Saturday, April 20, 2024  |



Canelo-Chavez Jr.: Head-to-Head analysis

Fighters Network

Note: This feature appears in the current issue of THE RING magazine, which is available in stores now.

“Will it be better late than never or better never than late?”

That was the question then-HBO broadcaster Larry Merchant asked ahead of the 1987 superfight between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard. Two legendary fighters were meeting up five years after the idea of them getting together was originally hatched and, luckily, the matchup exceeded expectations.

Hotly anticipated fights rarely happen when they’re supposed to. And when they do come around, it’s hit or miss. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield was six years in the making and their first encounter was certainly better late than never. Conversely, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao negotiated for an equal length of time – they brought the boxing world to a standstill – and then provided a fistic cure for insomnia.

An all-Mexico showdown between Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was first suggested back in 2012. At that time, the 22-year-old Alvarez was a WBC junior middleweight belt holder who was learning on the job. Unquestionably talented, he was still to be tested at top level but his potential at such a young age seemed unlimited. Chavez, then 26 years old, held the WBC middleweight title. And while deprived of his famous father’s skillset, he had certainly inherited his durability and thirst for combat.

The fight looked like a natural. Then paths diverged.

Canelo, despite a one-sided loss to Mayweather in 2013, would go on to become the biggest draw in boxing after beating Erislandy Lara (SD 12), James Kirkland (KO 3) and Miguel Cotto (UD 12). Now armed with a mixture of world title belts in the junior middleweight and middleweight divisions, Canelo appears destined to square off against the fearsome Gennady Golovkin but – again – hotly anticipated fights rarely happen when they’re supposed to.

And that’s where “The Son of the Legend” comes in.

Following three successful title defenses, Chavez was defeated on points by Sergio Martinez in September 2012. The setback was devastating and his career has never fully recovered. Chavez was overweight and listless in two decision wins over Brian Vera, but his luck finally ran out against Polish contender Andrzej Fonfara, who battered him en route to a ninth-round stoppage in April 2015. Two decisions over undistinguished opposition got him back in the win column but this fight against Canelo is a massive undertaking.

The Mexican duo will fight at a 164½-pound catchweight on May 6 at the swanky T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The certainty of Cinco de Mayo celebrations and the historical rivalry between the pair have led to a complete sellout and the event also promises to do big numbers on pay-per-view.

How do the participants match up five years down the line? THE RING analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of both men by applying scores between 0-5 in key areas to come up with the answers.

Canelo (left) uses his speed to find Amir Khan with the left hook.


Canelo is not Meldrick Taylor but he has much faster hands than Chavez Jr. He switches well from head to body and lets his hands go in short, controlled bursts. Chavez has never been known for hand speed.

Canelo 4.0 – Chavez 2.5


Canelo is adept at positioning his feet to set up counterpunching opportunities, as evidenced in his fight with Miguel Cotto. Chavez is always looking to close the gap and, while he doesn’t do that with much finesse, a peak version got there more often than not.

Canelo 4.0 – Chavez 3.5


The left hook is probably Chavez’s best punch. On the inside he releases it constantly and it can have a debilitating effect over time. Canelo has more variety with his left-hand work and he is more likely to hurt an opponent with a single punch.

Canelo 4.5 – Chavez 4.0


The power in Canelo’s right hand has improved in recent years. It decked Austin Trout and knocked out both James Kirkland and Amir Khan on impact. Chavez has good range on his right hand but predominantly uses it as a set-up shot for body punching. Or he clubs opponents with it up close.

Canelo 4.5 – Chavez 3.5


Canelo has an accurate and steady stick, which he uses to set up a varied and elaborate offense. Chavez isn’t interested in using a punch unless it is guaranteed to drain the opponent. He therefore neglects this shot almost completely.

Canelo 4.0 – Chavez 3.0

Chavez Jr. (left) finds Sergio Martinez with a left hook.


This is Chavez’s office. When he gets inside, Chavez unloads hooks around the guard and works the body to good effect with both hands. He might take punches to get inside but he is capable of evening the score once he gets there. Canelo’s left hook to body and head is very strong. How good is the right hook? Ask Kirkland.

Canelo 4.5 – Chavez 4.5


Chavez has good length on the right cross and delivers it well. As with the hook, Chavez is also adept with the uppercut on the inside and can score cleanly with both hands. Canelo can damage an opponent with a single right cross and his uppercuts on both sides are ferocious as leads or counters.

