Let’s get ready to RUMMMMMBLE! This week’s Digression into all things non-comics has me musing on a potential Sergio Martinez vs. Julio César Chávez, Jr. fight in September, Alistair Overeem’s failed drug test, and of course, there’s the Weekly Digression Mixtape.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about the quandary facing lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KOs): the Argentine boxer can’t land a big money pay-per-view fight due to the fact that none of the big names in and around his weight division are interested in fighting him because (a) he hasn’t shown an ability to generate television ratings and (b) his unique combination of supreme conditioning, speed, awkward southpaw stance, and knockout power makes him the odds-on favourite when matched up against anybody in the junior middleweight (154 lbs.) and middleweight (160 lbs.) divisions.
In a slightly unexpected development, The Ring is reporting that Martinez has signed a deal that will set him up on September 15 against the winner of the June 16 bout between WBC middleweight titleholder and Top Rank Promotions cash cow Julio César Chávez, Jr. (45-0-1, 31 KOs). and Irish action fighter Andy Lee (28-1-0, 20 KOs). Martinez’ efforts at raising his public profile (he’s studying English in an effort to gain more American fans and is a spokesperson for campaigns against bullying and domestic violence) and blowing away every guy that’s thrown in against him on premium cable boxing staple HBO World Championship Boxing are about to finally pay off.
If Chávez gets past Lee (and that’s not a given), he could pose some interesting problems for the 37 year-old. The crafty Martinez is a natural junior middleweight who has to eat extra helpings of steak and potatoes just to get within whispering distance of the middleweight division’s 160 lb. limit. He has consistently dismissed calls from observers that he go up to the super middleweight (168 lbs.) division to find the worthy challengers that elude him at middleweight, saying that it’s just a step too far for him (Martinez started his career as a welterweight). Chávez, on the other hand, struggles to get under the middleweight limit. He was (barely) able to make 160 lbs. during the weigh-in on the eve of his last fight—a unanimous decision win against the rugged Marco Antonio Rubio—but actually weighed 181 lbs. (well above the light heavyweight limit!) on HBO’s unofficial scale right before the fight, after rehydrating. The younger Chávez doesn’t have his legendary father‘s overall in-ring skills, endurance, dedication to conditioning, and two-handed knockout power, but he’s displayed a sturdy chin against the limited opposition he’s been in with and under the tutelage of future IBHOF inductee Freddie Roach, he has refined the body attack into an unrelenting and devastating weapon that makes the most of his somewhat modest pugilistic attributes. While he’d be the underdog going into a fight against Martinez, Chávez’ size advantage, chin, youth, and body-attacking style make him a very dangerous opponent.
It’s too early to speculate in-depth over a Martinez-Chávez match-up, though. The celebrated Mexican puncher could lose to Lee (a Martinez-Lee fight would probably be just as enjoyable for boxing fans, but would lack the marketability of a Martinez-Chávez contest), injuries could come into play, and of course, Top Rank might change its mind and decide that they don’t want to risk Junior’s unbeaten record against one of the best boxers in the world. For now, it just feels good to see Martinez potentially get a chance at headlining a legitimate, high-profile, pay-per-view event.
Somewhat less surprising than the news of the Martinez deal is the report that mixed martial arts and kickboxing heavyweight Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem (48-11-0-1, MMA; 14-4-0 Kickboxing) registered unacceptably high levels of testosterone in a pre-fight drug test in the lead up to his title bout against incumbent UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos (15-1-0).
Despite the fact that rumours of performance-enhancing drug (PED) use have followed the Dutch fighter even before he “blew up” into a full-time heavyweight (he campaigned primarily as a middleweight and light heavyweight early in his MMA and kickboxing career), I still feel a little disappointed. I suppose in the back of my mind, I always suspected that his massively-muscled, superhero-esque build benefited from some manner of illicit pharmacological supplementation, but his exciting, kickboxing-influenced MMA stand-up technique and advanced submission grappling skills made it easy for me to push aside my doubts and just enjoy his work in the ring and the cage.
This does make me wonder just how widespread performance-enhancing drug use is in the UFC and in professional MMA in general. Not just the blatant cheating, but also the use of all sorts of technical machinations to “cheat within the system”. Chael Sonnen’s dodgy testimony during his CSAC hearings for PED violations highlighted what I feel is an easily exploited loophole that allows fighters to use and abuse exogenous testosterone: a fighter can claim a diagnosis of idiopathic hypogonadism (i.e., low testosterone levels of unknown cause), apply for an exemption from the athletic commission, and receive testosterone as part of an androgen replacement therapy regimen. The problem with this is that symptoms of idiopathic hypogonadism are indistinct and difficult to meaningfully qualify in adult males and testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can be prescribed for “relative” hypogonadism (that is, testosterone levels that fall within the normal range but are “relatively low” for a person’s age). It probably wouldn’t be too difficult for an unscrupulous fighter to find a similarly unprincipled doctor and get a TRT exemption. As UFC middleweight Alan Belcher was quoted saying in a recent MMAFighting article
I know [TRT exemption is] supposed to be a case-by-case basis, but probably like 99 percent of the time, they’re cheating. They’re lying and the doctor is helping them out.
Belcher does have a point. It seems epidemiologically suspect to me that so many top MMA fighters (fighters such as Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) allegedly suffer from hypogonadism and have to receive TRT, given the very low incidence of symptomatic adult-onset hypogonadism in otherwise healthy individuals (one study puts it at 0.025%). It also doesn’t help that one of the studies frequently touted as supporting the idea that hypogonadism is more prevalent than previously thought in younger male populations was commissioned by Solvay Pharmaceuticals, the company that manufactures and markets AndroGel, which is, you guessed it, a topical TRT treatment.
After letting SomaFM‘s Beat Blender station dictate last week’s playlist, I’m playing Shuffle Button Roulette again with this week’s mixtape (song titles link to corresponding video/audio, if available):
- Kuba – Dawn Chorus
- Björk – Frosti
- DJ Food – Peace, Pt. 1
- Pizzicato Five – I Hear a Symphony
- UpdharmaDown – Hiwaga
- Yoko Kanno (feat. Origa) – Inner Universe
- Genius/GZA (feat. Killah Priest) – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
- Aya Hiyarama – Sayonara Rolling Star
- Lamb – Trans Fatty Acid ( Kruder & Dorfmeister Remix Edit)
- Jose Padilla – Que Bonito