by Fox Doucette
Last week, Salvador Sanchez II made one of the weakest cases for talent being hereditary, as he dropped his record to 30-5 (18 KOs) at the hands of undefeated Jayson Velez, who got a name opponent in name only onto his record himself. The third-round KO of the guy with the Juan Epstein hairdo and the Dirk Diggler boxing trunks reminded absolutely nobody of Sanchez’s more famous namesake uncle, who was one of the greatest featherweights of all time. While Sal II might’ve been named for his father’s deceased brother, the resemblance ends there.
This, in turn, led to a question: Baseball has Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr., perhaps the best-known namesake athletes in the history of any sport. Any fool can come up with a set of power rankings for father-son or uncle-nephew teams (the Barry family in the NBA, the Boone family in baseball, perhaps even wrestling’s Von Erichs). This is strictly down to younger fighters who, either by dint of being “Junior” or, in Sanchez’s case, being named for a famous uncle, carried automatic name recognition into the ring.
No. 6: Salvador Sanchez II (30-5, 18 KOs), nephew of Salvador Sanchez (44-1-1, 32 KOs)
Salvador Sanchez the Elder was one of the greatest featherweights ever to lace up the gloves. Had he not died in a car accident at the tender age of 23, there’s no telling just how much of a mark he would have made on the 1980s; as it stands, he makes a compelling case for skulking around the Fighter of the Decade lists on the fringes of the top ten. His two late-round TKOs of Danny Lopez (in the 13th and 14th rounds of their respective 15-round championship tilts) were such astounding displays of speed, power, and endurance, and the second fight a strong candidate for 1980 Fight of the Year, that many a longer-tenured fighter would kill to have even one such fight in his legacy.
Which is what made Sanchez the Younger’s performance so disappointing last week. Sal II looked the part of an old-school fighter, with the downright silly Afro and barely achieving containment of his manly bits with those tight old-school trunks. Too bad the fighter he more closely resembled in the ring was Duk Koo Kim rather than Salvador Sanchez the First. Sure, Sal II didn’t get killed by Jayson Velez, but that has more to do with his not being able to get deep enough into a fight to take long-lasting permanent damage than anything. Velez stomped him into dust in three rounds in what was, for Sanchez, his first battle bearing even a faint resemblance to a step up in class.
Salvador Sanchez the Elder was a legend. Sal II is a club fighter. Some of the other guys up this list aren’t exactly world-beaters, but they’re not public embarrassments either.
Except for maybe…
No. 5: Hector Camacho Jr. (54-5-1, 29 KOs), son of Hector “Macho” Camacho (79-6-3, 38 KOs)
All of the flash of his more famous late father, none of the ability. Camachito has been knocked out by some shockingly pedestrian fighters (David Lemieux, Andrey Tsurkan, most recently Luis Grajeda), and it seems to be a combination of a questionable chin and a complete indifference to the very notion of not getting hit. This moves past an Arturo Gatti-esque penchant for brawling and seems to betray a complete lack of boxing ability. Throw him in against mopes and nobodies and Camachito gets the job done, mainly due to his ability to take a punch from someone who couldn’t punch his way out of a tissue paper enclosure, but as soon as someone with even a modicum of power lands flush, it’s game over.
Contrast Camacho Sr. Whatever you may say about “like father, like son” in terms of a brawler’s style, Hector père could at least take a punch. Hector Camacho Sr., in 88 pro fights, was never stopped, never seriously hurt, and never put in danger of being either despite taking a few good flush shots in his day. When he passed away recently after being shot, the question was finally settled as to just what it would take to finally drop the guy. Hector Camacho, flamboyant as he was, was one hardass motherfucker, and it’s an attribute his son sadly lacks.
Sometimes it’s good not to have your father’s chin—Jay Leno’s kids, for example. But in this case, such a genetic passing could’ve served the younger man well.
No. 4: Aaron Pryor Jr. (16-7, 11 KOs), son of Aaron Pryor (39-1, 35 KOs)
Another case of trying to follow a tough act with an all-time great parent, Pryor Jr.’s career looks dead in the water after losing five of his last six fights, but for a spell in the latter part of the last decade, Pryor looked to be making a name for himself at super middleweight. Wins over Dyah Davis and Librado Andrade established him as a mid-tier fringe contender.
Unfortunately, “mid-tier contender” only gets you so far when you run into guys like Edwin Rodriguez (who smacked Pryor around on Friday Night Fights in 2010), Thomas Oosthuizen (for the IBO “world” title), and Adonis Stevenson (who, in doing Adonis Stevenson things, knocked Pryor out). Recent losses to Will Rosinsky and Blake Caparello (a combined 28-1-1) have established Pryor as a gatekeeper.
