Special thanks to Hip Hop Artist Speak! AKA Speaky Maidana, an avid boxing fan, for his contribution to this article.
We’re only a few days away from the “Cinco de Mayo Weekend” bout between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and the media machine that is Golden Boy Boxing promotions has been pumping out sound bites and statements to give it a more enticing element to what some consider to be a one-sided fight. Golden Boy’s Canelo Alvarez has been keeping busy calling Jr. a ‘little kid’, playing mind games that he isn’t usually known for. He’s the favored boxer, in many aspects, and is boasting about being the ‘A’ side of the fight. He holds the Vegas odds in his favor, has a larger fan base, and is arguably the reigning ‘Mexican People’s Champion’. This bout seems to be a pit stop for Canelo, a warm up, before he takes on Gennady Golovkin, the man no one seems to want to box.
In the timeline of Mexican boxing, anything that occurred before Julio Cesar Chavez can be thought of as exactly that, BC. Since then, there have been many Mexican boxers that have raised their glove, and said, “I’m next”. Marco Antonio Barrera. Erik “Terrible” Morales. Juan Manuel Marquez. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Another of those who raised their glove was the Mexican superstar’s namesake, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. Along with his brother Omar, both young men decided to follow in their father’s footsteps. As Paul Navarro breaks down in his article Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and the Burden of Legacy, “Growing up in the shadow of greatness is a burden known to very few. Growing up in the shadow of the greatest Mexican fighter to ever live is a burden known to even fewer, and a burden that none can realistically hope to live up to.” This has been the story of Julio Cezar Chavez Jr. throughout his career.
Much like the Jordan brothers did in basketball, the Chavez brothers had very big shoes to fill. It’s not uncommon to find father and son professional athlete legacies, but it’s quite another to see an heir be able to live up to a father that is arguably the very best in their respective sports. On that note, I don’t envy soccer star Lionel Messi’s sons, Mateo and Thiago, as they will undoubtedly be scrutinized from the very first time they kick a ball in any competitive match. Chavez Jr. is no exception to this rule. He and his father have always had a tumultuous relationship. In an interview with Showtime, Chavez Jr. would recall how his father, at that time battling substance abuse, would pay street kids to fight/box his sons in a makeshift ring. Chavez Sr. was near the tail end of his career, his biggest fight being that of substance abuse and past demons, one that he was losing. Initially, he said he did not want his son’s to follow his footsteps. They had everything they ever needed, living a lifestyle that their father never had growing up in a working class family in Sinaloa. Most people didn’t take Chavez Jr. serious about wanting to follow his father’s footsteps.
“Chavez has always been perceived as an entitled brat with a famous last name…” – Speak!
And yet, Chavez went at it. He has had a respectable career by most standards, but has been a complete washout in comparison to his father, the standard bearer in Mexican boxing. He has stated that, at different points in his career, people didn’t believe in him, even members of his immediate family. That has been part of his motivation to box, to win, and to prove the doubters wrong. But, as his father did before him, he also fell for many of life’s temptations and vices. He has had various incidents with alcohol and marijuana, as well as constant accusations from various trainers for his lack of discipline. His inability to make weight for bouts has cost him in the past, and the times he’s made weight, he has looked drained and lost power. It seems like everything is stacked against Chavez.
“You can’t fake power or having a sturdy chin, and Chavez has a world-class beard.” – Speak!
On the opposite side of the ring is the current WBO light middleweight champion, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. Canelo is the youngest of the Alvarez brothers, all professional boxers. His background is more in tune with what most working class Mexican’s can relate to. He grew up in a farm to a humble family, moving to the city in his youth. While he didn’t live in poverty, he didn’t have it as easy as the Chavez family. He was bullied as a child for his red hair and has stated that was one big motivator for him joining his brothers in the ring. Another thing that can’t be disputed is his popularity. For context, Mexico’s most followed sport is soccer. During the 2012 Olympic Soccer final of Mexico v Brazil, Televisa reported 19 million viewers. Canelo Alvarez pulled 26 million viewers in his bout against Shane Mosley.
“Canelo’s best wins are over an old Cotto and a much smaller Khan.” – Speak!
As Golden Boy’s “Golden Boy”, Canelo has had his bouts selected to maximize profit and limit risk. He famously vacated the WBC belt only a year ago because he did not want to fight GGG as promised. It would seem that De la Hoya’s team learned a lot from his defeat to Money Mayweather in 2013 and have since taken an ever cautious, and irritating, approach to setting Canelo up for fights he can clearly win.
It looks like a tall order for Chavez Jr. to compete, let alone defeat Canelo. But, he has a special game plan for victory, crafted by the legendary trainer Nacho Beristain. Nacho has stated that he wants Chavez Jr. to stick to his game plan and not get into a slugging match. He’s convinced that, with his guidance, Chavez can rock Canelo and get an upset. His main concern is that Chavez Jr. will come at Canelo face-on and get into a slugging match. The common belief is that, other than by way of knock-out, the heavily favored Canelo Alvarez would likely win if it goes to the cards.
An overconfident champion. An underdog with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Who else has seen this story before? Sports are built for upsets, and this is the perfect situation to get the most out of Chavez Jr., with his father recently saying, “It’s going to be a tough fight. Both of them are going to go neck and neck… however I know how Junior prepares – his discipline and his mentality – will decide how he wins the fight.”
Chavez Jr. will never match his father. He’s had some good fight against stiff competition, but he never dominated the sport the way his father has. Given that he’s already expected to lose, there’s nowhere to go but up. It’s his day, his time, and only he knows if he’s going to take his shot and show the world he’s worthy of the Chavez name. I’ll leave you with one last thought, which best summarizes what a Chavez win would symbolize:
“IF Chavez can focus and get his weight under control, he can pull off an upset. It’s a huge chance to change the public’s opinion of him and wave the flag as Mexico’s top fighter, which means more than any world title.” – Speak!