Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is a good fighter with some talent, strong backing and in ring determination. All of this was shown June 4th, 2011 when Chavez defeated Sebastian Zbik.
The fight was entertaining and could have gone either way. In the end, Chavez proved himself to be exciting and perhaps better than some initially believed. He is able to draw large crowds and media attention based on his style and the fact that his father is the all time great and beloved Julio Cesar Chavez.
What Chavez is not is a legitimate threat to the current middleweight champion. Forget for a moment that the fight was called a middleweight title bout. The linear middleweight champion is Sergio Martinez who looked very dapper as he sat in attendance for the Chavez vs. Zbik bout.
Chavez was easily hit by the light punching Zbik. The much better and much stronger Martinez would nearly decapitate Chavez with one punch, much as he did to Paul Williams.
Chavez’s handlers know that Martinez is too dangerous of an opponent. The fight will not happen any time soon, if at all, as long as Chavez is able to draw a crowd without a top level opponent.
Instead, Chavez will be matched up against other light punching opponents or smaller men such as his top rank stable mate Miguel Cotto. Cotto could outbox Chavez, but due to the size difference, (Cotto fights at 154 pounds while Chavez weighs 180 pounds), it is unlikely Cotto could significantly damage Chavez.
This is not immediately good for Martinez, who deserves the money he could earn fighting Chavez. It is also not good for the confusion it adds to boxing in that Chavez now has a belt and is referred to as a champion. However, overall, having Chavez occupy this position in the middleweight division may be good for the sport in the long run. It creates a minor league.
There are numerous other makeshift minor leagues in boxing. Often the heavyweight division has one. Nicholai Valuev served as the minor league champion until recently. He fought good but not great fighters for a title belt despite the much superior Wladmir Klitschko being the legitimate heavyweight champion.
Prior to that, John Ruiz held the title of king of the mediocre heavyweights while Lennox Lewis was the true champion.
Other divisions have a fighter who takes on this role. Arturo Gatti was a crowd favorite but never a belt holder in the junior welterweight division during the early 2000’s, but never the true champion. Felix Sturm currently also holds this position at middleweight catering to a European audience. Andre Berto, until recently, held this position at welterweight.
This often creates concern or anger amongst boxing purists. It is frustrating seeing a fighter of Chavez’s caliber being given HBO dates and money while better fighters languish outside of the limelight. It also can be misleading to casual fans who may mistake Chavez for being the true middleweight king.
However, having a boxing minor league has its benefits. Having a lesser title holder gives other fighters options as opposed to having a lot of inactivity while boxers wait for a shot at the championship. It can also, as was the case with the ever exciting Gatti, bring extra star power and entertainment to a division.
The minor league can even benefit the sport by helping to create a star. An up and coming fighter can gain fan attention and a title by beating one of these minor league champions. This helps create hype for an eventual super fight with the real champion.
David Haye recently beat the aforementioned Valuev which has helped to create a tremendous amount of interest for his upcoming fight with Klitschko.
One day in the near future a true contender will beat Chavez, then Martinez will have a real fight with large fanfare.
Chavez is not the best in the division but he is good, entertaining and his title reign does serve a purpose.