Like Father, Like Son

By Christian Giudice on September 10, 2012
Like Father, Like Son
Is he still Chávez’s son? Or has Julio Cesar Chávez Jr. become his own man? (Ed Mulholland)

When he enters the ring Saturday night, Chávez Jr. will once again be fighting beneath his father’s shadow; no matter what he does, that will never change…

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

              – Paul Simon

As so many boxing sons before him had done, Julio César Chávez Jr. followed his dad to the gym ever since he could remember. Trailing behind him had become a ritual. In every boxing gym the smell, the sweat, the earnest faces peering through the ropes to get a glimpse—those memories never truly leave a fighter. While listening to the idle chatter, and intently watching the rhythm of the speed bag echoing throughout the Mexico gyms, each punch, each sound had become ingrained within the young son of a legend.

Later, when he got older, Julito would be hoisted on his father’s shoulders after countless victories—the adorable little kid roaming around the gym flinging punches to the delight of the spectators. “Hey, the kid’s a chip off the old block,” they would yell. Back then, Julito was living out his father’s dream—born at just the right time.

In less than a week, that same boy who used to follow his father to the gyms is going to step into the ring in the biggest fight of his career when he faces Argentina’s Sergio Martínez for the WBC middleweight title at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. This is the fight that will change the way people perceive Julio César Chávez Jr. It will answer these vital questions: After all this time, is he still Chávez’s son? Or has he become his own man?

Chávez Jr. was born on February 16, 1986 in Culiacan, Mexico to Julio César Chávez González and Amalia Carrasco. By that time, his father, who was still undefeated at the time at 53-0 and WBC super featherweight champ, had already begun to secure his place as a boxing legend. No longer just another fighter padding his record against less than stellar opposition, Chávez Sr. had already added names like Juan Laporte, Rocky Lockridge, Roger Mayweather, and Ruben Castillo to his ledger.

When Chávez Sr. fought Castillo in April 1985, he exhibited the same feverish pressure and pace that defined his style: come forward, choose from an array of punches in his arsenal, employ effective head movement, and whittle down the body. He never had great speed, but he didn’t need it. Against Castillo, he was not vintage Chávez Sr., as he often received the brunt of exchanges. Yet, with that iron chin, no one could hurt him. Staying the course that afternoon, Chávez still disposed of Castillo in the sixth round with a late flurry.

“Alexis (Arguello) would hurt you with one shot,” said featherweight legend Ruben Castillo. “Basically, that’s what he did with me. But Julio and I went to the dirt. By the end of the fight I had a broken cheekbone. He was delivering these vicious body blows toward the end of that sixth round.”

Castillo added: “He simultaneously landed a left hook while I threw a right hand, and he hit me a shot to the ribs that I swear left me paralyzed. I rolled to me knees in the most excruciating pain. This guy was so relentless.”

At 130 pounds, Chávez Sr. was forcing people to acknowledge the lower, less publicized weight classes during a time when people still valued heavyweight fighters. Nearly a year after the Castillo fight, Julio Jr. was born. Deep down, Chávez Sr. wanted more for his son, a life away from the violence and corruption that he had grown accustomed to.

“Julio (Sr.) was so dedicated to the sport when he was fighting,” said Castillo. “I love Julio. His son has the tools, but everything has been handed to him on a plate. He doesn’t get it yet. I remember seeing him on Julio’s shoulders. He used to be throwing punches, and I used to say, ‘Look another Julio César Chávez.’”

Julito came along just in time to see his father systematically destroy a Puerto Rican legend, Edwin Rosario, in what would be his career masterstroke. In November 1987, Chávez Sr. (56-0) challenged Rosario (31-2) for the WBA world lightweight title. The manner in which he bludgeoned a great fighter like Rosario was unprecedented. At that point, Julito was too young to appreciate his father’s ring brilliance as the great Mexican champ trapped Rosario in the corner during the second round, slipped to his right and landed a vicious uppercut.

He was too young to understand how systematically his father was stealing Rosario’s pride with hammer-like body shots which echoed throughout the arena. Despite being known for his offensive attack, what people failed to notice was Julio César Chávez’s beautiful head movement, and innate ability to fight and defend himself on the inside, avoiding so many of Rosario’s onslaughts. In the fourth round, Chávez let the aggressive Rosario punch himself out, took a step back, doubled up on a left hook to body and turned it into an uppercut. Some fighters need that extra incentive, Rosario provided just that for Chávez Sr. By the 11th and final round, Rosario was a broken fighter.

