“It may seem as though Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was born a made man, but back in 2008, when fans in Hermosillo, Sonora pelted the ring with garbage and cups of beer in protest of his controversial split decision win over Minnesota’s Matt Vanda, he certainly didn’t seem to be living a charmed in-ring life.
Jr. sat in his corner, dejected and deflated, protected from the debris with towels by his corner men while his father battled with angry fans at ringside. On that night he gave a heartfelt post-fight interview in the beer-soaked ring about not ever wanting to fight again.”
Despite all the criticism heaped on the broad shoulders of El Hijo del Leyenda over the years, to characterize him as some cowardly, utterly inept buffoon is just not right.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. could succeed when he set his mind to it and showed flashes of being a viable product with real fighter instincts at various times in his career.
The thing is– How do you get somebody to fight when they really don’t need to?
Julio Jr. was cut from a very different cloth than most fighters.
Raised as near-royalty in his home state of Sinaloa, he wanted for nothing and suffered only rich boy longings for an absent daddy. When it came time for Jr. to earn a living, there was little doubt that it would be in boxing, at least in some capacity. He had, literally, been prepared for nothing else.
But Dad doubted the toughness of his eldest right from childhood and sought to cure his introspective son’s “weakness” with several undercard boxing exhibitions staged for the amusement of his hangers on.
Jr. showed aptitude and basked in the attention of his now-doting dad. The rest is a well-documented history that may have ended last Saturday night when countryman Saul “Canelo” Alvarez embarrassed him over the course of twelve one-side rounds.
The “Battle for Mexico,” as it was being called in some circles, was always destined to play out in one of two ways.
Optimists hoped for Julio, with his back up against the proverbial wall, to fight his heart out in pursuit of pride and redemption after a career of playing down to low expectations. His uncharacteristically smooth-sailing training camp, sound conditioning, and the acquisition of Hall of Fame trainer Nacho Beristain fueled the idea that this do-or-die fight would fire up the second generation star like never before.
Cynics (or realists) expected the same Jr. as always– high on promise, low on output.
Fight fans got the latter in what could likely be the last bout of note for El Hijo del Gran Campeon Mexicano. Against his longtime national rival, Chavez refused to let his hands go, refused to push back against a supremely confident foe. He opted, instead, to take a sound beating rather than open himself up to the risk of taking an uglier thrashing.
A surprising wave of support for the 31-year-old Chavez Jr. could be felt in the days and moments leading up to the May 6 fight. Boxing loves a redemption story and an upset win over Canelo Alvarez, a fighter who many feel (for varied reasons) is due for a comeuppance, would’ve been the ideal storybook ending for a kid dragged through the mud so much that derision had morphed into sympathy.
Another fighter may have fed on that energy and could have used it to direct focus in training and summon resolve in the actual fight.
But the reality is that Julio Jr. was never really a fighter. When he got old enough and brave enough to pull himself out from under his father’s angry-proud glare, he lost the only bit of motivation that had kept him in check. And, now, not daddy, nor the genius of Nacho Beristain, could reach him. Not even a battle for pride and honor in the face of his nation– a concept that may be abstract and silly in the eyes of many jaded Westerners, but is very real in Mexico– could move him.
How do you blame someone for not being what they never were?
Privileged, financially secure kids don’t grow up to be warriors. They have too much to lose. They simply never have to invest all of their heart and soul into any endeavor, much less the dangerous art of combat. True warriors are forged from desperation and trauma, such as a childhood of living in an abandoned railroad boxcar with nine brothers and sisters, like Julio Sr.
“Normal” people with something to lose, who are just doing “a job,” instinctively err on the side of not taking a beating. Even Julio Jr. probably doesn’t know why he couldn’t let his hands go on Saturday against Alvarez.
He couldn’t let them go because he didn’t want to open himself up to being hurt– certainly a logical base instinct for any human being not headlining a high-end PPV after fourteen years as a professional fighter. From a fandom that expects blood and guts and something bordering on superhuman for the price of their ticket or PPV fee, this mentality is unacceptable and flat-out insulting.
But “Juliocito” was never able to give the sport his all for the very same reason that the bloggers, fans, and his dedicated critics could also never thrive in the real world of boxing. He had options in life. He didn’t have to fight. Most people who don’t have to fight, simply don’t— even if fame, money, and familial legacy tell you otherwise.
Given the reality of his situation, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. did as well in boxing as could be expected. Actually, a case could be made that he surpassed all realistic expectations as a fighter. He is no bum or coward or disgrace. He just is who he is and it’s not his fault that he accepted the money and fame tossed at him from an industry eager to make a buck and a fanbase that wanted to believe.