With Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. kicking off his US farewell tour tonight, he has brought son Julio Jr. along for the ride. Junior has endured a frenetic pace in and out of the ring. Entering fight number nineteen in just twenty-one months as a pro, the younger Chavez appears on just about every conceivable card associated with Top Rank and/or Sycuan Ringside Promotions.
Inside the ring, Junior already possesses a rare gift; the ability to throw a high volume of punches with pinpoint accuracy. Some just let their hands go, throwing caution to the wind. Others prefer to employ a more economical route, picking their spots while expending very little energy. Julio Jr. is enjoying the best of both worlds, even if against the best competition the Midwestern fight circuit has to offer.
What counts is that Junior is growing before his father’s eyes. Already disproving the myth that he is just a sideshow attraction milking the family name, Julio Jr. is already threatening to become his own boxing dynasty as he improves in ability and notoriety with each fight.
So far, the father-son relationship within the sport has been solid for the Chavez clan. El Gran Campeon has been content allowing others to handle his son’s career, as he prepares for the final chapter in his own career. Junior is doing his part to uphold the family name, and Senior has been in tip-top physical and fighting shape ever since his May 28 fight with Ivan Robinson was announced some two months ago.
But the question remains: how active of a role will Senior demand once he puts an end to his own legendary career?
Plenty of great fighters have attempted to keep their father or siblings in their corner throughout their career. Some were content with allowing their bloodlines to get them through the front door, though deep down longing for their father’s support. Others wished their fathers would stay out of their business, yet never stop trying to seek their approval.
The most recent father-son relationship to hit the crapper would be that of Felix Trinidad Jr and Sr. Unlike most father-son collaborations, theirs managed to work throughout Tito’s incredible career. Don Felix, a former journeyman featherweight, spent the early portion of Tito’s run limited to training and advising. Beyond the ropes, the younger Trinidad was free to live as he pleased, so long as he lived clean and showed up for training.
That lasted until Don Felix believed that promoter Don King was holding back his son. Taking on a more vocal role in his son’s career, papa Felix had Tito break from King’s stable, in search of marquee fights. The move led to Tito’s HBO debut in late 1995, though it was short-lived. After knocking on Larry Barnes in a co-feature with Pernell Whitaker’s title defense against Jake Rodriguez in Atlantic City in November 1995, Team Trinidad looked to move to the next stage; a super fight with Whitaker and the seven-figure payday to go along with it.
Main Events paused at both. Don Felix did not; he immediately packed his bags and took his son back to King, where a new contract was negotiated. Naturally, King promised the world. Once settled in, Trinidad quickly discovered that the penthouse with an ocean view turned out to be a studio overlooking the back alley.
After another threat to jump ship, the two Don’s once again worked out details. Only this time, Don Felix knew better than to take King’s word at face value. After a pair of 1999 fights on HBO, Papa Felix threatened to pull the plug on a super fight with Oscar de la Hoya unless King kept his cut limited to $2 million of their proposed $10.5 million purse. Through those negotiations would begin the legend of Don Felix, shrewd businessman. Without even threatening to sue, Papa Trinidad got what he wanted; a super fight for his son, and King to accept a hard cap on his take.
Once Tito escaped Vegas with a majority decision in handing Oscar his first career loss, Don Felix would tighten up the reins. Once a fighter who always ran late because he never met an autograph seeker he didn’t satisfy, Tito would no longer enjoy such access to the free world outside the ropes. Public appearances were kept to a minimum, even during down time. Joining a promotion for any given fight was now out of the question. You have questions; Don Felix would answer them for you.
Financially, the shrewd business tactics reaped major benefits. From the de la Hoya fight to the Hopkins fight two years later, Tito would earn $45 million in a span of just six fights. Once limited to Showtime co-features and PPV under cards, five out of Tito’s six fights from September 1999 to September 2001 were PPV headliners.
Technique-wise, Tito suffered. Having now conquered his third weight class, Trinidad fell in love with his two-fisted power. Perhaps for good reason; in winning three titles at two weight classes in a four-fight span, Trinidad scored three knockouts and eleven knockdowns in thirty-four rounds of work. What became ignored during that stretch was the fact that Tito could be easily outboxed when his opponents weren’t busy peeling themselves off of the canvas.
The decline in ring smarts reared its ugly head big time when middleweight ruler Bernard Hopkins wiped the floor with Trinidad in their September 2001 encounter. Tito had no answers for The Executioner, and Don Felix had no worthwhile advice to give his son. All he could do was rescue Tito from a career-worst beating, climbing into the ring upon a twelfth-round knockdown when he realized his son was a beaten man who refused to give up.
After a rehab win at home, Trinidad retired. At the time, it seemed to be for good. But the lure of big money paydays and bright lights prompted arguably the greatest fighter in Puerto Rican boxing history to return to the ring. Again, it was Don Felix starting and confirming the rumors, as rarely an interview involving Tito actually featured Tito. It was Don Felix speaking for his son, or standing in front of his son on the occasion Tito was granted public access.
