By Francisco Salazar
Photos: Chris Farina/Top Rank
Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. has heard the comments all too often throughout his career. Comments that are critically constructive or just very critical from fight fans and even members of the media. Despite unanimous decisions or knockout victories, the aforementioned people do not think that Chavez is or will be a legitimate contender and have gone as far as saying that the 25-year-old has benefitted from questionable decisions in bouts in Mexico. With Chavez hearing those comments, they roll off of him like the sweat off his body when he trains at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, CA.
Chavez hopes that all of the hard work in preparation and having trainer Freddie Roach in his corner will lead him to victory when he challenges Sebastian Zbik at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
The bout will headline a “The Son Also Rises” card, presented by Top Rank, in association with Zanfer Promotions and Universum. The bout, along with the Miguel Angel Garcia-Rafael Guzman featherweight bout, will be televised on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” at 10PM ET/PT.
There is a saying that something could be a blessing and a curse at the same time. It may be appropriate to apply the saying with Chavez.
As most know, Chavez is the son of one of the greatest boxers from Mexico in the modern era. Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr. will be ringside on Saturday night and will be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame next weekend in upstate New York.
On the flip side, Chavez Jr. has been compared with his father. Unfairly because people may think that Chavez Jr. can equally duplicate what his father has accomplished in the ring or that he has benefitted from not facing the strongest opposition thus far in his career.
Chavez, (42-0-1, 30 KO’s) from Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, respects what his father has accomplished, but wants to step out of his father’s shadow. A victory over Zbik will be the first step, according to Chavez.
“I am very proud of my father for what he has accomplished,” Chavez, Jr. told Fightnews.com after a workout at the Wild Card Gym on Monday afternoon. “It is an honor to be his son. However, I want to make my own history. I feel that I’m ready to succeed by winning on Saturday night.”
Chavez has taken his career seriously since making his professional debut in March of 2003. He has had to because he does not have an amateur background.
His career has faced a few bumps in the road toward Saturday night. A suspect six round majority draw against Carlos Molina in December of 2005 that a majority of the press in attendance saw as a victory for Molina. Chavez would win a six round majority decision over Molina two months later.
Then there was a 10 round split decision victory over Matt Vanda in July of 2008, where one judge scored the bout 100-90 for Chavez when it looked like Chavez was going to be stopped in the last two rounds. It was later found out that Chavez was very sick before the fight.
Chavez would win a clear 10 round unanimous decision over Vanda four and a half months later.
With Zbik, Chavez faces a smarter and clever boxer. Chavez has had some difficulties with boxers who move, but the young Mexican has improved somewhat in the area of footwork in his last couple of fights.
“What I’m impressed about with Sebastian Zbik is that he has very good ring generalship,” said Chavez, who is coming off a 10 round unanimous decision over Billy Lyell on January 29th. “He boxes well, which would be a challenge for me. However, I feel my strength and power will carry me to victory over him.”
Whereas Chavez may have relied solely on his strength and power earlier in his career, he understood that was not going to carry him forward in his career. He has to learn how to box more effectively, whether it was improving on his footwork, putting his punches together behind a jab, and ring generalship.
This is why Chavez and his management team sought out the services of Freddie Roach, famous for being in the corner of Manny Pacquiao and other high-profile fighters. The five-time trainer of the year has been in the corner of Chavez for almost a year and a half.
After two fights with Roach (both unanimous decision victories over John Duddy and Lyell), the jury is still out on Chavez. However, Chavez is content with Roach in his corner.
“I’ve been very happy with Freddie as my trainer. I have learned a lot from him and continue to improve. With him in my corner, I have more confidence my abilities in the ring. We have worked a lot and had a very strong camp for the fight on Saturday night.”
There has been much debate over whether Chavez has earned a world title shot against Zbik. Chavez did not win an elimination bout and the opposition that he has faced is modest at best.
Now that he has his opportunity, Chavez will make the most of it. With a solid trainer and having 43 fights beneath him, Chavez thinks he is more than ready for his first attempt at a world title.
“I feel that I’m more than ready. I’m happy to be fighting in Los Angeles, where my father has fought numerous times. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for some time and I will not let my fans down. With my father in attendance, I want to give him the gift of winning the WBC belt.”
Should he win on Saturday night, Chavez would become the first Mexican to win a world title at the middleweight limit. He will face a tall order in Zbik, who did not come from Germany to just be an opponent. Chavez understands that he will have to be at his best and beyond to wrestle the title away from Zbik.
He may be familiar with the comments people have said about him, but he will also be familiar with the chants of “Chavez! Chavez!” that will rain down from the pro-Chavez crowd.
A victory over Zbik would also allow for people to call him something that no one has yet done: Campeon, or champion.
That is something Chavez could be used to hearing after Saturday night.