VAN NUYS, CALIF.-While members of his Reno camp walked in the front door, Julio Cesar Chavez strode in the backdoor at the Ten Goose Boxing Club gym on Friday.
Chavez (48-1-1, 32 Kos) will be fighting next week against Andrzej Fonfara (26-3, 15 Kos) at the StubHub Center on Saturday April 18.
The super middleweight match will be televised on Showtime.
The son of Mexico’s greatest boxing hero (to those 50 years and younger) has been a marvel to those who knew him during his youth in Riverside, Calif. Back in the early 2000s the lanky awkward kid was just learning the second line of techniques in boxing. He knew the fundamentals but was learning how to use his length. He was already much taller than father even at the tender age of 14.
Slowly the smoothness began to come. Both he and his younger brother Omar Chavez would arrive each day at Willy Silva’s gym in a rural part of Riverside County. On hot days you could smell the heavy scent of cow manure that permeated the air like a heavy blanket. The dairy farms of Ontario were in close proximity and the cow manure was plentiful.
Even as young teens it was obvious that the older brother was more focused than the younger Chavez. Many observers would often relay this to me adding that Omar had more genuine talent. But focus and determination are important factors in prizefighting.
Silva, whose gym was built by him in his backyard, was known as the trainer of Carlos Bojorquez. He kept the Chavez boys busy running different stations from heavy bags, to speed bags to shadow boxing. They always showed up, but it was Julio who would be steadfast in his training. The younger brother liked to talk to the various people watching the action.
Now both will be fighting on the same card. Omar Chavez (32-3-1, 22 Kos) faces Richard Gutierrez (28-15-1, 17 Kos), a dangerous opponent if taken lightly. The younger Chavez has serious pop and can also take a punch like his father and older brother.
“How have you been?” asked Omar Chavez. “Where do I know you?”
I told him it was back in Riverside. He laughed. It was a long time ago.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. remembers well. We’ve encountered each other many times over the years. The last time I saw him was at Dodger Stadium where he was scheduled to throw out the first pitch. He looked as if he felt out of place in a baseball stadium filled with 45,000 fans. When he saw me that day a few years ago a big smile crossed his face. It made him feel at ease to see someone familiar.
“How is Willy?” Chavez asked that day with a chuckle. “Tell him hi.”
Chavez has improved 100 fold since those days. His technique improved immensely and his ability to set up that deadly hook has proven to be quite potent. Against Sergio Martinez he showed the true impact of his power and the ability to set it up. He’s also shown a world class chin that current WBO champion Andy Lee could not crack.
The baby faced Mexican destroyer needs a win here against Fonfara. Should he emerge victorious a match with middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin could be made in an instant. A fight between them would sell more than 30,000 tickets.
“He does everything I tell him to do,” said Joe Goossen, the venerable trainer and younger brother of the late great promoter Dan Goossen. “I never had a problem with Julio in training camp.”
Next week will determine both Chavez’s fate.
Oscar Valdez headlines a fight card in Laredo, Texas on Saturday April 11. The super featherweight bout will be shown on UniMas.
Valdez (14-0, 13 Kos) faces Jose Ramirez (25-5, 15 Kos) of Mexico who currently lives and trains in Oxnard, Calif. It should be an interesting test for Valdez who is the closest I’ve seen to resembling Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
The undefeated Valdez is managed by Frank Espinoza. If that name is familiar it’s because he has managed many of the most popular and talented prizefighters of the past 15 years. Israel “El Magnifico” Vazquez in my opinion was the greatest of Espinoza’s fighters. Others include Martin Castillo, Yohnny Perez and Abner Mares, who departed to sign with Al Haymon recently.
Valdez has that swagger and confidence that the great Chavez had whenever he stepped in the boxing ring. Inside a boxing ring Valdez, like Chavez, always maintains attack mode and seems to be able to hit and not be hit despite his aggressive approach.
Ramirez should provide a very stiff test. Though he’s lost back-to-back fights, those defeats were to Vasyl Lomachenko and Abner Mares. Those losses came to magnificent boxers.
Can Valdez add Ramirez to his victim’s list?