Canelo 4.5 – Chavez 4.5


The staple of Chavez’s offense. Chavez has been known to fall behind in fights but he exacts a cost with an energy-sapping body assault. Canelo is a very good body-puncher but doesn’t rely on it as much as Chavez.

Canelo 3.5 – Chavez 4.5


If the rules required boxers to fight exclusively on the inside Chavez would be delighted. That’s where he does his best work. Canelo can find some nifty counters up close, but he has developed into a cerebral boxer-puncher who does his best work on the outside and at mid-range.

Canelo 3.5 – Chavez 4.5


Canelo is the better athlete of the two. He is quicker, sharper and possesses much better reflexes. Chavez makes up for his lack of athleticism by applying constant pressure in the hope of wearing down more gifted competition.

Canelo 4.0 – Chavez 2.5


Chavez was considered almost bulletproof prior to being stopped by Fonfara, but poor lifestyle and the higher weight class might have contributed to his downfall. A fully fit version at 164½ pounds won’t be easy to shift. Canelo has been in with the best and has taken his fair share of punches without capitulating in any way.

Canelo 4.0 – Chavez 4.0

Canelo (right) slipped and countered very well in his victory over Miguel Cotto.


Canelo has improved dramatically in his ability to slip punches. In the fight with Cotto he drew several leads from the legendary Puerto Rican, avoided them and countered with explosive single shots. He can catch and shoot well too. Defense is not an area where Chavez excels. He will happily take punches in order to land his own.

Canelo 4.0 – Chavez 2.5


Call it no contest. While Chavez has won many fights by virtue of his fitness, he has betrayed himself through lack of discipline in recent years. He might get it together for this fight but will his past exploits catch up with him? Canelo is a brilliantly conditioned fighter who has never been found wanting in this area.

Canelo 4.5 – Chavez 2.0


Chavez has been around the big fight atmosphere since he was a child and is ice-cool on the big stage. The same can be said of Canelo, who has been a professional fighter since he was 15 years old. Neither fighter is easily fazed.

Canelo 4.5 – Chavez 4.5


Both excel in this area in different ways. Chavez is obsessed with beating down the opposition until they submit, whereas if Canelo hurts an opponent with something big, he is a ruthless finisher.

Canelo 4.0 – Chavez 4.0


Canelo has developed into a terrific boxer-puncher. His skills were evident against Cotto but he also began to outbox the super-quick Khan, prior to landing one concussive bomb. Chavez is not known for versatility. He is more of a one-trick pony who seeks to wear you down by attrition.

Canelo 4.5 – Chavez 2.5

Chavez Jr. (left) taking a direct hit from Marcos Reyes.


Assuming Chavez is as durable as he was in his middleweight heyday, then his chin is superb. Jose Cotto almost floored Canelo with a left hand a few years ago but he hasn’t been hurt since. Canelo has shown a very good chin against the best in the business.

Canelo 4.0 – Chavez 4.5


Canelo has pulled away in recent years. Since September 2012, the best opponent Chavez has faced is Fonfara, who stopped him. Canelo has won seven of eight fights since then and six of his opponents were reigning or former world titleholders.

Canelo 4.5 – Chavez 3.5


Both have mixed with top competition. Chavez has wins over Sebastian Zbik, Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee. He also came damn close to outlasting Martinez. The difference is that Canelo has been mixing with the best recently: Mayweather, Trout, Lara and Cotto in particular.

Canelo 4.0 – Chavez 3.5


This is deceiving. Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, who will be working with Chavez, is one of the finest trainers in boxing history. However, you can only work with what you have. Canelo’s trainer, Eddy Reynoso, has done a wonderful job of developing Canelo into an elite-level operator.

Canelo 4.5 – Chavez 4.5


ALVAREZ: 83.5 (Single category average 4.2)

CHAVEZ JR: 72.5 (Single category average 3.6)


Canelo has a significant overall advantage in the 20 categories, which is reflected in the betting odds. Chavez is a 5-1 underdog to upset his countryman and there are two very good reasons for that. Canelo, who was a hot young talent when the fight was first discussed, has improved dramatically over the last few years. Chavez, conversely, has gone backward and lost his way. It’s an intriguing fight because of their history and the energy created by the national rivalry. Very honestly, though, this is Canelo’s fight to lose, even though he is at a size disadvantage. A few pounds and inches just don’t make up for the gulf in quality – Canelo TKO 8




Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for and a member of THE RING ratings panel.  Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing




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