competing against one another in back-to-back weeks in September. First, on September 8, Chad Dawson drops down from Light Heavyweight to challenge the undefeated Super Six champion, Andre Ward. Then, on September 15, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. finally steps in against Sergio Martinez, widely regarded as the number 3 pound for pound boxer in the world.
All told, you'll see three of the top 15 fighters in the world, a group which includes the number 1 guy in three consecutive divisions - 160 pounds, 168 pounds and 175 pounds - and two of the best American talents in any weight class, as well as one of the biggest stars in the game.
Both of these fights carry real significance, and should be a treat for fans. That said, which is the better fight, and which is the more important?
Chavez Jr. vs. Martinez
Martinez is the clear top dog and champion at 160 pounds, but after some sanctioning body shenanigans, it's actually JCC Jr. who comes in as the titleholder. Chavez Jr. has been decried by some as much as he has been loved by others thus far in his career, but make no mistake about it, he's the real deal.
He has grown up, in size and fighting ability, quite a bit since he first began getting attention thanks to the name he shares with his father, one of the best fighters in the history of the sport. In a lackluster Middleweight division, he's the clear challenger to Martinez's throne, and will look to use his superior size and strength to unseat the savvy, slick southpaw.
Together, they are the number 1 and 2 fighters in the division, and as mentioned, Martinez carries the reputation as the number 3 pound for pound fighter in the world.
Even better, there has been genuine bad blood between these two in the buildup to this fight. Martinez feels as if Chavez has been ducking him, and he's nothing but a name -- a name who happens to have all of the fans, which based on merit, he feels he rightfully deserves. Chavez Jr. has had enough and is ready to shut him up.
It's a classic styles match-up, and it has the makings of an exciting fight. Martinez likes to draw in his opponents, and wait to pop them with dramatic, flashy shots. Chavez Jr. is somewhat of a bully in the ring, happy to take a few punches in order to land his heavier artillery.
Ward vs. Dawson
Andre Ward is The Man at 168 pounds, Super Middleweight. He breezed through his competition in the Super Six, whitewashing Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch.
The former Olympic gold medalist is undefeated and now stands as either the number 4 or 5 pound for pound guy out there. Like Martinez, he should be a bigger star than he is, and is waiting for the right opportunity to launch himself to the next level.
Ward is a versatile, gritty fighter. He takes away your strength, and he finds a way to win. He can rough you up on the inside or box your ears off thanks to that sparkling amateur pedigree.
Dawson is a former top 10 pound for pound guy himself, now rated a little bit lower, but still highly respected as the number 1 fighter at 175 pounds after he took care of business against Bernard Hopkins. He carries all of the skill, technical ability and physical attributes you could ask for. However, on the biggest of stages, there seems to be an "it" factor missing somewhere, which led him to defeat against Jean Pascal, and has seen him hop between trainers at a breakneck pace.
The Bottom Line
Both Chavez Jr. vs. Martinez and Ward vs. Dawson are exceptional match-ups. Fight fans should certainly make sure to watch both.
Chavez-Martinez has much more potential to be an aesthetically pleasing bout with, perhaps, a dramatic conclusion. Ward-Dawson likely won't promise as much in terms of sheer excitement, but the stakes are certainly just as high. I also view this fight as having more uncertainty, whereas I expect Maravilla to handle the challenge of Chavez Jr.
The best case scenario, as someone who wants to see the absolute top fighters consistently challenge themselves, is to have Martinez and Ward win their respective matches, and then see them meet one another in 2013. That would position the winner as the true successor to the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao generation, although in the case of Martinez, he would have precious little remaining time to capitalize on that fact.
Sources: Yahoo! Sports, Boxrec.com, ProBoxing-Fans.com pound for pound list
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com. You can find more of his writing, along with interviews, rankings and breaking news stories at the site, or you can follow ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.
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