After some debate as to the location of Saturday’s upcoming WBC middleweight clash between Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (45-0-1, 31KOs) and top Irish contender, Andy Lee (28-1, 20KOs), the two are set to face off at the Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas. Chavez Jr. makes the third consecutive defence of his middleweight crown while Lee, who has earned a small number of fringe titles, is fighting for his first major championship.
While some would say that Chavez Jr. has been suckling at the ample Top Rank teat for long enough (embarking on perhaps easier assignments than one would expect for a man who’s had nearly 50 professional bouts), the son of the legendary Mexican has recently looked less like the doe-eyed, chubby man-boy he’s often portrayed as, and more like a legitimate fighter who’s growing into his own body.
For years Chavez has given the impression of a fighter whose career had been bolstered by his lineage, many times fighting in his adopted home of Texas (which has grown notorious for shady dealings, poor judgements and in-house preferential treatment) and his literal home, Mexico. This weekends bout, in fact, was under scrutiny due to the stadiums’ close proximity to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (whose violence and drug wars prompted the University of Texas system Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to temporarily cancel the bout, altogether, two months ago).
Although Chavez Jr.’s professional career is just 9 years old (amassing an impressive 45 wins inside of that time span), his record reflects a fighter who’s perhaps fought for twice as much time. Jr.’s father had an outstanding ledger as well, compiling a mind-blowing 107 victories in 115 bouts. Both of the father and son tandem have been accused in the past of squaring off against some less than formidable opposition early in their respective careers (and in truth, this was by design for the Pride of Culiacan in no small part due to his outright lack of amateur experience), but Julio Jr. looks to have finally reached a new plateau in his professional run.
“I’m willing to do everything to take my title with me…” Chavez would tell the Associated Press; elaborating, “This is what boxing is all about, to have even fights [with] young people fighting…people who are hungry.”
Looking miles better than did he ahead of his last bout with fellow Mexican, Marco Antonio Rubio just four months ago, Chavez took his time (spent with recent Hall of Fame inductee, Freddie Roach and strength and conditioning coach, Alex Ariza) training for this match much more seriously than in the past – evidenced by his newly toned physique and eager eyes.
Meanwhile, Irish Andy Lee, who now resides in Detroit, Michigan, honed his craft at the world-renowned Kronk Gym and is being trained and managed by the famed Emanuel Steward.
Chavez and Lee have already had their final face-off, and while friendly banter was exchanged, the two fighters share a massive task come Saturday night.
Both men feel entitled to be named the middleweight champion of the world, but there is one man who would love to have the opportunity (both monetarily and fistically) to prove that belt or no belt, he is indeed the best fighter in the division – An impending mega-clash with lineal middleweight king, Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez should await the winner; and a victory there solidifies any championship claim. A win on Saturday night, however, will serve as an ample measuring stick to see where these two warriors rank amongst the best in the 160 pound class.