This weekend, a boxing legend will partake in what is billed as his farewell fight.
Stop me if you have heard this one before.
True, the average boxing retirement normally results in a brief hiatus from the ring. Fighters often quip in the beginning of their career that they don’t plan on fighting forever. They want to win world titles and retire on top by the time they are 25-30 years old before moving on to bigger and better things.
Some are still around fifteen, twenty, even twenty-five years later. They are moonlighting as promoters, managers and rap artists, yet feel as if there is still unfinished business inside the ring. Despite their success outside the ring, the temptation to once again lace ‘em up is too strong to resist. More often than not, the urge is brought to a crashing halt, with the crash being said fighter hitting the deck in one too many comeback fights.
Some are less successful in life after boxing. Perhaps they drank away their money, or were finally nabbed by the IRS. So they come back, their name still a draw, and believe that there is more to add to their legacy. History has proven such line of thinking to only be half true.
With the recent comeback and farewell of living legend Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., the truth lies somewhere in the middle of the two scenarios. Yes, El Gran Campeon Mexicano has gone the drinking route in the past (though he is reportedly clean and sober for the past few years). And, yes, he owes money to the IRS.
But he’s also a success in many ways. For years he sponsored many families in his hometown of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, which at least partially helps explain his dismal financial status. Also, in a country rich with boxing tradition, Chavez is considered by many to be the greatest Mexican fighter in boxing history, and also high among the sport’s best ever among any nationality.
Though his achievements clearly speak for themselves – 107-5-2 (87 KOs) lifetime record, world titles in three weight classes, longest unbeaten streak to start a career in boxing history (89-0-1, though recent records show one more win added to the total) – it is his status outside the ring that still makes him a draw to this day. Despite attempts to call it a career several times, Chavez’s farewell fights have been met with so much success at the gates, that it makes it impossible for him to end the farewell tour.
At least not yet.
The plan, for now anyway, is for Top Rank (along with Sycuan Ringside Promotions, who promote the younger Chavez) to stage a series of farewell cards as long as Senior keeps winning and the fans keep paying. Chavez kicked off a two-fight series a while back in Mexico, capped by his rubber match with Frankie Randall, the first man to ever drop and defeat the Lion of Culiacan. The rubber match was about ten years too late, but well worth the wait. Both showed up in superb physical condition, and Julio delivered a throwback performance in front of a sold-out Plaza de Toros arena in Mexico City around this time last year.
Junior appeared on the under card, scoring a first round knockout against a nondescript opponent. The opponent was irrelevant in more ways than one. The fact that Senior and Junior appeared on the same card had fans packing the arena in droves. When Junior walked into the ring, he received a reception that rivaled … well, Senior.
When he enters the ring this Saturday night against Ivan Robinson (live from the Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA, 9PM ET/6PM PT on SET PPV, $44.95), he will once again be accompanied by his son, undefeated lightweight prospect Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. If you have ordered any PPV show in the past two years, chances are you have already witnessed the seemingly ubiquitous offspring in action. Having turned pro in September 2003, Chavez Jr. has fought nearly every month ever since then, running his record to 18-0 (13 KOs) heading into this weekend.
This card will be the third time that Senior and Junior appear together, but the first time they will fight on the same card in the States. This will mark the fourth straight fight in the States for Junior, and box office receipts and television ratings confirm the kid’s status as a future blockbuster.
With a February Telefutura card suffering a last minute loss of its main event, Junior was upgraded to co-feature on the telecast. It didn’t matter that IBF lightweight champion Julio Diaz passed on the card and his mandatory defense against Leavander Johnson in favor of a more lucrative bout with WBC champ Jose Luis Castillo. All fans needed to know was that Chavez Jr was still on the card, and they turned out all the same.
On a March HBO PPV telecast, Junior appeared on the undercard of Erik Morales-Manny Pacquiao. Despite the card boasting TWO Fight of the Year candidates in Morales-Pacquiao and Jorge Arce-Hussein Hussein, Chavez Jr still received one of the biggest receptions of the evening. Appearing two fights prior to the main event, Junior entered the ring in front of an already near-filled arena. Such fights are normally staged in front of half-empty houses, with fans biding their time in waiting for the main event. On this night, the Vegas crowd made sure to step away from the craps table in time to watch Junior wipe the floor with yet another carefully selected opponent.
One month later, Junior helped set a Dodge Arena record. On a night where WBO junior featherweight champ Joan Guzman was making a title defense, over 5,000 fans poured into a sold-out arena in the border town with the intent of witnessing the young Mexican in action. The demand was so overwhelming that Chavez’s six-round fight was elevated to main event status over a world title fight.
Not too shabby for a nineteen-year-old with less than two years of pro experience. What’s even more impressive is the fact that the kid can actually fight! Damn well, at that.
That leads us to the main sticking point of this tour. Call it “Adios” all you want. We know that Senior is not going anywhere any time soon - at least not until he hits all of the other stateside towns that helped make him one of the most marketable non-heavyweights in boxing history.
He’s also not going anywhere until he is secure in the notion that Junior is ready for primetime in a fighting sense. So far, so good. Watch a fight with Junior and try ignoring for a moment that his opponent is a Midwestern club circuit regular (this weekend being no exception as he takes on Indianapolis-based Adam Wynant).
Instead, watch him throw punches and move around the ring. What appears to be a teenage beanpole living off of his father’s name is actually an avid student of the game. This is no attention whore in search of instant fame; Junior improves with each fight, and not by means of downgrading his opposition, a path far too many prospects have traveled in recent memory. He learns and improves with each fight because he wants more than to just be known as the son of Julio Cesar Chavez. He wants to honor his father’s name, and make him proud with each fight.
When it is determined that Junior has arrived at that point, JC Superstar will then proudly step away and say Adios once and for all. By then, we will say “bienvenidos” to the next chapter in the Chavez – and Mexican - fighting history.