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Sergio Martinez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. exchange verbal jabs in advance of middleweight title fight

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Steve Marcus

Mexican boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., celebrating his 50th birthday, blows out candles on a birthday cake during a news conference at the Wynn Las Vegas Wednesday July 11, 2012. His son, undefeated WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., will defend his title Sept. 15 against Sergio Martinez of Argentina at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Chavez Jr., Martinez Promote Sept. 15 Fight

Undefeated WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., left,  of Mexico and Sergio Martinez of Argentina face off during a news conference at the Wynn Las Vegas Wednesday July 11, 2012. Chavez will defend his title against Martinez at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas September 15 - Mexican Independence Day. Launch slideshow »

Sergio Martinez walked to the podium Wednesday afternoon at the Wynn Las Vegas during a press conference for his Sept. 15 middleweight championship fight against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and opened by wishing Chavez’s father a happy birthday.

Juilo Cesar Chavez Sr., who turned 50, is a six-time world champion in three weight divisions and one of boxing’s legendary performers, and has the respect of virtually everyone in the boxing community. “Happy Birthday to Sr. Chavez. It is very nice to see him in front of us,” Martinez briefly said.

Seems cordial, right? Think again.

Martinez quickly changed gears and got to the heart of the promotion. The roughly 15-minute press conference featured both sides taking turns verbally jabbing the other, including the two-division world champion Martinez telling Chavez Sr. he would need DNA to identify his son after the fight at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“I hope he takes a picture today or tomorrow, because after the fight he will not recognize his own son,” Martinez said.

Earlier in the press conference, Martinez’s handlers also took an aggressive attitude in setting the tone for what promoters hope is the marquee promotion in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day. Less than two miles away at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, a competing card will feature Saul “Canelo” Alvarez against Josesito Lopez.

“(Chavez Jr.) should sell ads on the bottom of his shoes because it will be first thing they see on television,” said Pablo Sarmiento, Martinez’s trainer. He also said Chavez Jr. isn’t a fighter or an athlete.

Nevertheless, that didn’t faze Chavez Jr., who despite being the WBC welterweight champion is listed as a slight underdog against Martinez. Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KOs) is a -170 favorite at the Wynn (a $170 bet would pay $100).

“I have this great opportunity to shut his mouth. I am going to knock him out,” Chavez Jr. said.

Fighting in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day weekend is a date reserved for the sport’s brightest stars, which promoters are hoping fits the bill for Martinez, who is extremely popular in his native Argentina, and Mexico’s Chavez Jr. (46-0-1, 32 KOs).

While this will be the first time both fighters are the main attraction on a pay-per-view, promoters are confident the middleweights will put on a show worthy of the holiday. One is a rising star in Mexico; the other one of Argentina’s greats.

“We don’t have big fights like this enough. We need big fights like this to revive our sport,” said Lou DiBella, Martinez’s promoter.

Tickets go on sale Thursday starting at $25 for the upper bowl at the Mack. Lower-level seats range from $100 to $600. Visit unlvtickets.com for details.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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