Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. vs. Marco Antonio Rubio: 10 Notes from the Fight
Saturday night, Feb. 4, saw the first major boxing card of the year as HBO Sports broadcast a Nonito Donaire/Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. double bill from San Antonio, Tex. All things considered, it has to be viewed as a good night for the son of the Mexican legend, as Chavez Jr, (45(31)-0-1), made intelligent use of his his physical advantages to fight a spirited and aggressive inside battle against the always-game Marcos Antonio Rubio, (53(46)-6(3)-1), earning a unanimous decision victory.
It was another win over a top-10 ranked middleweight opponent for Chavez, an action-filled war of attrition in which Chavez established himself as the boss early. He was able to walk Rubio down and trap him in corners and along the ropes in order to deliver his brutally-effective body attack.
Did he convince anybody that he is a pound-for-pound talent? Probably not. Will the victory keep the JC Jr. train chugging forward, continuing to generate big-money fights? Absolutely.
He Is a Chip off the Old (Granite) Block
Julio Chavez, Sr. is a Hall of Famer and was recently chosen as The Ring print edition's greatest Mexican fighter of all-time. In his prime, he was always at the top of many writers' pound-for-pound lists.
I'm not saying Chavez, Jr. is anywhere close to that level despite his undefeated record and his recent step up in talent.
What I am saying is this: He fights just like a kid who idolizes his old man and wants to be just like him in every way. And his stubborn persistence in adopting pop's rugged style of fierce attrition has begun to pay off. As a filled-out, gigantic middleweight bruiser, it is a perfect fit for his physique.
Rubio is a fighter with a reputation for punching guys out. What made him a particularly interesting opponent last night is that he also has a rep for being a tough veteran who can take down a much-hyped prospect, as he did to the then-undefeated David Lemieux in front of his hometown Montreal crowd last April, TKOing him in seven.
Chavez took Rubio's heavy artillery in a manner that had his legendary father cheering with pride at ringside. If the Chavez family tradition is, in the words of Larry Merchant last night, to "take 10 in order to give five," then Jr. proved last night that he's got the mettle to make it work.
A Conditioning Guru Like Alex Ariza Is Crucial in Today's Game
The old-timers certainly knew how to train and condition themselves, and many of the greatest training and conditioning techniques are literally ancient, the kind of stuff Roman gladiators would have spent an afternoon doing.
But sports science advances like in every other field of knowledge, and it can provide a critical edge to a modern athlete. Nowhere is this more true than in the combat sports, where athletes must train to maximum ability while simultaneously coming in at a set weight, often one that is much smaller than what they walk around at.
Alex Ariza has earned a well-deserved reputation as Freddy Roach's conditioning guru, "the Wizard of the Wild Card." His help during Pacquiao's astonishing climb through the weight classes has been his most famous body of work so far, but Chavez is a fighter he can take pride in as well.
Chavez is a giant at middleweight, and according to the HBO broadcasting team, he struggled hard to make the weight for Saturday's fight. There were questions about whether or not he would be physically sapped.
By fight night, Ariza had his fighter re-hydrated all the way to 182 pounds, seven pounds over the light heavyweight limit. There were no signs that Chavez had any lingering ill effects from the brutal cut. Clearly, Ariza is a critical part of Chavez's success.
He Is Going to Have to Move Up Eventually
In his post-fight interview, Chavez stated that he intends to continue campaigning at middleweight. At 25 years old, it is probably a very good tactical decision for him to endure the physical ordeal of the weight cut right now, as his bullying, press-ahead style is well served by having a physical size advantage.
But recovery time is among the first things to go on an athlete, especially a combat athlete who endures repeated weight cuts. I do not believe that Chavez in his early 30's will still feel comfortable with the grind that sort of weight cut represents, and I doubt his body will still have the resiliency to handle it.
Given the available talent at 168, I would not be shocked to see Chavez fighting there by his late 20's.
"Youth Was Able to Outrun Experience," at Least for One Night
The big story at the start of HBO's broadcast Saturday night was two-fold: Chavez had trouble making weight, and he was busted for a DWI only about two weeks before the fight. The question begged to be answered: Is Chavez, Jr. taking his training seriously? Moreover, Is he putting in the time to live up to the legend of his old man?
HBO commentator Larry Merchant phrased it very well, asking "Is youth wasted on the young? Or will youth outrun its mistakes?"
On Saturday night, Chavez, Jr. showed that he clearly had young legs sufficient to outrun any of his most recent mistakes. He looked better than he has looked before against his toughest opponent yet.
