Canelo vs Chavez: Junior Grows Up

Okay, I admit it: I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Yes, I know, he’s acted like a punk sometimes, but to me he always came across as a troubled kid, someone with a lot of baggage, who still needed to slay some dragons, so to speak, before moving on to a productive life. I can, at least to some degree, relate. Besides, Junior has always been too easy to judge or dismiss. Yeah, he’s behaved like a spoiled rich kid and he’s gotten preferential treatment because of his dad. It was grating to be sure, but the lazy disdain shown the guy by so many was equally off-putting. Junior acted like an ungrateful child of privilege, no more, no less. The fallout and the lessons were his to deal with.

Junior after his defeat to Fonfara: hard lessons.

But if reports from the training camp for his upcoming all-Mexican superfight are any indication, it looks like Julio may have finally grown up, may have grabbed a glove and gotten in the figurative game. Or ring, as it were. For Junior right now truly looks – wait for it – serious. He does. And in a way we haven’t seen before. EsNews has been running some videos of the guy in training and he appears to be lean, mean and determined. It looks like he knows this is his final chance and he’s determined to not piss it away. In other words, the boy just may have become a man. Better late than never, as they say.

But is it soon enough to affect his chances in the biggest fight of his career? Does Junior have any legit chance to beat Canelo Alvarez when they throw down next month? Well, the son of Chavez certainly has a height advantage. He also may (“may” being the operative word here) have a weight advantage come fight time. He also has a jaw like stone and an ability to grind an opponent down with pressure and serious shots before finishing the man off. Check out Junior’s battle with the talented Andy Lee if you don’t believe it. The bottom line is that, when he’s serious, Junior can fight. But can he fight at Canelo’s level?

Chavez knows how to grind out wins.

Now while many boxing fans (a great many, in fact) are furious at Canelo right now for his less than enthusiastic interest in facing the feared Gennady Golovkin (that is, it seems, anytime before Golovkin’s 85th birthday), it would be wise for people to not forget that Canelo is a skilled fighter. He may not be the sublime talent most pay-per-view stars have been, but he’s a very capable boxer. Sure, he lost to Floyd Mayweather, but there’s no shame in that. The fact is, against average opposition, Canelo is a monster. Against above-average competition, he definitely holds his own. I thought Canelo lost to Erislandy Lara when they fought a few years back, even though the decision went his way, but even so, there’s no doubt the guy composed himself well.

So come this Cinco de Mayo, does Junior stand a chance against a boxer with the skills and experience of Alvarez? In my opinion he certainly does, but it sure won’t be easy for him to come through and score the upset. First and foremost, I expect him to be well prepared for the weight drain he will have to endure in the lead up to the bout. Nothing less than a stellar training camp is going to prepare him for that.

Junior appears to be in phenomenal condition.

But Chavez has got Nacho Beristain in his corner this time, and while Nacho is arguably no better than Freddy Roach or Robert Garcia, trainers who previously worked with Junior, he’s a legitimate great nonetheless. Even more importantly, Beristain seems to gel with Junior, which means he’ll get the most out of his fighter.

Sometimes the trainer-fighter relationship can be overplayed in the age of endless blogs and social media updates but sometimes, believe it or not, it can be downplayed, as well. I think people may be underestimating the pairing of Junior and Nacho. Perhaps this is because Junior has gone through one trainer after another so the thinking is he’s beyond helping, but as a result I wonder if analysts and pundits are overlooking the working relationship here between Chavez Jr. and Beristain. After all, this is a Hall of Fame trainer who is putting his pride and reputation on the line. I expect his fighter to not only step into the ring in the best shape of his life, but also with a carefully planned strategy for how to win.

Chavez looking fit with legendary trainer Nacho Beristain.

Of course, Canelo himself can’t be overlooked in all of this. Sure enough, the red-headed scrapper looks pretty good in training. And indeed, he probably has more than a few points he wants to make come May 6. One being that he is the preeminent Mexican fighter of his era. The other is that he’s actually a tough guy, something people seem to have overlooked since the man literally gave up a world title rather than face Golovkin.

I imagine Canelo and his team would love to lay Junior out May 6. As in, out cold. No one has done that to Junior before and some serious acrimony has built up between these two, so I anticipate Canelo will be gunning for that impressive, highlight-reel knockout. A statement win, so to speak, which, after Golovkin’s less-than-impressive decision over Daniel Jacobs, would really bolster the idea that Alvarez, not Triple-G, is the A-side in that long-marinating superfight to be.

Canelo: looking for the big finish.

But let’s not completely dismiss the chances of Chavez Jr. to lay out Canelo. That’s an outcome most people don’t seem to think can or will happen, but, as mentioned, Junior has shown an ability to wear people down. He takes shots well, and he can give them well, too. As long as he doesn’t prove to be completely outclassed when he and Canelo answer that opening bell in May, I think Junior has a legit chance to pull off the upset for himself.

But even if he doesn’t, if he stands up to his more gifted rival and battles with everything he has and refuses to surrender, he may still succeed in scoring an important victory for himself. A courageous showing from Junior may not only help us to forget the way he quit against Andrzej Fonfara two years ago, it may even prove to everyone’s satisfaction that Junior has, finally, at long last, grown up. In other words, the boy just may have become a man. As I say, better late than never.          — Sean Crose

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