By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For FOX Deportes
There are those in boxing, fans or otherwise, who for some reason can’t bring themselves to believe in the talents of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Maybe it’s the name – he’s the son of a Mexican boxing legend who is beloved, and therefore there’s a perception that he will never be out of his dad’s shadow. Or the fact that the younger Chavez struggles with his weight after weigh-ins and before fights. Or that he’s so tall and lean (6-0, 160 pounds) that more compact, muscular fighters should be able to knock him down and maybe out.
The doubters should have seen Chavez against top middleweight contender Andy Lee on Saturday in El Paso, and also on HBO. Chavez systematically pounded away and broke down Lee, who by the seventh round was so damaged by all of Chavez’s solid hooks and uppercuts that the end came quickly when the referee stopped the fight during the round.
Chavez put on an impressive power display, landing 26 more power shots than his opponent. He looked so confident that in the fifth round, when Lee got in a shot and that backed Chavez off and against the ropes, Chavez just smiled through his mouthpiece.
Lee started out well enough, scoring with some effective jabs. Chavez measured his punches and didn’t throw as many, but he landed so quickly and effectively that the slow-motion replays of Lee’s skin jiggling from his face as he took a shot to the grill were nasty.
The left hand for Chavez worked well early. He threw a good flurry of uppercuts and hooks that stung Lee, who somehow stayed upright.
The fight was in Chavez’s hands by the sixth round, and he finished it in the next round. Julio Sr. rushed into the ring to celebrate, wearing the customary attire for his son’s fights – a headband commemorating the event.
“My legs hurt, or I could have knocked him out earlier,” Chavez told HBO in Spanish after the fight.
Lee was no slouch. He had Emanuel Steward as his trainer. His record was 28-1.
But Freddie Roach and his team developed a good game plan for Chavez Jr., and the kid, who is now 26, is still the WBC champ.
So now what for the undefeated (46-0-1) Chavez Jr.? He gets mighty Sergio Martinez, the WBC Diamond middleweight champion from Argentina who is 49-2-2, scheduled for Sept. 15 in Las Vegas.
It’s clear that the middle-to-lower weight classes of boxing are the ones carrying the sport, and Chavez-Martinez is as good as it gets.
If one day, Chavez and fellow Mexican Saul “Canelo” Alvarez agree to a bout – wouldn’t we ALL love that? – one of them is going to have to give up his ring entrance music. Chavez and Alvarez both use “Mexico Lindo y Querido,” a mariachi classic that has been called Mexico’s “other” national anthem.
To say nothing of the sides that Mexican fans will have to choose. Chavez and Alvarez are at present two of the premier Mexican fighters in the sport.
But that’s for future discussions. Chavez has the biggest fight of his career coming up in three months.
On a side note, that the Chavez-Lee fight was almost canceled in El Paso because of fears of Mexican drug cartels spilling their violence over the border from neighboring border town Ciudad Juarez proved to be a preposterous notion. Being concerned for fans’ safety is one thing, but for the University of Texas higher education system chancellor to almost call it completely out of fear was excessive.
El Paso needed that fight. It needed a show for its people and the border region, to reward them for being sports fans despite a lack of major pro sports in town, and to say to the rest of the U.S. that it’s an OK place to visit.
The fight’s attendance, by reports, was much lower than anticipated. Still, it was a good fight and it seemed fans were very happy to have it. And security was omnipresent, according to various accounts.