by Esteban Walters
It’s time to sink or swim for undefeated 25-year-old WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (44-0-1, 31KOs) as he faces his toughest test to date in the hard hitting 31-year-old Marco “El Veneno” Antonio Rubio (53-5-1, 46KOs), in a 12 round championship bout for Julio’s gold waistband on Saturday night Feb. 4 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX, and broadcast live on HBO. The event is promoted by Top Rank in association with Zanfer Promotions, All Star Boxing and Tecate. In the 12 round super bantamweight championship co-feature, 29-year-old three-division world titlist Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (27-1, 18KOs), of San Leandro, CA, by way of the Philippines, takes on another son of a past legend in 27-year-old former WBO super bantamweight champion Wilfredo “Papito” Vasquez Jr. (21-1-1, 18KOs), of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, for the vacant WBO super bantamweight strap.
Also supporting the card is a 10 round light middleweight scrap between undefeated 25-year-old Armenian Vanes “The Nightmare” Martirosyan (30-0, 19KOs), of Glendale, CA, and St. Paul Minnesota’s 41-year-old Troy “TNT” Lowry (28-11, 17KOs), in a stay busy fight for The Nightmare.
JC Jr. has caught a lot of heat from fans and pundits who perceive him to be an undeserving spoon-fed champion who didn’t earn what’s around his waist but instead road the coat-tails of his famous father all the way to the top. And while it’s true that Julio was protected while fighting fall guys and cannon fodder – some of which he struggled with – en-route to an undeserving WBC middleweight title, this writer believes that Jr. is a real fighter who has the talent to fight at the highest level. Chavez Jr. chose to be a prizefighter in spite of the silver-spoon he was born with, when he probably could of gone on to be successful in any number of vocation’s – that don’t require the courage it takes to fight – solely based on the last name he carries. Instead, and in the face of an uphill battle of never-ending comparison’s to his legendary father paired with the lofty and unattainable shoes it’s perceived he had to fill, Chavez Jr. still took up the hurt business as a way of putting food on the table. I’ve heard of Jr. referred to as a boy on numerous occasions and it especially bothers me when it comes from writers and pundits, because it’s no secret that it takes a man to step through the ropes and into the world of professional boxing.
“A lot of people didn’t think I could make it. Many thought I was just the son of Julio Cesar Chavez but my work and my sweat has made me the champion that I am,” declared Chavez Jr.
Forget that Julio, of Culiacan, Sinaloa, MEX, has been improving by leaps and bounds under trainer Freddie Roach and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, many still question Chavez’s fighting prowess and whether he’s nothing more than genes, blood and namesake, or a real fighter comprised of desire, heart and ability? This Saturday we shall find out because Rubio is a real fighter, possessing real power, and poses a real threat of lifting Julio’s paper title. Chavez recently made it clear he’s fed up with all the talk that he’s scared to fight this guy or that guy and that he’s not a real champion, and an “impressive” victory over Marco Antonio Rubio will go a long way in proving that he belongs among the top middleweights.
“Rubio said in the past that I would never fight him but here I am ready to face him, and everyone will know why I am the Champion on February 4th,” emphasized JC Jr.
Chavez Jr. won’t ever soar to the heights of his famous father, or even be an elite pound-for-pound guy but he can share the ring with them while being elite at the box office. Any way you look at it Julio’s the 5th ranked middleweight in the world and will be making the second defense of the WBC middleweight title [that was stripped from the real champ Sergio Martinez] which Jr. attained last June by besting Sebastian Zbik via majority decision in an entertainer affair and good performance by the young Mexican.
JC Jr. then showed major improvements in his last bout against Peter Manfredo Jr. as he hurt the East-Coaster badly in the 5th round with a hard right hand, then finished him off with a flurry of power punches moments later that prompted referee Laurence Cole to stop the fight. Julio was putting his punches together very well that night in Houston, TX, and was doing damage with a heavy left hook to the body, much like his father used to do. Chavez Jr. also landed many big rights, boxed better on the outside and showed restraint by refraining from constantly going toe-to-toe and leaving himself open to big shots. He picked his spots to bang and got out when needed, while using the whole ring as his battlefield. Nor did Julio abandon his entertaining style; the fight was action-packed with plenty of back-and-forth, as is usually the case when the Mexican steps inside the ring.
Julio’s defense needs work because he still leaves himself open for hard blows to the head. Up to this point his chin has held up but he won’t want to unnecessarily test it against Rubio’s blunt force impacts. Chavez’s conditioning is always a question mark and he did seem to get a little winded in the 4th and 5th rounds of the Manfredo fight, but going back to the John Duddy fight in June of 2010, Chavez has steadily made noticeable improvements in his cardio and technical skills as a boxer in every fight. So there’s no reason to think that Saturday night’s version of Jr. won’t be a new and improved fighter with a new boxing trick or two as he looks to show the world he’s no pampered pretty boy but a legit middleweight champion.
The Alamodome is the same venue that housed Julio Sr.’s 1993 welterweight title fight versus Pernell Whitaker which ended in a draw, and you can bet the only draw Chavez Jr. and Rubio are interested in is the 13,000 fight fans that are expected to fill the seats in anticipation of war.
According to Veneno that’s just what they’ll get, declaring, “There will be fireworks inside that ring and the real winners will be the public because it is going to be a tremendous fight.”