The Rosario bout wasn’t the unmotivated or indifferent Chávez Sr. looking stale as he had in earlier performances; rather it marked a moment when his desire matched his performance.

Twenty-five years later, Chávez Jr. needs a Rosario. He needs a legitimate fighter to measure himself against. The young fighter has feasted on a host of competent, but not overly talented 154 and 160-pounders. He needs to look magnificent against Sergio Martínez. At this point there is no other option. Although at 26, Chávez Jr.’s 46-0-1, with 32 KOs, career record is comparable to his father, who was 57-0 at the same age, it is how they reached that point that separates them.

“Obviously with such different body types, there are only a couple similarities. There’s the left hook. Chávez Jr. is a big middleweight,” said Showtime analyst Steve Farhood. “In fact, he was big at every weight. And he was always ready to go to next division. He walks in at 178. He is always physically stronger than his opponent, and, as a result, that left hook is very effective at wearing down his opponents.

“His father was a better defensive fighter who needed to be close to his opponent. His father could take a punch, and so can Chávez Jr. but he hasn’t faced that same level of competition yet.”

When Chávez Jr. decided to make his professional debut in 2003, he arrived with the type of fanfare that can be both endearing and overwhelming. It would have been easy to live the comfortable life that afforded many perks as the son of a legendary fighting father. He could have stayed away from the ring. But, on his own, Chávez Jr. made the decision to fight and follow in those enormous footsteps. As he moved through the ranks of the 130 and 140-pound weight divisions, one thing became crystal clear for the fight audience: his lack of discipline. To this day, Chávez Jr. still has his critics who question his devotion to the sport.

“Chávez Jr. really doesn’t have great discipline,” said fight promoter, Don Chargin. “His dad played around between fights, but when it came time to train, he was very serious.
Chávez Jr. doesn’t prepare nearly as well as his father did. I thought he was over that, but, and you don’t see it often, this is a real crossroads fight. This fight will tell if he wants to be great or just be another ‘fighter.’”

Former world champ Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is impressed with the young fighter. “I like Chavez. He’s well-schooled. His father didn’t get out of shape because he fought so often,” he said.

If Chávez Jr.’s performance against Andy Lee last June is any indication of how the fighter is mentally and physically preparing himself for Martínez, then Saturday’s title bout should be a memorable one. When Chávez Jr. commits to throwing that hook to the body, he bends, dips, twists and rails violently as if pounding a butcher’s slab of meat. He threw and landed those body shots at will against Lee. Even when he missed, the offerings bounced off of Lee’s other body parts. His father, much smaller in stature, provided the blueprint for how to get inside to land those powerful hooks to the body against guys like Rosario and Castillo.

“Chávez Jr. doesn’t punch as well as his father. He can punch pretty good. He’s a good puncher, but not a great one,” said Mancini. “His father would wear you down, hit you with body shots you’d be pissing for a month. But the kid doesn’t have to be that.”

Years ago, Chávez Jr. fluctuated between looking good and looking average in his fights, as he showed little to no consistency. Whether Chávez Jr. is ready to shed the labels that have burdened him for years is not clear. One thing that is clear regarding Saturday’s title fight is that his is on the brink of greatness. He has taken a more circuitous route than his father to reach this point, faced personal demons that have directly impacted his performance in the ring, but along the way he has worked to become one of the world’s best fighters.

When he enters the ring Saturday night, Chávez Jr. will once again be fighting beneath his father’s shadow; no matter what he does, that will never change. But if he starts to land those punishing body shots, push Martínez back, and win his first world title, he will have proved that, even though he will always be Chávez’s son, he will finally have become his own man. And that may be his greatest accomplishment.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. NYIrish 11:28am, 09/14/2012

    Andy Lee gave an exhibition of blocking punches with his head. Poor lad should stay in Europe or find another gig. He was just in there to help tomorrow night happen.

  2. Don from Prov 09:55am, 09/14/2012

    Right—

    And Andy Lee, a puncher who can’t really punch and is there to be hit might=

    The perfect opponent to make Junior look good.

  3. the thresher 02:41pm, 09/13/2012

    Sergio is no Andy Lee

  4. Don from Prov 11:49am, 09/13/2012

    Rax, I see now that I had even more typos/brain farts in my post.  Anyway—

    I do agree that Martinez is not a great middleweight champion.
    And I would not be shocked to see a heavier, bigger, stronger Chavez wear down those aging Martinez legs IF he can reach Sergio and IF his chin is as good as it’s appeared up to now and he can take some big shots that will come his way.  I believe that he can reach Sergio.  The chin?  Not sure, but….

