Finally it’s here, the 164.5 pound catch-weight bout between soaring Mexican sensation Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 48-1-1 (34) and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr 50-2-1 (32), the son of legendary Julio Cesar Chavez. The fight is getting a lot of hype because in the United States and Mexico, Canelo is the biggest draw in boxing, at least for the moment. But I suspect that won’t be the case once IBF/WBA heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua makes his North American debut.
When Canelo-Chavez was announced, I wrote that it is not much more than a potentially fan friendly bout in which the result won’t change boxing’s landscape in the middleweight division – unless Chavez, 31, wins. And even at that, if Canelo were to lose, you better believe there would be an immediate rematch. Going one-step further, if Canelo won the rematch I wouldn’t be surprised if they fought a rubber match just to keep Gennady Golovkin on the sideline and getting older by the minute.
When a fighter is a draw like Canelo, 26, he usually has the latitude to make fights like the Chavez bout that are nothing more than money grabs, fully aware that his niche of dedicated fans will buy it. So in all honesty, the Canelo-Chavez bout is relevant in the Mexican community — based on their Latin genes, the fight is a natural — but in the overall picture it’s nothing more than a fight that will give boxing fans something to watch and debate for a few days.
Since 2012, Alvarez has been busier, having fought ten times against some of the biggest names in boxing, including Floyd Mayweather, the only fighter that he didn’t beat. During that same time Chavez fought eight times, winning six along with dropping a decision to Sergio Martinez and getting stopped by Andrzej Fonfara. Canelo has been the more consistent fighter and, in the eyes of most observers, is more skilled and more disciplined. Canelo is in it to make his mark and etch out a legacy that will be remembered long after he’s retired. Conversely, Chavez is a fighter who only does it because he’s good at it and it pays him well. However, this time I don’t think it can be disputed that Julio is very serious about this fight and I’d count on him bringing his “A” game.
One of the things that bothers me about this fight is that Canelo has never fought above 155 whereas Chavez fought at 168 in his last fight (and he reportedly struggled to get there). The contracted weight for the bout is 164.5 and Julio will supposedly be docked a million dollars for every pound he’s over the weight — which I tend to think won’t be the case. I’m hoping that I’m right because I don’t want to accept that Chavez is that much of a glutton or can be that sloppy and stupid. So I’m going to assume Chavez makes weight on the first try.
With that assumption, the intrigue becomes whether Chavez being the bigger guy becomes a factor. I doubt Chavez thinks he’s going to win by out-boxing Canelo because he must know Alvarez has the slightly quicker hands and the judges will be looking to shade rounds for him for the obvious reason that he makes for bigger fights down the road. But if Julio is the stronger guy, maybe he can somewhat offset the skill and speed advantage Canelo owns. It also cannot be overlooked that Canelo hasn’t been in with a fighter who could out-muscle and move him around, nor has he ever really fought a true middleweight weighing 160 pounds. He’s been feasting on smaller fighters the likes of Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan.
Conversely, if Chavez is drained at the weight, which is very plausible, he’ll be in trouble. Going by the video and pictures of Chavez recently, it’s worth noting that he looks almost too thin and no longer has a fighter’s body. In addition, Chavez hasn’t scored a stoppage win in nearly five years, not since halting Andy Lee in a fight that he was trailing through the six completed rounds.
Canelo has a terrific chin and I doubt Chavez at full strength would stop him. As noted, Canelo is the more rounded fighter and Chavez’s only true weapon over him is size and perceived physicality. Minus that, he loses at every turn and Canelo could look like the most complete fighter in boxing – because Chavez won’t go quietly, affording Canelo a few rounds to pot-shot him and pick his spots to get off with two- and three-punch combinations at his leisure.
The one factor in the fight that adds intrigue for me is Chavez’s new trainer, Nacho Beristain. He’s the best trainer in boxing and if there’s anyone who can find an angle for Julio to exploit his height and reach advantage, it’s Beristain. But does Chavez have the capability to execute Nacho’s battle plan once he is hit and caught up in the moment?
Canelo has shown against slow ponderous guys he can fight, counter and slip a few shots with his back to the ropes. And if forced to assume the role as the attacker, he can do that as long as the opponent isn’t a good mover. On paper Nacho might devise a way for Julio to have success, but guiding the lesser fighter to implement what is required for him to pull it off is another story altogether. Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo’s promoter, says he’s worried about the outcome because of Beristain’s wisdom, and he should be. But if you remember, when Nacho trained Oscar for his fight with Manny Pacquiao, De La Hoya looked dead from losing the weight he needed to in order to get back down to welterweight….and Chavez has had to lose more weight than Oscar did.
The only way the fight means anything other than a night’s worth of entertainment for fight fans is if Canelo loses. I don’t see that happening and look for Canelo to win by a late round stoppage or by unanimous decision if the fight goes the distance.
Lastly, like many boxing fans, I’m tired of Canelo, the boxing “diva,” fighting catch-weight bouts that force his opponents to move up or down in weight. There are really only a few fights worth our money to see Canelo partake in…..so wake me when he agrees to meet Gennady Golovkin, Jermall Charlo or Daniel Jacobs in a full-fledged 160-pound title bout.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com