Feature Story

Proving Ground: Chavez Jr-Duddy

By Graham Houston

After a protracted and careful buildup, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. steps into the ring for his first 12-rounder when he meets John Duddy in the main event on Latin Fury 15 in San Antonio on Saturday. The two meet for the WBC’s recently inaugurated middleweight Silver championship, which is a steppingstone to the title — if anyone can keep track of world titles any more. For fans, though, the important thing is that this has the potential to be an action-packed fight.

Duddy, from Derry in Ireland but a New York resident since turning professional seven years ago, is Chavez’s toughest test. He has lost only once in 30 fights and at 31 he remains a fighter with ambition.

Boxers have told me that they know when they can beat an opponent, and Duddy has been hoping for a match against Chavez for some time.

Duddy’s plan is simple enough — to put pressure on Chavez and take him to places he has never been to in his boxing career. “I know I can take a punch and give a punch for 12 rounds, no matter what,” Duddy said over the phone from New York. “I’ve shown I can box a bit [but] at the end of the day I think me and Chavez will end up toe-to-toe, standing in the middle of the ring, and he’s going to have to come up with answers, if he really want to be there.”

Chavez, 24, has been training with Freddie Roach at the Wild Card gym in Los Angeles and the esteemed trainer will be in his corner in San Antonio. The decision to enlist Roach’s services indicates that the Chavez team is not taking Duddy lightly.

This is a fight that Chavez must win if he is to move up in class and meet the best fighters at 160 pounds.

Duddy has fought the tougher opposition, including a win over former world title challenger Howard Eastman. It does seem, though, that Duddy has gone as far as he is likely to go. He was surprisingly outpointed by the midlevel workman Billy Lyell in his sole loss, while in his last fight Duddy barely scraped home against Michael Medina, a useful but hardly topnotch boxer who was moving up from junior middleweight.

Chavez has shown good boxing skills and a left hook to the body somewhat reminiscent of the one thrown by his famous father, although of course there is a vast difference in the talent displayed by the great Julio Cesar Chavez and that exhibited by his son.

If Chavez is to go further in his career, though, it is imperative that he wins on Saturday.

Both Chavez and Duddy have been easy to hit, and each has struggled in fights where they were big betting favourites. Chavez, for instance, was under unexpected pressure against Luciano Cuello, suffering a bloody nose and being obliged to give ground against a determined opponent: one judge had the Italian fighter winning the last two rounds.

Chavez has sometimes given the impression of being a bit lackadaisical, but I expect him to be at the top of his form for this fight, in the same arena (though with reduced seating capacity) where his father fought the controversial draw with Pernell Whitaker in 1993.

I think that Chavez should be able to win on Saturday. He is the younger, fresher fighter and working with Freddie Roach might give him that little extra impetus.

On the face of it, this should go the 12-round distance. Chavez has not shown himself to be a particularly hard puncher against the sturdier type of opponent, and seven of Duddy’s last eight fights have gone the distance. There could be considerable contact in this bout, however, each landing good shots. The crowd and TV viewers should be well entertained in what the boxing fraternity might describe as a “fun fight” — not the highest level of skill but loaded with action and endeavour. In this sort of fight, a boxer can suddenly “go” from an accumulation of punches. Duddy has been cut badly in several fights. I believe that, while a decision win for Chavez seems the most likely result, that there is a chance he can halt a bloodied Duddy around the 10th round.

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