  5. raxman 07:26am, 09/13/2012

    don - i’ll forgive “current state etc ” you forgive my protege as = prodigy

    anyway i’m prepared to be wrong on both my dismissing martinez.
    i’m going early on both - where is the talent in being a ” monday morning expert” ?
    i’m not necessarily building up chavez jnr by the way (although i think he could be the real deal he has yet to beat anyone of quality) its more about tearing down maravilla.

  6. Don from Prov 05:15am, 09/13/2012

    “current state of quality of our boxers”


    Sorry!

  7. Don from Prov 05:14am, 09/13/2012

    Man, rax you sure do go after Sergio—

    I’d be likely to agree with Mr. Casey in his latest article that thirty years ago Martinez likely would not have been the middleweight champion (but if there was a jr. middleweight division….), yet that has more to do with the current state of quality than anything else.  I’m willing to bet that Martinez would have given Floyd all kinds of hell at 154, but I also sense that Chavez—keeping in mind that Andy Lee might have been the perfect opponent to make him look good—likely coming in a weight division and some larger, and if his chin is as real as it appears, might have in his dedication to body-work something to really work with on Saturday.

  8. raxman 07:46pm, 09/11/2012

    maravilla is the most over rated fighter to make a p4p list. if real estate is all about location than boxing stardom must be about timing coz beating pavlik in the throes of substance abuse and ko Paul “I drop my lead hand” Williams is all the guy has done. since then? B- grade euro fighters -and that isn’t by accident either.  its because his team have known full well the capabilites of their fighter. and before i get jumped on i’ll reiterate what i’ve said on this site before - what is more likely that after 40+ fights and at 37 he is proven to be (a) a protege or (b) a creation of clever match making in an empty division
    Jnr by ko rounds 9-12 unless martinez runs the last 4 rounds

  9. Bodyshots 10:59am, 09/11/2012

    Martinez has earned his 160lb supremacy but when one examines the instances in his career that have troubled him most (Margarito, Pavlik, Williams) it becomes apparent that Jr’s. strengths are perfectly suited to test/expose his weakenesses. a Jr. win would be an upset but not a huge upset. just an unexpected one and primarily for those who habitually defer to “expert” opinions and promotional Hype. IMO, Jr’s. timing couldn’t be more perfect for challenging Martinez and i’ve Always had faith in Roach’s ability to physically prepare his fighter. these factors combine to give Jr. one Hell of a good shot to upset Martinez. i’m looking forward to a good scrap.

  10. the thresher 10:59am, 09/11/2012

    Mike is right. Junior is his own man though he does lack a bit of self awareness.

  11. FrankinDallas 09:10am, 09/11/2012

    I was impressed at JC Jr on the HBO face to face “chat” with Sergio. The kid stood up to all of Sergio’s stares and putdowns. He looked like the real deal to me, but of course we’ll see in the ring. One thing for sure…he will outweigh Maravilla by at least 10 pounds by the time they step in the ring.

  12. Bodyshots 08:35pm, 09/10/2012

    Jr. is a legit challenger worthy of the matchup v. Martinez. i also think he has the goods to pull off the upset IF the best version of Jr. shows up. anything less (e.g., passive, drained, overwhelmed), and Martinez slices and dices at will but i don’t think it will go down that way. IMO, Jr. can replicate, sustain, and improve on Pavlik’s performance during the middle rounds of his fight v. Martinez. it was killer-instinct not necessarily superior boxing skills that felled Pavlik. otherwise, a plodding Kelly was effectively handling and outboxing Martinez who nonethless drew blood and went into a piranha-like frenzy all over Pavlik’s poor ususpecting mug and that was all she wrote. anyway, i believe Jr. possesses the size, strength, aggression, and poise to defeat Martinez to seal the first chapter of his own story.

  13. mike schmidt 01:31pm, 09/10/2012

    Jr. is already his own man. He is a legit challenger (or Champ depending how you view things these days) top ranked middle and that is a lonnnng way better than most would ever dream of. He is his own man—this fight will determine, in part, what level he now rises. See you ringside C.G.—you buy the popcorn…..............great article.

  14. the thresher 11:12am, 09/10/2012

    In a way, I think Junior may have more true grit than the old man. Senior was not beyond being a cry baby when he lost fights. He also got what some might call gift decisions. He was savage; no doubt about that. But Junior has his own style of manliness and machismo and I don’t think he inhreited it (except for the body punching and chin).

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