After beating Domenico Spada
in July of 2009, Sebastian Zbik claimed both the interim WBCmiddleweighttitle as well as the mandatory spot to
face the real champion, then Kelly Pavlik.
Pavlik would eventually lose that title in April of 2010 to current lineal
champion Sergio Martinez, who held onto it long enough to icePaul Williamsin two rounds in November of last
year. By March, a defense against the German-born Zbik was due and Martinez was
all set to take care of his obligation. However, HBO, who was going to televise
Martinez’s next fight, decided that Zbik was not acceptable as an opponent for
their airwaves. Soon after, the network mandated that junior middleweight
titleholderSergiyDzinziruk vie for the title. Zbik, who
had honestly worked his way to the number one contender’s spot, was soon elevated
to official WBC middleweight champion after that origination stripped Martinez
of its belt.
Fast forward to this weekend
where Zbik defends that belt against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on HBO for that
very middleweight beltHBOdeemed him not worthy of fighting for
back in March. The bout, held at Staples Center, seems to be marketed more as a
coronation of “Prince Junior” than it does a “Welcome to America, Champ” party
for Zbik. Such is boxing.
Still, Zbik, who found
boxing at just ten years old and began training at a sports school in Germany
at age 12, is undeterred. He is here to make history and take home the belt he
brought to the party.
“Of course I am very proud
and happy to be here. It is a big event for me but in the end, it is important
to win the fight,” said Zbik at a recent media day at Fortune Gym in Hollywood,
CA. “First, I am here to win the fight. When I win the fight, I will be very
famous in Germany because it was 80 years ago whenMax Schmelingwon the
last world championship fight here and so we can make history with this fight.
I don’t think about all the things before the fight. I think of them after.”
Zbik has everything against
him here in the US. Top Rank, who promotes Chavez Jr., is running the show here
in L.A. Staples Center is sure to be filled with rabid Mexican-American boxing
fans who want to see the son of a legend pull off his first world title win.
Zbik has ten knockouts against 30 wins to his opponent’s 30 KOs in 42 wins and
is the smaller man at 5’11½” to Chavez’ 6’. Still, Zbik feels ready as ever.
“I think I am stronger. I am
the champion and I am here to show I am a real champion,” said Zbik. “I saw
some videos of him and I am very optimistic. I am here to win the fight. Since
I am 12 years old, I train two times a day and that is why I am successful. That
is why I am here now.”
Between the two men, neither
has a big name on his résumé. This is the biggest and toughest fight of both of
their careers, though there is a slight edge for Chavez Jr. in that he has
fought both in Mexico and the US many times while this is Zbik’s first fight
here. With Zbik not seen as the real champion but simply as a titleholder, the
idea that Chavez Jr. will have to take it from the champ to win can be thrown
out the window. Zbik feels this fight is as good a chance as any to begin his
“At the moment, I don’t feel
like the real champion because it’s not very nice to get the belt on a green
table. It is better to fight for it,” said Zbik. “So when I win the fightnext Saturday, it is
the first step for me to feel a little better with the belt.”
Should he win, would he want
to legitimize his title with a fight vs. Martinez?
“At first, I will have to
win with Chavez,” Zbik answered.“After
that, we can talk about anything.”
What Zbik does have going
for him is that at age 29, and with a solid amateur background dating back to
his pre-teens, he knows exactly who he is in the ring. He is a pure boxer who
likes to fight from the outside, does not possess an inside game, so he holds a
lot when there and will not be looking to fight out of character when the bell
“Yes. I am not a knockout
puncher,” said Zbik. “If I say with ten knockouts in 30 fights I am going to
knock him out, nobody will believe me.”I
think I have many advantages. My speed, my reflexes, my defense and some other
things we don’t want to talk about before the fight.”
On the flipside, Chavez Jr.
is a fighter whose work ethic has been questioned, possesses little amateur
experience and is a fighter with good size and a solid beard but is flawed
technically. Most of that plays right to Zbik’s strengths. That said, Zbik still
expects a tough fight.
“He is very strong,” Zbik
said of Chavez Jr. “He is undefeated in over 40 fights. He is a little bit in
the same situation as me. He doesn’t have the big names on his record, so I
think he never fought somebody like me before and for me, also a very hard
fight. I think he is not as strong as his father but I think he is a very
strong fighter.On June 4,we will see how strong he is and how
strong I am. Nobody can say before the fight. 12 long rounds for both of us. We
will see after that.”
When asked if he thinks that
he can get a fair shake at the judging table, Zbik expressed confidence.
“I think we will win the
fight in a very clear way,” said Zbik. “After the fight, after 12 rounds- if it
goes 12 rounds- there is no question on the fight.”
But surely Zbik is worried
about the pro-Chavez crowd…isn’t he?
“No, absolutely not,” said
Zbik. “I am looking forward toJune 4.
We have nearly 40 people from Germany.” Zbik laughed when someone said “40?” as
if to say, “Well, why didn’t you say so?” “But I think we saw it in some other
fights. For example, in the last [Arthur] Abraham fight, where there were many
Armenians at the fight and they were quiet after two or three rounds. That is
what we have to do at Staples Center.”
If there is anything Zbik is
worried about, he didn’t show it to the press. He did express some surprise
that he was so calm leading into the fight.
“I am surprised a bit by
myself that I am relaxed about the moment but that is because I am prepared. We
had very good sparring, very good everything. We are very well prepared and we
are sure we will win the fight. That is why we are relaxed at the moment.”
With all that is against
him, from the venue to the opponent and his promoter, Zbik seemed affable and
confident with the press. Perhaps it is because he is well prepared. Perhaps it
is because with so much against him, how else should he be? Maybe he knows
something the rest of us don’t know. If that is the case, Zbik certainly isn’t
“My prediction is that we win,”
Zbik simply said with a smile.
Not one to mock his opponent
or make bold predictions he has no intention of living up to, Zbik ended the
proceedings with a simple message to his opponent.
“Prepare yourself and
prepare well,” he said into the cameras, though clearly addressing Chavez Jr.
Acted and spoken like a man
well prepared. How that plays out in the end is just hours away.