Saturday, April 01, 2023  |



Chavez and Duddy aren’t great but their fight could be

Fighters Network

You could be forgiven for thinking that the whole point of the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. -John Duddy fight on June 26 in San Antonio is to find out once and for all which fighter is the bigger fraud so we all can get on with our lives.

Well, maybe not the whole point. There’s a boatload of money to be made by everyone involved, especially Chavez, whose name and Entourage-type good looks have made him something of an idol in Mexico, even as he’s beaten no one within driving distance of a credible Top-10 ranking.

But when did making a boatload of money become illegal?

Chavez has had his trials: a recent suspension for having taken a diuretic before a lethargic win over Troy Rowland last November; a couple controversial decisions, namely against Carlos Molina and Matt Vanda, and what could be accurately termed a general lack of respect from serious boxing observers.

But as Chavez’s bosses at Top Rank might say, “serious schmerious.” The money Junior’s been pulling in headlining pay-per-view cards in and around Mexico the past several years is no joke.

And that he’s now training with Freddie Roach — who apparently at this time trains 98 percent of all boxers everywhere — suggests that Chavez’ days of half-assing his way into big paydays against janitors and busboys may be coming to an end.

“Certainly he’s his father’s son and he’s been looked after,” longtime Texas-based manager Bob Spagnola told “But you get to the point where you’re not looking to retire him at 38-0 or whatever, so you’re eventually going to put him in and that’s the situation that they’re getting to.”

Duddy has had it far worse. A huge ticket-seller in New York early on, he cultivated a passionate and loyal Irish-American following that rivaled Chavez’s hold on Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

Like Chavez, Duddy is handsome, apparently a deadly puncher, and charismatic. Throw in the giant Irish following and you’ve got gold. A whole pot of it. The difference between the two was that Duddy looked like a legitimate prospect.

And then the wheels came off.

Managerial problems. Cuts. Calls for better defense. More squabbles. A new trainer. More cuts. Another new trainer. A war with 116-year-old Yory Boy Campas. Another with Tony Bonsante, of all people. And what happened to the punch?

Now when you see Duddy it’s like watching a house cat who’s had his claws removed and his owners have thrown him back into the alley with no way to defend himself. He doesn’t know what to do. Run? Fight? Something in between?

So Duddy gets hit — a lot. With clean shots, the kind that lowers one’s IQ the way watching a Jersey Shore marathon might, or shopping all day at Walmart.

“At one point in time Duddy seemed like he had a shot at being the goods,” Spagnola said. “Early on he was so aggressive and was just banging guys around. Sometimes the strengths that brought you up you can’t use against a certain level fighter and you have to be adaptable.”

Alas, Duddy has failed the adaptability test.

He lost to 18-7 (3 knockouts) Billy Lyell in April of last year. In his last fight, he squeaked by once-defeated and inexperienced Michael Medina on the Manny Pacquiao-Josh Clottey undercard.

Not that having a bad night is unforgivable. Nor is having skin around your eyes that breaks up easier than a Hollywood marriage. But Duddy is in a bad spot: not fast or skilled enough to be a real boxer, not a great hitter anymore apparently, and a threat to bleed at the slightest provocation.

So what we have are two guys with padded records and giant, probably undeserved followings and guess what else?

Potentially a hell of a fight.

This is the kind of fight that boxing was built on in what we now call the Golden Age, when promoters and managers made careers out of maneuvering guys with big ethnic followings into historic rivalries.

And it didn’t matter whether the fighters were “great.” That wasn’t the point. The point was it got fans excited and put butts in seats and everyone made money, even the fighters.

As Spagnola said, “This fight’s got everything between the two of them except maybe a great fighter.” And no one said that’s a necessity.

Maybe this is Duddy’s management cashing out. Maybe it’s Chavez’s team finally making a move. Whatever it is, I’ll be watching, and not because I have to.

And really, that’s the point.

Some random observations from last week:

The best part of Friday Night Fights wasn’t David Lemieux’s blowout of Elvin Ayala, but Teddy Atlas’ impression of Salvador Sanchez. So Teddy has a sense of humor after all. Who knew? ÔǪ

The second-best part? Brian Vera’s stoppage of Sebastian Demers. Vera can’t fight all that well, but he can crack and with the right guy in front of him (see: no defense) he’s a fun guy to watch do business. ÔǪ

I’m starting to think we’ve all been underestimating Ivan Calderon, and that if he were anything but a mosquito-weight or whatever, we’d be calling him what he is: the best classical boxer since Pernell Whitaker. ÔǪ

Which brings me to this: Several readers have asked how I can justify praising guys like Calderon and Floyd Mayweather Jr. for their ring generalship and continue to mock Wladimir Klitschko’s safety-first jab-a-thons. It’s easy: Mayweather and Calderon (and others like them) use the tools they have — speed, smarts, mobility — to win. They are being who they are.

Klitschko, on the other hand, has relegated his most obvious natural gifts — strength, size, and punching power — to a secondary role out of fear of getting hit. And that goes against the natural order of things. It’s like watching an elephant jab a mouse a hundred times a round.

The same thing bugged me about Lennox Lewis, but at least against the right guys — Andrew Golota, Fransois Botha, Michael Grant — Lewis bit down and went after them. It took Manny Steward screaming in his ear for a half-hour for Klitschko to go after Eddie Chambers, for chrissakes. That’s pathetic. ÔǪ

Howard Cosell’s induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame bugs some folks, and I can understand that. By most accounts he was a miserable wretch to be around, wasn’t nearly as smart as he thought he was, and, strictly speaking, his broadcast skills were questionable.

Still, Cosell was a huge part of boxing for several decades and made some of the most dramatic calls in the sport’s history. Call me nostalgic, but I have no serious quibble with his induction.

Bill Dettloff, THE RING magazine’s Senior Writer, is the co-author, along with Joe Frazier, of “Box Like the Pros.” He is currently working on a biography of Ezzard Charles. Bill can be contacted at [email protected]