Bordering on afterthought status, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. now realizes his boxing career can elevate to relevance again. All it would take is a standout performance in a bout the Mexico native considers the beginning of a second phase in his career.
For Chavez Jr., son of the legendary Mexican fighter of the 1980s and 1990s, the new phase begins Saturday night in Las Vegas. Chavez will face countryman Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a super-middleweight fight at the T-Mobile Arena.
The bout, at a catch weight of 164 pounds, headlines boxing’s next marquee pay-per-view event.
“What I always hear from people is if you are prepared you are going to beat Canelo,” Chavez said. “That gives me confidence. That is why I’m going to win.”
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Chavez, 31, won his first 45 bouts but often at the expense of an unfavorable reputation. Chavez was accused of not taking the sport seriously, such as with repeated issues in making weight for fights. There was also the consistent criticism that Chavez benefited from his bloodlines.
Chavez seemed to have finally won over the doubters in his bout against Sergio Martinez in 2012. Trailing badly after 11 rounds, Chavez made a furious comeback in the final round as he pummeled Martinez with repeated power shots, resulting in a late knockdown. The final bell saved Martinez, who won a unanimous decision.
Instead of capitalizing on the late performance against Martinez, Chavez lost motivation.
There were two sub-par performances against Brian Vera that ended in wins. A ninth-round TKO loss against Andrzej Fonfara two years ago sunk Chavez further into insignificance.
Just when Chavez (50-2-1, 32 KOs) was no longer a factor in marquee bouts the call came to face Alvarez. The bout will serve as a weight adjustment for both fighters. Chavez had moved to the light-heavyweight class, and Alvarez’s two recent bouts were at junior-middleweight after a one-fight stop at middleweight, when he defeated Miguel Cotto for a belt he immediately vacated.
“Canelo thinks I’m sacrificing to make 164.5 [pounds], but I think it’s more difficult for him,” Chavez said.
Chavez gladly accepts the role perceived of him Saturday. For more than a year, Alvarez has been linked to a potential fight against middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
But after the victory over Cotto, Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs) returned to junior-middleweight for knockout wins against Liam Smith and Amir Khan. As the Alvarez-Golovkin bout remains on ice, Alvarez needs another convincing performance to maintain buzz toward the much-discussed event.
“For the first time in my career, all the pressure is on someone else,” Chavez said. “The pressure is on Canelo for this fight. I feel good. I feel ready. I’m ready to win this fight.
“I have that passion for boxing again. After my loss against Martinez, I lost my passion for boxing. I don’t have problems with the weight. I’m doing the right things because this fight is the most important fight of my life.”
AROUND THE RING
Anthony Joshua finally faced a difficult test, but the unbeaten heavyweight champion again proved why he is one of boxing’s rising stars.
Joshua overcame a sixth-round knockdown and scored an 11th-round TKO win over former champion Wladimir Klitschko to retain his IBF title before a crowd of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium Saturday in London.
With his previous 18 bouts ending before the eighth round, Joshua seemed headed to another quick stoppage when he dropped Klitschko in the fifth. But Klitschko, a part-time Hollywood resident, recovered and floored Joshua the following round.
Slightly ahead on two scorecards and trailing on the third after 10 rounds, Joshua increased the pressure and dropped Klitschko twice in the 11th. Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) pressed Klitschko (64-5) toward a corner and continued with a flurry of unanswered punches that prompted referee David Fields to stop the bout at 2:25 of the round.
“I’m not perfect but I’m trying,” Joshua said. “I got a bit emotional because I know I have doubters. I’m only going to improve. Sometimes you can be a phenomenal boxer, but boxing is about character. When you go into the trenches, that’s when you find out who you really are.”
Tuesday (9 p.m., Fox Sports1): Ivan Redkach vs. Argenis Mendez, 10, lightweights.
Friday (8 p.m., ESPN2): Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Robinson Castellanos, 10, lightweights.
Saturday (9 p.m., pay-per-view): Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., 10, super middleweights.