Gym Notes: Roach gets mixed results from Chavez
The good news is that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is working hard with new trainer Freddie Roach. The bad news is that Chavez, who fights John Duddy on June 26, has only had three full weeks with Roach and isn't picking up on all of the respected trainer's pointers. Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank.
Freddie Roach’s decision to train Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. drew a mixed reaction from fans and people in the industry.
Some believe the four-time Trainer of the Year will get the most out of the Mexican legend’s eldest son, who does appear to have some talent and technique. Others think Roach is wasting his time with a spoiled, lazy underachiever who might not have what it takes to get by his next opponent, John Duddy, even with a future-hall-of-fame trainer in his corner.
I didn’t know what to think of the Chavez-Roach pairing when it was announced. I also wasn’t sure about Chavez’s chances against Duddy, who he fights on a pay-per-view card June 26 in San Antonio. The Irish fringe contender has his limitations but he’s the 24-year-old prospect’s toughest opponent to date.
So I took a wait-and-see approach.
And with the Duddy fight less than two weeks away it was time to drop by the Wild Card Boxing Club to see how Chavez was progressing under Roach’s supervision. I popped in around 2 p.m. on Monday, shortly after Chavez arrived and as the Hollywood, Calif., gym was being cleared out for privacy.
Chavez (41-0-1, 30 knockouts) was kind enough to let me stick around and watch him go 10 rounds with Michael Medina and Rashad Holloway, but I’m still not sure whether he’s working well with Roach or ready for Duddy (29-1, 18 KOs).
I have mixed impressions of the private workout. The good news is that Chavez is at the Wild Card and training hard (by his standards, anyway). The bad news is that he arrived to camp two weeks late and 20 pounds over the contracted weight (160 pounds).
Chavez’s late arrival was the result of work visa issues but the extra pounds are the kid’s fault and an indication that he’s been calling the shots at his home gym in Culiacan, Mexico.
However, Roach has been the boss since Chavez reported to the Wild Card three weeks ago. Because of the limited time, Chavez has quickly advanced from sparring six rounds three days a week to going anywhere from nine to 12 rounds in gym sessions. Roach said Chavez will spar the Monday of fight week before they fly to San Antonio.
Chavez weighed around 168 pounds on Monday, so Roach isn’t worried about the young man making weight, but he wishes he had more time to go over specific technique for the fight.
The results, so far, have been mixed.
“He’s doing alright,” Roach told RingTV.com. “He’s trying to do the moves I’m showing him, but it’s not coming easy. He’s done things his way for 42 fights. He’s not going to get everything I show him in just three or four weeks.”
So Roach is keeping it simple for this camp. He just wants Chavez to use his jab more than he usually does.
“He has a very good jab when he uses it,” Roach said. “If he works it the way I want him to against Duddy, he can make it an easy fight.”
The good news is that Chavez and Roach appear to have a good rapport. They seem to enjoy talking boxing.
Chavez asked Roach about his opinion of Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales as the master trainer wrapped his hands.
“Who was better?” Chavez asked.
“Barrera and Morales were just about equal,” Roach said. “I think Marquez has better technique than Barrera, and he’s a better boxer than Morales, but not a better fighter.
“Who do you like the best out of those three?” Roach asked Chavez.
“They’re the same,” the fighter said.
“Who’s the better person?” Roach asked.
“Barrera and Marquez are good people,” Chavez said. “Morales? Sometimes.”
The bad news is that their rapport doesn’t necessarily mean Chavez is listening to Roach’s advice about using his jab.
“It’s been difficult to get it out of him,” Roach said. “He wants to fight like his dad, who was 5-foot-7. It’s like he doesn’t realize that he’s almost 6-foot-1.”
Chavez didn’t use his height or jab much while sparring with Medina and Holloway, but he was still effective in spots, even when the sparring partners worked their jabs overtime.
Chavez isn’t the hardest worker or the most naturally gifted young fighter out there but he does a good job of blocking punches as he applies pressure. Once he’s in close, he’s usually able to do damage with his uppercuts and his left hook to the body and head.
Chavez has very good inside technique and his block-and-counter skills were on display against Medina, a 23-year-old junior middleweight prospect who battled Duddy to a 10-round split decision on the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard in March.
Through five rounds, Medina (23-2, 18 KOs) was able to stick and move on Chavez, occasionally landing hard one-two combinations. However, the Modesto, Calif., native was unable to keep Chavez from advancing and landing punishing left hooks to the body when in close.
Chavez landed the heavier punches but Medina was busier. Chavez allowed Medina to out-hustle him by taking portions of the round off. Conditioning coach Alex Ariza told Chavez in Spanish not to rest during the end of the third and fourth rounds. The young man, who is obviously not used to working hard for all three minutes of a round in sparring, obeyed and let his hands go in the final 30 seconds.
The second half the 10-round sparring session was supposed to be with Feder Chudinov, but the Russian middleweight prospect has been sparring with Alfredo Angulo at the Maywood Boxing Club recently and his trainer preferred to stay at one gym. So in stepped Holloway (11-1-2, 5 KOs). The welterweight prospect had just returned to California from an eight-month stay in Las Vegas. Monday was his first day back at the Wild Card, and although he had already sparred during an earlier workout, he gladly gave Roach a hand by going five spirited rounds with Chavez.
