On October 8, as one of the pay-per-view televised preliminary bouts to Jose Luis Castillo’s destruction of Diego Corrales, undefeated junior welterweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. scored his 23rd consecutive victory in 25 months against the game but overmatched Jeremy Stiers, now 9-5 (6 KOs), of Gardner, Kansas.
Although he is 19 years old, the tall and babyfaced Chavez, now 23-0 (18 KOs), doesn’t look a day over 14. But his youthful physical appearance belies his emotional maturity and subtle intensity. While the youngster worships his father Julio Sr. – who many consider the greatest Mexican fighter of all time – he is determined to punch out his own identity as a prizefighter and is effectively establishing his own foothold in the world’s most brutal vocation.
“Considering the fact that he had only three amateur fights and is at the level he’s at, I’d say he is a very attractive prospect, even if his name was Julio Cesar Jones,” said Bruce Trampler, the matchmaker for Top Rank Inc., which has promoted several of the young Chavez’s bouts.
“He reminds me a lot of [former WBA lightweight champion] Sean O’Grady, who learned his craft by fighting professionally every two weeks in Oklahoma City. Without the benefit of an amateur background, for the kid to be where he is says a lot about his natural abilities.”
Trampler compares Chavez Jr. to a young colt that, prior to developing the musculature in its legs, appears awkward and uncoordinated. “Now that Julio has his legs under him and seems to be growing into his body, he is settling down on his punches and throwing nice combinations,” said Trampler. “There is no rush to develop him, but it won’t be long before he catches up to his peers.”
Top Rank does not have sole promotional rights to Chavez, and there have been rumors that the youngster will try to avenge the TKO loss that unheralded Grover Wiley of Omaha, Nebraska, handed his father on September 17 in Phoenix.
“I couldn’t stop him from fighting whoever he wants, but I certainly don’t think that is a good fight for him right now,” Trampler said of Wiley, a wily veteran who is 30-6-1 (14 KOs). “Julio Jr. is calling the guy out. That’s what fighters are supposed to do and it is commendable. But that’s why they have managers: to stop them from talking with their heart instead of their head. Wiley is a strong, solid guy. There will be plenty of time to chase him down the road.”
Unlike his father, who grew up in abject poverty in Culiacan, Mexico, Julio Jr. alternated between living with his mother in the relative comfort of Riverside, California, and visiting with his hedonistic dad in Culiacan. While it could be argued that the youngster’s life was somewhat privileged, Trampler says he is more than willing to make the sacrifices necessary to become a formidable champion.
“In many ways, father and son couldn’t be more different,” said Trampler. “Julio Sr. is a tough, gnarly guy who came up the hard way and was always hungry. Julio Jr. is a sweet, good natured, very respectful kid who came up in a richer environment. But he is just as hungry for boxing knowledge as his father was.”
Chavez Jr., he adds, continually soaks up boxing knowledge like a sponge. He never complains, never wavers in his commitment to his craft, and never expects his birth name to open up any doors for him.
“He is an intelligent and bright-eyed kid and a delight to be around,” said Trampler. “He can be quiet, but he takes everything in. Against Stiers I had him in the same dressing room with [interim WBC flyweight champion] Jorge Arce and Castillo. Arce is a funny bastard, always cracking jokes and making people laugh. Castillo is sullen and grumpy. Big Chavez – who commands an inordinate amount of respect – cracked one-liners as he watched his son warm-up. The kid didn’t say anything; he just kept grinning and soaking it all up. Right now, he’s happy being seen and not heard, but that won’t last for long.”
And that is not entirely true. One place Chavez Jr. is already being heard is within the Mexican community, where he is quickly developing an iconic status that could one day rival that of his father.
“In the eyes of Mexican fans, this kid can do no wrong,” said Ricardo Jimenez, who handles Hispanic media relations for Top Rank. “He is selling out arenas in Mexico, California, Arizona and Texas on his own. In San Diego, he drew 3,000 people, most of whom bought tickets on the night of the fight. It’s incredible.”
Moreover, he has been securing high-profile spots on much bigger shows, including the recent battle between Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao and, of course, the Corrales-Castillo rematch. The media spotlight has caused him no trepidation or timidity whatsoever.
“This is a very together young man,” said Trampler. “It’s going to take a lot to rattle him. You have to remember; he stood up to his father and asked him not to drink in public because he was an embarrassment. And his father listened to him. By no means is the kid fainthearted.”
Although Chavez Jr. has had a lot of fights in a relatively short period of time, there are no shortages of dissenters who say he is being coddled by overprotective matchmakers like Trampler, who is quick to dismiss that notion.
“He and Jorge Paez Jr. are both sons of great warriors, and both are among the best prospects in boxing right now,” said Trampler. “But there is such a big difference in their level of amateur experience. Jorge had about 65 amateur fights, which counts for a lot. Julio Jr. is learning on the job.
“But I’m seeing improvement in every fight,” added Trampler. “Against Stiers, there were flashes of him mixing up punches like his father. But this kid is too good to keep comparing to his old man. That’s not fair to him. Throughout his career, he’s going to have to accept that, but in my opinion he’s got what it takes to establish his own identity. Only time will tell, but there is no reason to rush him along. I mean, c’mon, he’s still a teenager.”