Monday, May 29, 2023  |



Chavez Jr. wants stiffer challenge

Fighters Network

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was 10 years old when he marched into the ring with his famous father before the aging legend’s first fight against Oscar De La Hoya in 1996. He did the same thing for the rematch two years later.

Each time, Junior watched from ringside as De La Hoya, young and hungry, sliced his former hero to bits with his superior speed and then stopped him inside the distance.

These aren’t pleasant memories.

Now, at 23 and a professional fighter himself, the younger Chavez would love the opportunity to restore the honor of his family and country by facing his father’s nemesis in the ring. And, obviously, the financial rewards would be handsome.

He said he won’t chase De La Hoya, though. This wasn’t even his idea. He said he’s embraced the concept only because people — family, friends, fans — constantly ask him about it. And that excites him.

Could it actually happen?

Who knows? De La Hoya, coming off his knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao in December, hasn’t even said whether he’ll fight again. He said only that he’s leaning toward retirement.

And if he does fight again, word has it, he wouldn’t be crazy about the idea of being in the opposite corner of a Mexican national. He apparently has had enough of playing the villain to people he considers his own.

Still, Chavez Jr., who fights Luciano Leonel Cuello on Saturday in Tijuana, Mexico, holds onto the idea.

“For me, fighting De La Hoya would be a dream come true,” Chavez said through an interpreter. “I’m not obsessed by it. I just know a lot of people want to see it. That’s what gets me going.

“ÔǪ And I was next to my dad when he went into the ring and fought this guy. I never thought I might have that opportunity myself one day.”

Chavez’s manager, Fernando Beltran, who also was there when De La Hoya fought Senior, echoed the young fighter when he said he wouldn’t actively pursue a fight against De La Hoya.

However, he believes the matchup would work well on myriad levels.

One, it’s good business; the fighters would make a lot of money. Two, the storyline – son tries to avenge his father’s losses – is dramatic and marketable. And, three, he said De La Hoya could gain something he’s coveted his entire career by doing it.

“I understand that Oscar doesn’t want to fight Mexicans anymore,” Beltran said. “I also know he was in Houston (for the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz fight last month) and the Mexicans booed him. The same thing happened in San Jose (on March 7). To gain the respect of the Mexican people, he should give Julio the same opportunity he received from Julio’s father in 1996 and ’98. That would say a lot about Oscar. And win or lose, he’d still have the respect of all the Latin people.

“He’s been looking for that respect since he started his career. Unfortunately, he has never gotten the complete respect of the people.”

And if he doesn’t fight De La Hoya?

Bob Arum, Chavez’s promoter, defended the deliberate pace at which the fighter has been brought along. He had virtually no amateur experience, which means he has had to learn the basics as a professional.

And that’s what he’s done – learn, he said. Chavez (38-0-1, 29) feels he now has a firm handle on the fundamentals and has gained considerable experience in the gym and in his 39 fights.

Now, he’s eager to emerge from a steady diet of journeymen opponents and see what he can do against someone with a big name, even if it’s not De La Hoya. He mentioned Vernon Forrest and John Duddy as possibilities.

“I really think that with the right kind of guy I could do a lot of damage,” he said.

The prospect of fight against Forrest might raise some eyebrows. THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior middleweight is 38 but still very good. Beltran defended the concept by pointing out that no one would object to Sergio Mora, who beat Forrest.

And Duddy, a limited fringe contender who is popular on the East Coast, would seem to be a logical step up for Chavez and a marketable matchup.

Chavez said a victory over Cuello – a fighter who is unbeaten (23-0, 10 KOs) but has fought outside his native Argentina only once, in Spain – on Saturday will prove to everyone that he’s ready to take the next step.

“That’s why Saturday is so important,” he said. “Obviously, I’m aware that these [De La Hoya, Forrest] are a different type of fighter, a different level of fighter. I’m also aware that with great motivation and great preparation I think I’ll be ready for them.

“I’d like to fight Forrest, maybe Duddy too. I’d go to New York to fight him. To me it’s about the challenge. Challenges like that will make me better than I am now.”

And don’t forget De La Hoya.

“Everyone says it’d be a special fight,” he said. “And I think it would be.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected] Please note the new email address.