Holloway showed Chavez greater speed than Medina, but he was dwarfed by the Mexican star. Still, the smaller man gamely stood and traded with Chavez.
They stood center ring for three rounds, almost forehead to forehead, with their gloves up around their chins as they looked for openings for their hooks and uppercuts. Chavez, clearly comfortable with this style of fighting, playfully tapped Holloway’s gloves and headgear, which agitated the 29-year-old boxer.
Holloway nailed Chavez with a clean right cross. Chavez responded by pressing him to the ropes and pounding his sides. “Let’s go!” Holloway yelled at the bell.
In Rounds 9 and 10, Chavez pressed Holloway but didn’t punch with full force. I wasn’t sure whether he held back because he didn’t want to hurt Holloway or because of fatigue.
And to be honest, I couldn’t tell whether Chavez was tired. He wasn’t throwing his hands enough to be really fatigued, which irked Holloway, who barked “Come on, man, work!” whenever Chavez laid against the ropes without punching.
However, just because Chavez wasn’t working hard enough for Holloway, who is used to sparring with volume punchers like Manny Pacquiao and Angulo, doesn’t mean he’s not in shape or ready to go hard rounds with Duddy.
His body looked solid when he removed his T-shirt for the final rounds of Monday’s session. Who knows? He might actually be ripped by the time he gets down to 160 pounds.
The bad news for Chavez is that he probably won’t make the Duddy fight an easy one by using his height and jab.
The good news for fans is that it will probably be a damn good scrap.
Like Chavez, junior welterweight prospect Frankie Gomez has been criticized for not using his jab more. However, the East Los Angeles native possesses the kind of speed and power that enables him — so far — to dominate his opponents without boxing’s most basic punch.
Watching him hit a heavy bag at the Youth Center gym in East L.A. on Tuesday made me feel sorry for the bag. Gomez (3-0, 3 KOs), who unlike Chavez had an extensive and decorated amateur career, can crack with frightening suddenness.
His last opponent, Akeem Akinbode, only lasted 46 seconds. Gomez’s next opponent, Geoffrey Gaya, is a tall, rangy southpaw boxer who has never been stopped. Gaya (5-2, 1 KO), who faces Gomez in next Thursday’s Fight Night Club headliner, should be able to go rounds with the 18-year-old phenom, which will make for interesting television (and if you can’t find the Fox Sports Net broadcast, watch the live stream here on RingTV.com).
Gomez’s trainer, Ronny Rivota, teaches an aggressive form of boxing that relies on hard, accurate punching. There aren’t a lot of jabs in Gomez’s game but the footwork and angles are present.
“There’s no video on Gaya, but he looks like a boxer,” Rivota said of the Florida-based Kenyan, who outpointed a Russian welterweight prospect with a 22-2-1 record in his last fight. “He’s going to get a lot of pressure with speed from Frankie. If he doesn’t have anything to keep Frankie off him, he’s in trouble.
“If he turns out to be a great boxer who can take Frankie’s pressure, that’s OK. Frankie can box, too.”
Gomez’s co-manager, Hector Ibarra, says Gomez is very good at making mid-fight adjustments.
“He may not always look pretty doing it but he finds ways to get his punches through,” Ibarra said, “and when he hurts his opponent, he’s a great finisher. People notice his speed and power right away, but it’s his determination that makes him special.
“Nobody is going to out-will him.”
If time permits, I plan to watch Gomez spar for the first time on Thursday.
I’m looking forward to doing the television commentatary on the June 24 Fight Night Club. I think Gaya might take Gomez the distance for the first time, and junior welterweight prospect Jesse Vargas (10-0, 5 KOs) is in very tough with veteran Ernesto Zavala in the card’s six-round co-feature.
Ibarra and Rivota told me they’re keeping their eye on Vargas, a Roger Mayweather-trained fighter I’m very high on.
But I’ll go into that more in a feature story on Gomez next week.
I stated this in my last Gym Notes column but I must repeat it because it’s the truth: An Alfredo Angulo sparring session is better than 95 percent of the boxing matches that are on TV.
The junior middleweight contender, who fights former beltholder Joachim Alcine on July 17, was at the Fortune Gym in Hollywood last Monday.
Angulo (18-1, 15 KOs) went to war with two Jesse Reid-trained prospects: Ukrainian light heavyweight Anatoliy “Dragon” Dudchenko (9-2, 7 KOs) and Colombian middleweight Frank “Bomb” Paines (11-0, 10 KOs). Angulo brawled four rounds with each before two “cooling off” rounds with junior lightweight speedster Stan Martinouk (9-0, 1 KO).
Reid, who also trains Martinouk and come-backing bantamweight Jose Navarro, was impressed with Angulo.
“He’s unbelievable,” the veteran trainer said after the session. “He even beat me up a little bit while I was standing next to the ropes.”
Reid told me that Navarro (27-5, 5 KOs), who made a successful return to the ring last month, is back in the gym and preparing for the headline bout of the July 22 Fight Night Club.
Navarro is scheduled to face San Bernadino, Calif., native Joey Silva (9-2, 4 KOs) in a six-round bout.