A comeback fight against human punching bag Ricardo Mayorga offered the illusion that Trinidad reverted back to the boxer-puncher of the mid-nineties. But one fight later, slick southpaw Winky Wright would once again bring forth the truth; a technically sound boxer owns Trinidad all night every night.
After twelve rounds and a mere fifty-eight punches landed, Trinidad contemplated retirement, though left the window open for a rematch with Wright, as per the rematch clause in their contract. That window was slammed shut when Papa Felix decided that he was forever done as a trainer, that he had nothing left to offer his son or the sport.
Many would argue that Tito would be better off without his father, who long ago seemed to take him as far as he could skills-wise. Instead, Tito honored his own word that he would start with his father and end with his father. Whether or not he could bounce back from the loss was now irrelevant; Don Felix sealed his son’s fate the moment he announced his own retirement.
One son who refused to be shackled by his father’s handcuffs would be Roy Jones Jr. Easily the most physically gifted fighter of the past thirty years, Jones rode a wave of momentum and sympathy in his dominance in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. Having served on the business end of the worst decision in Olympic Boxing history, Roy settled for a bronze medal and the Val Baker Most Outstanding Boxer award at the games before turning pro.
The world knew the truth; Jones deserved the gold. NBC agreed, as they signed the teenage phenomenon to an exclusive deal in the beginning of his career. All they asked was that Jones progressively fought a respectable level of competition on his rise to the top.
Roy Jones Sr. had other ideas. He decided that his son would take no risks on his run to the top. Perhaps it was payback for being robbed in Seoul, South Korea. Perhaps he lost confidence in his son’s ability to impress all the people all the time. Whatever the case, his caution-at-every-turn approach led to NBC telling the Jones clan to take a hike, as they terminated the contract.
The incident would not be the first between the two Roy’s, as things never got better. Having already made far more of a name for himself than his father could ever dream of during a failed attempt at a pro career, Roy grew increasingly impatient with his father’s approach to his son’s career. They disagreed on everything from opponent selection to how to handle southpaws (despite the fact that Roy had yet to face on as a pro at that point).
Eventually, the younger Jones realized that in order to maximize his incredible potential, he would have to find a way to ditch his Dad without straining their relationship. He was forced to settle for one out of two. He broke free from his father, but wound up enjoying the prime years of his legendary career alone. The move allowed Roy to become his own boss, as he started up Square Ring, Inc. once he conquered the middleweight and super middleweight divisions. He was also forced to become his own teacher, as it took years for he and his father to eventually reconcile.
Shane and Jack Mosley went in the opposite direction. As long as Shane was a fighter, his father was always in his corner. Sure, Shane visited other gyms and learned from other trainers. But come fight night, it was one voice, one familiar face always in his corner.
As he tore through the lightweight division, very few doubted Jack’s credentials. So impressive was his run, that many in the boxing industry believed “power-boxing” to be the wave of the future. Jack even parlayed his son’s success into a Trainer of the Year award at one point.
But once Shane started losing, Jack’s credibility would be questioned at every turn. What else do you have to offer once power-boxing fails? Very little, as Shane went over two years without registering a win during once stretch. In fact, his lone win between July 2001 and November 2004 came via controversial fashion in a rematch with Oscar de la Hoya.
Shane refused to believe it was due to his father’s lack of worthwhile advice. But once Winky Wright dominated him in their March 2003 undisputed junior middleweight showdown, Shane knew that a change was necessary. Jack understood, at least in public. Behind the scenes, many believed that Shane’s wife was pulling the strings, adding a new twist to the family boxing business angle.
Whatever the case, Shane would enter the Wright rematch in November of that year with a different trainer in his corner for the first time in his twelve-year career. In was Joe Goossen, though the results weren’t much different. Shane dropped a majority decision, though offering a far better performance than in the first fight. What was also apparent was the upgrade in advice offered between rounds; Goossen never shied away from letting Shane know when to pick it up, and also knew how to compliment Shane without allowing to settle for good enough.
Oddly enough, Shane decided that further change was necessary. Geography was offered as the reason for the supposedly amicable split. Shane preferred Big Bear, while Goossen liked his fighters to train in his Van Nuys (CA)-based boot camp. Shane moved on, but not back to Jack. Despite the fact that Jack was active as a trainer (having recently served in the corner for Paul Briggs’ failed light heavyweight title attempt versus Tomasz Adamek), Shane opted for a new face; former middleweight titlist John David Jackson. So far in 2005, Shane has as many wins as he earned in the last three years with his father in his corner.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. so far has eighteen wins. The difference between him and all of the aforementioned is that his father does not appear in his corner between rounds. Yes, Julio Senior can be seen by his son’s side during promotional tours, and even accompanying his son into the ring. But well before the bell rings, Senior is already out of the picture. Shortly before his son climbs those three steps up, Chavez exits stage left to his ringside seat.
For the moment, he lends his name and face to the party in allowing his son additional exposure. Let’s hope once his own career finally comes to an end, Julio Sr. continues to accept such a role. Julio Sr. is already a huge part of boxing history in a career that will forever be remembered.
Here’s to hoping it’s not the only part of boxing history he does not ignore.