Too bad, considering that his father put on the second-best fight the 140-pound division has ever seen. Pryor’s 14-round war with Alexis Arguello is surpassed only by Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti I. That’s the problem, though; Pryor Jr. looks nothing like his father as a fighter, suggesting his mother had an athletic tryst with a basketball player.
Pryor Sr. was short, compact, and strong on the inside; Pryor Jr. looks like a tall, lanky fighter who gets eaten alive when he can’t stay at range behind his jab. The younger Aaron Pryor must surely watch his father’s fight tapes, but to try and imitate the man in the ring is suicide. Teddy Atlas pointed this out during the Rodriguez fight, and it might be the greatest Achilles heel for the younger man. That, or Aaron Pryor Jr. simply doesn’t have the chops to fight above the B level in the sport.
No. 3: Chris Eubank Jr. (8-0, 3 KOs), son of Chris Eubank (45-5-2, 23 KOs)
The jury’s still out on the younger Eubank; eight fights does not a curriculum vitae make. Still, an unbeaten fighter is an unbeaten fighter; Bernard Hopkins lost his pro debut, after all.
The older Eubank was one of the better, although certainly not the elite, super middleweights of the 1990s, especially if the discussion is restricted to British or European fighters. Eubank was only the second man (after Thomas Hearns) to hold the newly-created WBO super middleweight crown, and he held it tenaciously, surviving two draws against Ray Close and Nigel Benn in the course of a four-year, 16-fight title reign. Speaking of Benn, Eubank’s ninth-round TKO of Nigel in their fight at 160 pounds is one of the better fights in the history of British boxing.
Perhaps the son will rise to similar heights. Junior just took Bradley Pryce the distance en route to a referee judgment win (80-73 on the ref’s card), and Pryce has fought for and won minor titles in Britain and down the hierarchy of the world sanctioning bodies. It’s not exactly a win over Carl Froch, but for a guy in his eighth pro fight, he’s right where you’d want an up-and-coming prospect to be.
Will the son surpass the father? The bar’s been set high, but so far, so good.
No. 2: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (46-1-1, 32 KOs), son of Julio Cesar Chavez (107-6-2, 86 KOs)
The biggest knock on Chavez Jr. has been that he was riding the coattails of the greatest Mexican fighter ever. But give the devil his due; Chavez has beaten everyone put in front of him with the sole exception of the most criminally underrated middleweight (Sergio Martinez) in recent memory.
Let’s face it; there was no way God Himself could’ve beaten a pissed-off Martinez in Las Vegas that night. After the monumental screwjob Jose Sulaiman pulled to strip Martinez of the WBC middleweight title belt in an effort to essentially hand it to Chavez, the upstart was going to have a bullseye painted on his face. Even so, had the fight been for 15 rounds as such things were back in, say, Aaron Pryor’s day, Chavez was set to turn the tide. Indeed, Junior nearly finished things in the twelfth round; Martinez was saved by the bell in the grand scheme of things.
Still, even in defeat, Chavez finally emerged from the shadow of his famous father. While Junior will never be an all-time great (Senior in his prime would’ve mopped the floor with Martinez just to prove a point about it doesn’t matter how angry you are if I’m better than you), he is nonetheless in the discussion among the best fighters in his weight range during his era of the sport.
Chavez still has a way to go before securing a Hall of Fame legacy, but “very good fighter” is mission accomplished. Indeed, the name of Julio Cesar Chavez has a combined 153 wins, a record unlikely to be surpassed (especially since Junior is still active, and Camacho père et fils trail by 20 wins). He’d be No. 1 on this list, except for one small problem…
No. 1: Floyd Mayweather Jr. (43-0, 26 KOs), son of Floyd Mayweather (28-6-1, 18 KOs)
The one case where a namesake has been unquestionably better than his father, Floyd Jr. is one of the greatest fighters ever, while his father was a journeyman perhaps best known for being the next victim of Sugar Ray Leonard after SRL punched Dicky Eklund into a drug problem and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Christian Bale.
Mayweather Sr. fought very good fighters (Leonard, Marlon Starling) and lost to them. Mayweather Jr. fights very good fighters (Diego Corrales, Genaro Hernandez, all of his last six opponents) and makes them look stupid. Junior’s win over a completely shot Arturo Gatti ventured out of the realm of pugilistic admiration and into the realm of pathos in 2005.
With the still-open case of Chris Eubank as possible exception, no fighter has ever risen above the level of his old man to make a Hall of Fame case for himself. Floyd Mayweather Jr., unique as he is in so many other ways, has gotten the job done on that front.
Now if only he’d fight Manny Pacquiao. (this comment required by the Bylaws of Boxing Journalism Compliance Committee.)
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and namesake combinations I’ve missed can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.