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Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Preview

In what became somewhat of a boxing tradition, Cinco De Mayo weekend will featured another super card in the boxing world, this time as Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KO’s) squares off against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KO’s) for an anticipated bout at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

With the hype that surrounds the clash between these countrymen, the result could be determined before either fighter steps inside the ring ropes, with preparation as the possible key to victory. The son of the Mexican legend, Chavez Jr. continues to be the subject of much criticism in terms of his dedication to the sport, and more specifically, the grueling training regiment required to compete at the world-class level. This aspect became so much of a concern that a stipulation that will fine him should he miss weight was included in the contract of the Alvarez fight.

While it might seem petty to insist on such a clause, if Chavez shows up over the limit, it’s not as though promoters or Alvarez himself will want to leave the money on the table of a sold out arena or a pay-per-view audience. So, it makes sense to attempt to ensure that Chavez doesn’t have an unintentional strength advantage if he arrives in Las Vegas without enduring the expected weight cut.

Turning pro at just 17, Chavez Jr. was always aware of his famous father’s status, which afforded him advantages and exposure when he decided to pursue the sport. Earlier resentment toward his father from his childhood was seemingly resolved when he entered the family business, and he lived up to the pace that the prior generation put in place, racking up 40 wins in a row in just his first six years in the sport.

However, while the family name afforded opportunity, it can also become a burden to carry a legacy. Chavez Sr. was an iron man in the ring, fighting in 115 bouts during his 25-year career. Quite simply, nobody ever questioned the heart of Chavez Sr. and that reputation is expected to be represented through the next generation of the family. If that’s an unfair expectation for the younger Chavez is a different matter, but it’s undoubtedly one of the reasons he became a draw relatively early after he began to compete.

The peak of 40 wins might’ve been a turning point in the career of the Mexican prodigy, who was suspended after his next fight with Troy Rowland when he failed a drug test in 2009. Reports that suggested difficultly with weight cutting have become common since that time. Unfortunately, less than favorable news also became common for him. Just two weeks prior to his unanimous decision victory against Marco Antonio Rubio in 2012, Chavez Jr. was arrested for drunk driving. Later that year, in perhaps the biggest bout of his career at that point, he was defeated by Sergio Martinez via the score cards. Chavez failed another drug test following the contest and was subsequently suspended  for the violation.

A series of mostly lackluster performances took place since then, and he was criticized even for some of the bouts he won, including his only fight last year, a contest against the lesser-known Dominik Britsch. As recent as just a few weeks ago, hall of fame trainer, Nacho Beristain explained that Chavez Jr. argued about where to finish training prior to the Canelo fight.

For all of the blunders outside of the ring or in the gym, make no mistake, Chavez Jr. can be an extremely capable athlete. With a style where he will take one to land one, a flurry of power punches is a staple of his offense. Not only does he bring power to the table, but also the ability to push the pace, an aspect that will be key to the Canelo bout. Still, many questions remain about this young veteran of the sport. At 31, he should theoretically be in the prime of his career, but maybe after over 50 fights,  he might be at the latter stages of his career. The bottom line is, Chavez Jr. must decide if he wants to be a professional fighter at the highest level and if he’s willing to sacrifice to do that. The outcome of this Cinco De Mayo clash, and specifically his performance, will probably determine the answer.

For Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, this Mexican showcase on pay-per-view is an opportunity for him to cement himself as the biggest star in boxing, an accomplishment that is certainly obtainable if he follows the usual game plan. The 26-year-old superstar is extremely well-rounded with a combination of power and speed. With Floyd Mayweather’s exits from the sport, Alvarez could potentially draw the biggest PPV numbers in boxing, especially with the dedication of the Hispanic fan base to support him, but how successful the buy rate will be depends on if he delivers an impressive performance. At 48-1-1, the only blemish on Canelo’s record is a loss to the previously mentioned Floyd, and “Money” Mayweather himself proved prior to his retirement that name value doesn’t necessarily automatically draw buys with the current market. The Floyd/Berto  bout garnered 400,000 buys, the lowest Mayweather offering in a decade. So, Canelo must showcase his skills to become an established draw on a long-term basis.

As for the fight itself, stylistically, the advantage will go to Canelo Alvarez. Chavez’s sometimes wild series of punches will allow his opponent to land punches. If Alvarez can use his defensive ability to avoid the flurries of offense from Chavez, Canelo can win on points. For Chavez, he will have to push the pace and prevent the opposition from deciding the direction of the contest. As for a winner, I have to say that I think Canelo Alvarez will get a unanimous decision win because he’s a more well-rounded fighter. Plus, Chavez Jr. hasn’t shown anything recently that would suggest that he could be effective against a fighter the caliber of Alvarez.

Assuming Canelo gets the victory, the subject of a potential bout with Gennady Golovkin will become a topic of discussion. Considering that Canelo already decided to vacate a title rather than fight Triple G, it’s doubtful the mega fight will get signed anytime soon, which is another example of how politics continue to keep boxing from the main stream popularity it had nearly twenty years ago.

As I’ve written before, some superstar fighters assume that avoiding the best competition to protect their record somehow ensures better money for the bouts they actually sign to fight, but in reality, they leave more money on the table when they decline to sign for bouts the public wants to see happen. The problem in this situation is, that while Triple G is considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, the general public doesn’t know who he is, which was apparent when his last pay-per-view event against contender Daniel Jacobs generated a mediocre 170,000 buys. That number says much more about the state of boxing and the distribution of the sport than anything about the spectacular skills of Triple G. Since Canelo is the bigger star, it might seem like he has more leverage in the negotiations, but it’s more even than that because while Golovkin can’t draw Alvarez type numbers on his own, Canelo won’t draw more of a buy rate with any opponent other than Golovkin.

Until next week

-Jim LaMotta

@jimlamotta

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