by Dafydd Thomas
As Mexico crash out of the 2010 World Cup at the hands of Argentina, the country at least had some uplifting sporting news from boxing this weekend.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. finally came of age, dominating “Irish” John Duddy over twelve rounds to win a comprehensive decision. This was not the usual lethargic Chavez performance that we have come to expect since his second fight with Matt Vanda. He had signs of life in the later rounds, looked like he had genuine pop on the end of his punches, and fought smart for the majority of the fight.
Chavez showed genuine improvement under the tutelage of new trainer Freddie Roach, but it wasn’t all Roach’s doing. Chavez proved that he had a muddled up, but functioning boxing brain inside his temple, and it might only take a few more training camps with Roach to fix the puzzle and unlock the fighter that lurks in the genes.
But part of the credit has to lie with Roach, who is an outstanding talent in himself and definitely one of the best, if not the best trainer in the game right now. Chavez had evolved from a fighter that makes a living off his father’s name to a legit prospect. Sure, he’s milking the family name, but at least he has the commitment to add the work ethic when it comes down to business.
Duddy was the one coming forward in the fight, with Chavez fighting much better at range than up close, where Duddy relished working in the pocket. Surprisingly, or maybe not if you consider that he’s been working with Alex Azira, Manny Pacquiao’s conditioning coach, Chavez upped the tempo in the second half of the fight and outclassed Duddy, something never usually related to Junior.
Roach hasn’t quite papered over all the cracks just yet. Chavez was still getting caught coming in, and the defensive flaws were obvious throughout the fight. He has kept his trademark telegraphed left hook, which was effective to the body, but against higher opposition would be countered, and countered hard.
Beating John Duddy is nothing to get overly excited about though. He is the same limited John Duddy that was exposed by Walid Smichet, and beaten by Bily Lyell. Still, this was Chavez’s best career win to date, and one hopes that Top Rank keep moving him along the production line, instead of under-matching him on Pacquiao undercards.
How far can Julio go? Arum talked about matching him up with newly crowned WBA junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto, but I personally don’t think he’s ready for someone with that experience just yet. I can see it happening further down the line, where Cotto’s reflexes slow down again, and I’m sure Top Rank will happily throw Cotto under the bus to elevate Chavez Jr. into a star. Putting things into perspective, Duddy is twenty levels below a post-prime Cotto in ability, so predicting a Chavez win would be a bit hasty in my opinion.
We need more evidence on the ‘new’ Chavez Jr. before rushing into conclusions. Maybe it was all down to the genius that is Freddie Roach, and Alex Azira’s behind the scenes work that had just shoved his deficiencies under the carpet. It could be a similar position to Victor Ortiz, who looked like a changed fighter but was actually just a tentative performance, not the boxing masterclass that many thought they had watched.
Chavez Jr. will never be in the same bracket as his father, and it would be wrong to even compare performances and careers, as Sr. was one of the best fighters of his generation and an icon to all Mexicans. Only time will tell if Chavez Jr. can fulfill the hype that has surrounded him since he turned professional.