Commentary: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s moment of truth is here
It’s the moment of truth for Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.
We already know what Canelo Alvarez (48-1-1) has to offer. We already know that he’s the rightful favorite heading into Saturday’s fight with huge implications in Mexico. We know what Canelo can and cannot do. We’ve seen him deal with a number of different styles and make adjustments. We have also seen him come back from a loss against the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. Even though he’s only 26, there aren’t too many things that Canelo can do to surprise us.
It’s a totally different story for Chavez Jr. (50-2-1, 1 NC).
Much of his boxing career has been a case of what might have been, a calamity of missed opportunities. Perhaps none more evident than his near Hail Mary knockout of Sergio Martinez in the 12th round after being soundly outboxed in September 2012. That moment was indicative of everything Chavez has been. A maligned son of a legend who never seemed pressed to be at his best. Between the failed drug test after the Martinez fight, struggles on the scale and in training camp, somewhat listless performances and overall demeanor that suggests that boxing is more of a hobby than a career, Chavez simply hasn’t proven that he’s earned the cache that he inherited upon birth. Maybe it is because he would prefer to fly under the radar to relieve any potential stress.
But this is different. This isn’t just for him. Saturday night in Las Vegas on Cinco De Mayo weekend against the biggest star in boxing is his last stand. Lord knows that he wouldn’t be worth a guaranteed $3 million payday if the circumstances led him to another opponent. But because of his last name, the opponent and the country he represents, he’s been gifted one last opportunity to prove that he belongs among boxing’s elite and not just a fighter who coasted by on his famous father’s coattails.
The pressure is off Chavez in the sense that nobody is picking him to win. For all intents and purposes, he’s a glorified sparring partner who will help Canelo prepare for a potential middleweight showdown with Gennady Golovkin. It just so happens that the sparring partner is the son of the greatest Mexican boxer of all-time. But with the pressure off, Chavez can now shine.
Nobody expected him to make weight when the fight was initially announced. But he proved us all wrong by coming in a half pound under the contracted weight of 164.5 pounds. For the duration of the build toward this fight, he has appeared to be more focused than he’s ever been. Stepping on the scale simply verified that he knows what is at stake. He doesn’t want to embarrass those who cheer for him. He doesn’t want to be subject to another round of criticism from his father. He doesn’t want to fail.
To that point, we don’t know what Chavez has to offer. We’ve seen some flashes of brilliance in the ring against the likes of Andy Lee and John Duddy. But never have we truly seen a sustained performance from Chavez in the face of opposition. He has the opportunity to wash away the decade plus that he’s squandered his potential, but for the time being he’s merely viewed as a valuable name to add to a fighter who is looking to use him as a stepping stone to greatness.
We’ve never seen him in this position. How will he do against adversity? If Friday’s weigh ins were any indication, he’ll still have a massive following at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night. But he should also know that they are cheering on the idea rather than what has already been proven. Because, honestly, Chavez hasn’t quite earned those cheers given his past few performances and quit-job against Andrzej Fonfara in a light heavyweight bout.
He has the opportunity to prove everyone wrong on Saturday. He doesn’t even have to win to earn the respect that he’s long sought after. He just needs to fight. He needs to fight through whatever adversity that Canelo brings to him. If he fights for every minute of every round and makes it competitive, he will have proven that his heart is still in it. Perhaps then, at 31 years of age, he can begin the second act of his career.
It’s his moment of truth and we’ll all find out how we’re going to remember Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Saturday night.