“I’m so very happy with my performance,” exclaimed Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. to the press after his spirited TKO win over a hard charging Peter Manfredo, Jr.
He had good reason to be. Chavez, Jr. fought brilliantly in the fight in what many in press row were clamoring was his best performance to date. The son of legendary champion Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr., Chavez, Jr. is always and perhaps unfairly measured against expectations far beyond other fighters.
But Saturday night, he lived up to them, and he did it in his own way.
Chavez, Jr. employed a steady jab throughout the 5 round slugfest. At times, he seemed to glide back effortlessly, flicking his strong left fist out in front, aimed to stop the hard charging Manfredo, Jr. in his tracks. Then he’d stop and let his hands go – blazingly fast and precise. Then he’d be gone again.
It was a brutal artistry only boxing fans know exists.
But Manfredo, Jr. wouldn’t be deterred, so Chavez, Jr. began raking him with thunderous hooks and uppercuts. Every time the challenger would work his way in to do some damage, he’d be visibly shaken by the hard hitting champion. By the fifth round, Manfredo, Jr. realized he would have to leave himself open in order to land something big enough to hurt the larger Chavez, Jr.
So he did.
And just like that it was over. Chavez, Jr. hurt Manfredo, Jr. in the 5th with a brilliant combination. The ever brave challenger had spaghetti for legs but he refused to give in. He stayed upright throughout it all, even when Chavez, Jr. let loose punch after punch after punch for which Manfredo, Jr. was unable to reciprocate.
Referree Laurence Cole rightfully halted the action at 1:52 of round number 5 when the fearless Manfredo, Jr. had little left to do but stand there defenseless.
When asked after the fight if he had gotten careless, Manfredo, Jr. responded with the wit and charm that made him a television star in the first place.
“I always get careless,” he shrugged. “Look at my face.”
But it wasn’t just carelessness on his part. Chavez, Jr. fought tough and smart. He made Manfredo, Jr. make that decision by choosing to be the smart boxer-puncher his tall frame allows him to be, rather than the brooding, heavy-footed slugger he’s tried to be in the past.
“I realized I was so tall and didn’t use my jab,” said Chavez, Jr. “I needed to use my jab and I did.”
In the end, Chavez, Jr. and his promoter, Bob Arum, were peppered with questions about what the future holds for the undefeated WBC titlist. Promoter and fighter spoke of lining up big names in the future. Sergio Martinez, who sat in the room almost disinterested, was mentioned along with Saul Alvarez, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. For his part, Chavez, Jr. gave but one response, and it was the kind any fight fan would appreciate.
Time will tell if he is or not, but he looked ready against Peter Manfredo, Jr. at least. Where he goes from here is now up to Top Rank and Team Chavez, but where he is now is a good place to be.
A fighter whose often saddled with expectations of living up to the Chavez name as well as earning the adoration of the thousands of Mexican fight fans who show up to the fights to chant it, showed once, if not for all, that he really could be something special.
“I’ve been converted from a spoiled kid to a real fighter,” professed Chavez, Jr. after the fight, perhaps not knowing how truly poignantly he encapsulated what he had just displayed inside the ring, because against Peter Manfredo, Jr., he truly did appear to be just that — a real fighter.
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