Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |



Will Canelo-Chavez Jr. live up to the hype? Si, says Chavez Jr.

Art by Richard Sloan

Boxing as an entity is enjoying some decent momentum, what with the heavyweight title fight from Wembley living up to expectations set during the hype-fest leading up to it.

Can the sport sustain?

We the people have a vested interest in the answer, as we don’t enjoy the sport as much as we indulge in an addiction to it. As with an addiction, we sample fare early on, treasure the rush, and then chase it thereafter, putting up with the vagaries of the chase.

The Saturday showcase billed as a battle for Mexican pride has provided some solid moments in the leadup, with some folks believing that there is enough real-deal animus between Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr to result in the inclusion of a vital if not always necessary component in the making of a satisfying prizefight: actual dislike.

Will this not be a new age battle in Las Vegas between two fighter/businessmen, who don’t see themselves in the old school warrior mode, (willing to sacrifice neurologically in the bid to establish an enduring legacy)? We hope not…

Canelo, turning 27 in July, has told us that really, truly, he’s not a fan of Junior, who he says has talked trash talk which has stepped a notch over the line. Junior, I confess, to me is the wild card here.

Photo credit: Zanfer Promotions

He’s surpassed expectations, himself, arguably, as a professional. The son of the legend could have skated by, not gone this route, which is destined to fail because the odds of surpassing the exploits of the guy deemed the best Mexican boxer ever made are beyond long. So, to me, Junior deserves credit merely for making it here. He’s 31, sports a 50-2-1 mark after debuting in 2003.

Let me repeat — the kid could have taken an easier route. I think he could have sponged off pop and his remaining fame and yes, enough of the fortune to live comfortably. But no, he chose this harder path, and yes, he’s enjured trips and falls, many slips on bananan peels he himself has put in his own path. To this point, though, Junior has beaten C-plus, B-minus and B fighters put in front of him. He’s lost to B and B-plus and a faded A or two. Canelo is an A-minus guy who through attrition, as the A-grade dudes of today age out, could elevate to A-skill status. Yeah, I don’t see Junior who fights infrequently and went the distance against Marcos Reyes and Dominik Britsch in his last two, troubling Canelo much if at all Saturday.

But the kid — and yeah, he’s 31, but when your dad is Julio Cesar Chavez the First, you will always be “the kid” — maintains he’s in stellar shape and will join Floyd Mayweather jr. as the only other person to topple Canelo from the winner’s perch.

On a Monday conference call, Junior said the right things, if, one can argue, at times in boiler-plate-y fashion. “Yes, I do feel that this fight is the biggest fight of my career, just because it’s a big event, because of who I’m fighting and because of the opportunity. I’m going to take advantage of it and make the best of it.”

Press has asked repeatedly about supposed dislike between the half-chip off the old block and the current pugilistic sensation for the nation of Mexico. They ask with an element of subconscious desire seeping through, they (we, me) hope that a genuine dislike translates to genuine fury in ring.

“Yes, there’s a real, true rivalry,” JCC Jr. said on the call, “and on Saturday night, people are going to see first-hand this rivalry, how real it is. Obviously we’re going to show it inside the ring.”



A query was floated asking about animus: “I know your relationship with Canelo is not good. Is it because he feels that you have not — you have not had to work that hard because of your bloodlines, etc.? Is that why you think that he does not like you?”

The son of the legend replied: “The answer is, I don’t know specifically why he doesn’t like me or this animosity exists. Maybe because I’m the son of Julio Cesar Chavez, I don’t know. That could be one of the reasons…I can tell you this: I am the son of a legend, but some of — all of my accomplishments have come from my work. I’m the one who wins these fights, and I think one of the reasons they picked me is because I put on good fights. And I’m the type of fighter that people want to see, and they know that this fight with me will generate bigger revenue, and that’s another reason why this fight is happening.”

Some prone to be dubious of Junior, who has in the past treated weight limit like conservative speed limits on smooth and open highways, while driving a muscle car, are hopeful that this time, he has his head screwed on straight and tight.

“The difference is I was listening to my corner, Mr. Beristain, he had me doing certain training and I did it. It was very difficult in the beginning getting used to this new regimen, but it’s something that I did. I followed it and I think that’s the difference in this fight.”

Also, he’s working with Memo Heredia, a strength and conditioning coach with a degree in chemistry, who has had good results in overseeing boxers desiring weight loss and making weight.

The boxer spoke on the issue. “Also, with regards to the weight, I’m close to making weight already and I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do with regards to my diet. It’s not easy, but I know when I focus on my diet and when I focus on making weight, I can do it. I’ve done it before, and this is just one additional time I’m doing it.”

OK, bottom line time — will you knock out Canelo?

“Yes, I feel I can,” Chavez Jr. said. “I feel that I’m a bigger guy. I fought at light heavyweight. He’s never thought fighters this size, and because of that, if things pan out and I get the right shot, I think of course it can happen.

Sorry to be that bearer of the bad news, the dark cloud dude. But Junior was asked if he’d thought about retiring before. His answer: “It may have crossed my mind at some point, obviously after the Fonfara fight and the Reyes fight, those were two fights where I don’t think that I had the same amount of passion that I needed to have. But this fight is a lot different. This fight has created a lot of passion in me, a lot of enthusiasm, and I think that that’s the difference in this. Excited about this fight, and I think that you’re going to see a different Julio that’s excited.”

Mmmm, ok. Contemplating retirement is one of those crossing the line deals in this fighting life which I am tempted to say is NEVER a good indicator of future success. But no, never isn’t the right word; persons have found the fire again, enjoyed resurgences after something popped into place, mentally. Maybe that’s Junior this time…

I don’t know; the Junior who was the “aggressor” and coming forward so much against Britsch, but often in a too passive manner, advancing but not behind anything, making himself ripe to be countered…whose lack of nimble agility left him ripe for Britsch hooks to the body…I see Canelo’s insistent pressure breaking down Junior two thirds into the scheduled session.

And we circle back to that subject of momentum, can boxing keep up the good showings…

“This last fight this past weekend was exciting. It’s always an exciting event whenever there’s a heavyweight match up at this level, especially two guys who are action fighters and that’s what we saw this past weekend. And like everything in boxing, it’s about the styles. Good styles create good fights and I think that’s what happened in that fight. And I think that we’re going to build upon that this Saturday, May 6. I think that my style with my opponent is a fight set up for that kind of event: Action fight with two styles that are going to be exciting for the people.”

And that, bottom line, is what basically any and all of us hope for. Saturday, May 6, on pay per view, the son of the legend has the best possible chance to cement, in positive fashion. This being boxing, a strange sport and world, that could come through losing, in thrilling and courageous fashion.