Chavez Jr.: low risk, high pay
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (left) stands with the architects of his relatively risk-free but lucrative career, promoters Bob Arum (middle) and Fernando Beltran, after looking sharp against journeyman Grover Wiley in June of 2007. Chavez Jr. has been criticized for the weak opposition he's faced in his 39 pro bouts, but his legendary father didn't face any threats in his first 40 fights, either. Photo / Ed Mulholland-fightwireimages.com
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fights in Tijuana on Saturday against one Luciano Leonel Cuello, an undefeated kid from Argentina. To show you how much a perfect record means, the 23 guys Cuello has beaten have a combined record of 66-132-9. And the show is on pay-per-view, no less.
With any other fighter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, Chavez’s promoter, might be defending his choice of opponents, or promising better things to come, or griping about how the big cable companies won’t give his fighters a break.
But he isn’t. His recent efforts have mostly involved arranging conference calls with the media on which he and local officials urge the masses to ignore all those severed heads that keep turning up in Mexico and come out to the Plaza Monumental bull ring for some good, wholesome family fun.
Nobody’s asking for forgiveness for the quality of Chavez’s opposition, despite the widely held belief that Junior is something of a protected commodity not to be taken seriously by people who take their fighters seriously.
Many believe Chavez’s near-perfect record is as deceiving as Cuello’s, and that if he were not the son of the great Julio Cesar Chavez, no one would know his name.
“I don’t see much of a future for him,” Hall of Fame promoter and longtime fight figure Don Fraser told me recently. “He can’t keep fighting these marshmallows forever. Eventually they have to put him in with someone who can fight, and when they do he’ll get beat. He’s cashing in on his father’s name.”
Others point to Chavez’ tender age of 23 and virtually non-existent amateur career – just two or three fights – and applaud Top Rank’s refusal to rush him into a fight for which he is not ready.
“He’s in the learning stage. He learns a little in every fight,” said Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, the former light heavyweight champion and currently the trainer of top light heavyweight Chad Dawson. “There’s going to be pressure to push him because of his name, but there’s no reason to. Let him learn.
“They shouldn’t even think about a championship or anything yet. He’s still growing. He doesn’t even have his man-strength yet.”
One might also consider that there is something to be said for going slowly. Junior’s record is 38-0-1 (29 knockouts). The 40th opponent of his father’s career was Adrian Arreloa, a 21-4 lightweight who left no big mark on the game, and that was not at all a reflection of the elder Chavez’s abilities or future.
Whichever side of the fence you are on, don’t ask Top Rank when Chavez will face tougher competition or fight for a title. Don’t ask for a timetable or a plan or any question that suggests he’s done little to earn the respect of fight fans or a measure of credibility that many young fighters crave. It’s irrelevant.
“The kid makes a fortune fighting at a certain level,” said Bruce Trampler, Top Rank’s matchmaker. “There’s no reason (to fight a Top-10 guy now). Why? Why does he have to fight Joshua Clottey, or whoever? You’ve got four southpaw titleholders at 154, and Junior’s not good with lefties. When he can still be learning his trade, why give them a big payday? Most of the title holders couldn’t get arrested. They’re not attractions. But he can.”
Trampler says Chavez, who has fought many times on pay-per-view, always produces good numbers among the Mexican and Mexican-American fan base and generates significant excitement, no matter who he’s fighting.
“The naysayers haven’t been around to see the kind of excitement exists when he comes out of the dressing room,” Trampler said. “He’s very charismatic. When a kid has charisma, people respond to him. This kid’s got charisma and would even if his name weren’t Chavez. If he was Julio Cesar Ramirez, he would still have a following, just not as big. But the kid more than pays his way. He makes a quite a bit of money while learning his trade.
“The champions only wish they could make the money he commands.”
There have been rumors for a long time that Chavez doesn’t train like he should and isn’t as dedicated as one would hope. Trampler doesn’t deny it.
“If he wasn’t Julio Cesar Chavez’s kid, he would have to train harder and fight more often,” Trampler said. “But he doesn’t. He doesn’t have to do roadwork every day or go to the gym every day. He’s not like (Antonio) Margarito or his father was early in his career; he doesn’t need to fight to live. His dad is a rich man and Junior grew up with a lot of money. Now he’s got a life and career of his own and doesn’t need to pay attention to HBO or Showtime or anyone.”
It’s no secret that Top Rank has made offers to Golden Boy Promotions for a Chavez-Oscar De La Hoya fight should De La Hoya continue fighting. If it’s made, it’ll be huge. And win or lose, Top Rank’s strategy with Junior will have paid off.
And you thought this business was all about finding out who the best fighters are.
Some miscellaneous observations from last week:
When he’s talking to them, all fighters are respectful and deferential to De La Hoya. He’s the man. When he leaves the room, they make jokes about deer meat and mimic him getting destroyed by Manny Pacquiao. De La Hoya suspects this, and it’s why he’ll fight again. Guaranteed. ÔÇª
Jose Luis Castillo was supposed to fight on that card in Mexico and had to pull out with an injury. And the unraveling continues. ÔÇª
Speaking of unraveling, what the hell has happened to Cristian Mijares? ÔÇª
Nicky Cook and Bradley Pryce gave great impressions of lawn darts on Saturday, didn’t they? One more afternoon like that and Enzo will be begging Joe to make a comeback. ÔÇª
Note to Robert Guerrero: When the referee asks if you can see, you say YES. Marco Antonio Barrera fought four rounds looking like an extra from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and you didn’t hear him whining. ÔÇª
Pavlik-Mora. Sure. Why not? ÔÇª
Oleg Maskaev preserved his title shot by beating unknown Rich Boruff on Saturday in Mordovia. Chances are good that if you have two hands and could ball them into fists, you could have done the same. OK, one hand. ÔÇª
Lucian Bute sure is cocky for a guy who barely survived Librado Andrade.
Bill Dettloff can be contacted at [email protected]