But he could have looked better, and he knew it, admitting in his post-fight interview that he would have to be better in the future. The subtext of these comments seemed clear enough: to keep climbing as high as he wants to, Chavez, Jr. will still need to do a little bit of growing up.
Chavez, Jr. Is Improving
To my eyes, Chavez looked better than he ever has before Saturday night. I'm not ready to start putting him even on the bubble for my top 10 pound-for-pound list. But under Freddy Roach's guidance, he is getting better at doing everything that has made him a success so far.
He was the same, straight-ahead, take-one, give-one brawler, but on Saturday, he showed improved abilities to protect himself as he waded into range. The Chavez who won a majority decision over Sebastian Zbik last June would have had some definite troubles getting hit as often by Rubio, a serious puncher with over four times as many career stoppages as Zbik.
He Is Still a Bigger Draw Than Talent
This is really more of a compliment to Chavez, Jr.'s charisma as a fighter and his ongoing ability to thrive under the spotlight of his father's legend than it is an insult against his ability. He is an exciting fighter who is able to beat most of the fighters in the world around his weight. It remains to be seen what his long-term legacy will be.
But as a boxing draw, he is a major player. In this regard, if not in talent, he is among the sport's biggest stars.
His inability to finish Rubio will also cost him style points in many books. Rubio has been stopped three times in his career, including by Kelly Pavlik in nine.
Marco Antonio Rubio Was a Tailor-Made Opponent for Chavez, Jr.
In my opinion, Marco Antonio Rubio now represents the biggest name on Chavez's resume. But while I was impressed by the win, my feelings are tempered by the fact that Rubio was a perfect style matchup for Chavez. From the first round on, Chavez was able to engage Rubio in exactly the style of fight he wanted to engage in.
Rubio, despite getting the worst of it for most of the night, continued to engage Chavez in brutal, body-against-body infighting. It was like Chavez was a big-swinging power hitter who Rubio insisted on trying to strike out with nothing but his above-average fastball.
But to extend the metaphor, perhaps Rubio doesn't quite have the ability to change speeds and pitch to location. His performance against Chavez was gutsy, and Rubio had his moments, even if he never really seemed to be a strong threat to Chavez.
Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. Is Very Emotionally Invested in His Son's Career
The parents of Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr.'s generation are notorious for a phenomena known as "helicopter parenting," hovering over their adult children and waiting to spring into action with hands-on involvement and advice.
Chavez, Sr., on his feet throughout the fight and frequently seen running to his son's corner between rounds, came very close on Saturday night to meeting the definition of a "helicopter parent." I frankly think his trips to the corner might have been technical violations of the rules limiting the number of seconds allowed in a corner.
We are talking about one of the sport's legends here, so if he wants to weigh in with his opinions, I am sure his son is open to listening. But the fact is, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. already has pretty much the best training support available in boxing. And boxing can definitely be a situation where too many cooks can ruin the soup.
Chavez Thinks He's Ready for Sergio Martinez Right Now
Ever since Chavez won the WBC world middleweight title that Sebastian Zbik was awarded in a conference room, the big question that has faced him has been, will he ever fight Sergio Martinez?
Martinez, (48(27)-2(1)-1), is in most writers' top five pound-for-pound and is The Ring lineal champion at 160 pounds. He is as much a consensus No. 1 in his weight class as any fighter in the sport.
In his in-ring interview after winning on Saturday, Chavez stated in no uncertain terms that he would welcome a fight with Martinez next.
Now this was couched alongside the words that boxing fans have come to hear, "we'll have to talk to Bob Arum about it."
So don't get your hopes up. It remains to be seen whether or not the Top Rank CEO will pursue a showdown between his star attraction at 160 and the man most experts believe has the tools to expose him.
But it is a sign that Chavez's confidence is growing along with his skill set.
Chavez's Size (and Chin) Might Cause Martinez Some Problems
Maybe the best comparison for Chavez right now isn't his legendary fighter, but instead, former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito, a man who put together a pretty successful career out of walking down, wearing out and finally beating up quicker and more polished, but frankly smaller, opponents.
I see Chavez at this points as a younger, bigger, harder-punching version of Margarito. If Chavez can employ just enough defensive skill to avoid Martinez's explosive leaping lead hook, he might be able to absorb the rest of the onslaught Martinez would connect with.
If he can do that and keep coming forward, he might be able to connect with enough of a body attack to slow up Martinez, who does turn 37 this month.
I'd still favor Martinez by a TKO somewhere around the eight or ninth. But after Chavez's performance against Rubio, I'd call it one of the best possible matchups at 160 pounds.