The WBC’s #1 ranked contender Marco Antonio Rubio has reeled off 10 straight wins since his last defeat with 9 of those coming by way of knockout, including an out-of-nowhere kayo of Canadian thumper David Lemieux last April which brought about the opportunity to fight Chavez for the WBC’s green belt. His most recent loss in February of 2009 was also his first championship bid as Rubio was stopped in the 9th round by Kelly Pavlik for the WBC and WBO middleweight belts.
“I do not want to talk too much, I want to show everybody inside the ring the hard work and fix all the errors I have had in my career,” emphasized Rubio.
Rubio, of Torreon, Coahuila de Zaragoza, MEX, went from being on the verge of an old and forgotten fringe contender back into title contention by adapting to the ever-changing game of boxing and making an about-face in terms of the preparation and conditioning, which has paid dividends as Marco once again has the chance to fulfill his destiny and make real the dream that all fighters fantasize about when embarking on a prizefighting career, being the world champion.
Rubio doesn’t waste a lot of strikes and he can take a hell of a punch. He’s similar to Brandon Rios and Antonio Margarito in the sense that – if you’re a good boxer – you can probably secure the first 4 or 5 rounds against Rubio but after he takes all your best shots and catches up to you in the mid-rounds, blasting you with right hand bombs on the grill, can you take it or will you fold? Even though Rubio is also from Mexico he objected to appointed Mexican referee Lupe Garcia on grounds that Lupe may favor Chavez Jr., in light of him being the son of a Mexican legend and national hero. The WBC rejected Rubio’s demands to have Garcia replaced so he’ll just have to make good on his plan to finish Chavez by the 9th round.
I believe this fight will come down to conditioning and pacing against horsepower and applied force. Chavez’s cardio versus Rubio’s power. While Rubio hits harder than Julio and possesses knockout power, Jr.’s bigger and stronger than Marco and it’s highly likely that this reality will come into play tomorrow night. Chavez has a huge weight advantage as he usually enters the ring at 180lbs to 185lbs on fight night. Having a guy that’s 20+ pounds heavier than you banging on your smaller frame all night can take its toll, and Chavez has decent pop.
Jr. throws lots of punches and utilizes combinations better while also being the faster of the two. The younger Chavez has most of the advantages in his corner except maybe a few of the most important ones. Rubio carries the aforementioned power advantage, probably has the better chin and definitely has more experience.
Like Rubio himself, I do not think he can win a decision over Chavez whether he deserves it or not. He’ll have to employ the same strategy he did against Lemieux – which he says he plans to do – and catch up to Jr. in the mid-rounds, finding him with a big shot that puts Julio out or hurts him bad enough to force a stoppage after a follow-up barrage. Lemeuix was giving Rubio a boxing lesson until he starting huffing-and-puffing around the 6th frame and Rubio blew his house down in the 7th with a hard overhand right to the jaw that dropped the Canadian, and once he got up Rubio finished him with a flurry of power shots that prompted Lemeuix’s corner to throw in the towel. The only way I see Rubio winning is if he taps back into that well which is highly likely considering Julio’s open to his best punch, the big right hand.
Not only was Lemieux easily outpointing Rubio, he was doing it with thunderous punches at a furious pace and even seemed to hurt Marco a couple times but the Mexican’s whiskers held up. Lemieux’s problem was that he didn’t pace himself and let his foot off the gas when realizing that he wasn’t going to get Rubio out of there at a particular moment, but instead just kept swinging for the fences non-stop through 6½ rounds and made himself vulnerable with fatigue. From there it’s was lights out for the Canadian with a heavy-hitter like Veneno and Julio will need to avoid this boxing tale to assume victory and a shot at a third title defense.
Chavez showed the wherewithal to pace himself and choose his spots in his last fight against Manfredo instead of engaging in perpetual toe-to-toe action. Julio hurt Peter in the rounds preceding the 5th frame and he too went for the knockout, but when he figured out that Peter wasn’t going down just yet Chavez took some heat off his punches and went back to boxing and moving. For this reason I don’t believe Jr. will make the same mistake as David Lemieux but instead pace himself and weather the mid-rounds push by Rubio with a solid chin, good boxing and pure determination.
Julio will take his fair share of punches but will take the early rounds with combinations and better boxing while on the move. I expect Rubio to win the middle rounds once Chavez gets a little winded and it’s likely he’ll stun or even hurt Julio with a big right hand, but Jr. will stand up in the face of adversity and push through to make it to the late rounds where I think he can take over with his size, stamina and strength. Julio will land numerous right hand’s and left hooks upstairs as well as connecting on his best punch the left hook to the liver, all of which Rubio is susceptible to. Julio may even buzz Marco with a right hand to the dome or a left hook downstairs in the first five stanzas. And when it’s all said and done I believe determination will carry the young lion to a close split decision victory in a slugfest over Veneno, while cementing Chavez Jr. as a legit boxer.
If you want to see an explosive double-header of championship boxing be sure to tune into HBO this Saturday at 7 p.m. West-Coast time – if you can’t be there in person – as Marco Antonio Rubio fights to fulfill his longtime dream of a world title, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. looks to make a statement against Rubio by demonstrating to the boxing world that he’s here to fight.
“You’re going to see a great fight. If I have to die in the ring, then I will die in the ring,” said Chavez Jr.