“I had a very tough life. My parents divorced when I was young. My father was on drugs for 15, 20 years. When he stopped fighting, he had no money. We all had to work our way up to where I am now,” said Chavez. “I am happy that he is better now but it wasn’t easy growing up with that kind of family. I had to work very hard to get where I am. It hasn’t been all roses over here.”
Though he is 46-0-1 with 32 knockouts (including an impressive TKO win in seven over Andy Lee in June), Chavez is still seen as a spoiled, lazy kid by many in the media. Certainly Top Rank, his promoter, has taken advantage of his name (what good promoter wouldn’t?) but they have also invested quite a large amount of their own money developing Chavez over eight years to get him HBO-ready. It’s taken time, energy and focus. A big part of that has been the Chavez Sr.’s sobriety which has given his son peace of mind to focus on fighting.
“If you really look at it, it was the John Duddy fight that he stopped drinking and doing drugs, everything. You will see because before that, I wasn’t sure what would happen. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see my dad again. I didn’t know what was going to happen with him,” said Chavez. “But the last few years, he has cleaned up his act. That helps me because it helps me concentrate on my boxing because I don’t have to worry about him.”
With hardly an amateur career to speak of (two fights total), Chavez Jr. came up the hardest way you can. Even with the matchmaking favoring him, he was learning how to fight through a trial by fire. Still, he never felt forced into boxing or like he might want to find another profession.
“No. I never in my mind thought about getting out of boxing but there were some times that were difficult with everything that was happening around me. In boxing, sometimes there are a lot of emotions,” said Chavez Jr.
Chavez inherited his father’s name and chin which has thus far not been dented. In all his fights (though he may have gotten cut), he has not been hurt or stunned. Not when Sebastian Zbik (albeit a weak puncher) teed off for the first half of their fight or when Andy Lee landed his Sunday best right on the button. Nothing happened and that fight was effectively over. Even when he tires, Chavez Jr. seems to take a good shot.
All that has readied him for this moment: heading into his toughest fight against an aging champion (Martinez is 37 years old with a record of 49-2-2 and 28 knockouts) with a tricky, slickster style. Chavez will have to take everything he has learned to take advantage of this step toward superstar status.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “You go get the experience. You learn how to fight. You learn how to move in the ring. And I know how far I can go, what I can and what I can’t do. And that is very important to a fighter.”
There are some who say he takes a good shot because he comes into the ring closer to 190 than he does the 160-pound middleweight limit. In this fight, watching both men side by side, the difference in their frames is obvious. Martinez is a small middleweight better suited to 154 pounds. Chavez looks like he will go up at least one weight class from here.
“The weight doesn’t matter if I don’t know how to use it,” insisted Chavez Jr. “For this fight, he’s going to see a lot of different things no one has ever seen me do. We have a lot of surprises for him. We will use all our advantages that we have.”
Obviously, Martinez’s age is a factor. He is, by nature, a mover and a counterpuncher. He circles out of the southpaw stance with his arms down or in a defensive posture, hoping you’ll make a mistake. When you do, he attacks at angles and spins off before you can do anything about it. Chavez Jr. already knows he will have to employ his best weapon, a relentless body attack, in order to win.
“That’s my trademark now: body punching, going inside. This fight, it is going to be key,” said Chavez. “When [Martinez] fought in his last fight, his cup was way up here, almost to his chest. So I know that is what he is protecting.”
What made his father great was not only his style, the vicious body attack, the relentless pressure or the willingness to get in with just about anyone on the planet. No, it was something more that made Chavez Sr. great. It’s what all great fighters share, an ability to go to another level when the going gets tough. Martinez has shown that ability. Chavez Sr. showed it time and again. Now it’s his son’s turn to pull away on his own and forge his own legend. It starts with Martinez, a champion whose belt he believes Chavez is wearing through political chicanery. If Junior is to become the real middleweight champion, prove Martinez wrong and become his own man, he cannot lose on Saturday. He has to prevail.
“There is a great tradition obviously; the great champions that have given us satisfaction as the best sport in Mexico. I think the people enjoy seeing us succeed,” said Chavez when this writer asked what boxing meant to Mexico and his place in its future. “The people right now are looking for the next big Mexican star and if I can bring it to them in this important fight, that is important to me and my future.”
Thoughts and note of clarification…
“Sorry about that, Lou”
Monday afternoon at the Fortune Gym, Sergio Martinez had his media day. Lou DiBella, his promoter, was there. I asked Lou what he thought of a bet WBC President-for-Life Jose Sulaiman had made with my leaveitintheringradio.com co-host David Duenez, picking Chavez Jr. The bet was dinner, which I did not include in my original question but mentioned to Lou later. But in the interim, he went off and people filmed it and made it into a story.
As Lou would tell me, he was overzealous.
“While I prefer he didn’t make a dinner bet,” Lou told me later in the evening, “it’s not a federal offense. I overreacted.”
I gotta say, it brought a little life into the presser. Martinez appears very focused on the task at hand. His normally longer answers were short across the board.
I cannot wait for this fight.
What can I say? Boy, was I wrong. I rolled with Ward all through the “Super Six” and then went a bit crazy thinking Chad Dawson could make 168 pounds after six years of not doing it. Make no mistake, Ward was spectacular. He dominated from bell to bell on my card but Dawson looked spent from moment one. Listless, lifeless and passionless, Dawson looked like a guy who did not recover in the rehydration process.
After seeing them fight, it’s clear under any circumstances that Ward is the overall well-rounded fighter. No question. I’d like to see Ward vs. Andre Dirrell sooner rather than later. To me, it’s really the only worthwhile fight for Ward at 168, barring someone like Gennady Golovkin jumping up. The division is now clean.
And no, I won’t be picking against Andre Ward again anytime soon.
“Andre Ward reached for greatness,” HBO’s Max Kellerman said after referee Steve Smoger stopped the fight in the 10th per Dawson’s capitulation.
No, he didn’t, Max. Had Ward moved up to 175 to challenge for Dawson’s belt, he would have. Ward defended his turf. Dawson made the weight sacrifice and the reach for greatness taking on a dangerous, superior fighter in his hometown.
Is there a more dangerous fighter at 140 than Lucas Matthysse? The answer is no. Let’s see if the WBC will allow him near the winner of Danny Garcia vs. Erik Morales II. Yeah, I know.
For my money right now, give me Golovkin and Matthysse as two of the most exciting guys out there. We need more knockout artists and these guys are becoming just that.
Fights like this make you remember why people love heavyweights so much throughout history. There is something about two big dudes beating the hell out of each other until one of them can’t go anymore. Travis Walker may be an upset special to win but he is a lock to make any heavyweight fight exciting. Adamek is at that point but it made for some exciting outing.
Speaking of “It’s getting to be that time,” Vitali Klitschko is out of opponents and things to prove in my opinion. Thanks for the memories. You should be a pound-for-pound guy. Let’s get to the part where you relinquish that belt and a bunch of contenders square off for it.
I think John Molina Jr. panicked in there against Antonio DeMarco and ref Jack Reiss may have pulled the plug too soon. I’d have preferred him calling it a knockdown and going from there. Molina never got going. An absolute shame. I think the fight had more fun left in it.
But DeMarco came to win and win he did. Bring me DeMarco vs. anyone. If Broner wants it, I’d love that fight. If he doesn’t, we may have to consider caring about him as someone who wants to entertain us. I’m tired of all these different leagues in the sport. Let’s see some action.
You can email Gabriel at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
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