While not setting off an earthquake in the boxing world, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.’s TKO victory over Ireland’s Andy Lee last night certainly caused a noticeable tremor. In the best win of his career, Chavez systematically broke down and crushed a highly regarded prospect. Lee proved courageous and went out on his feet, but make no mistake: the Irishman got beat. A lot of things in the middleweight division suddenly look very different in the wake of that stoppage win for JC Junior.
Chavez Jr vs. Lee Photos
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: The Real Deal
At this point, I am forced to admit I carried a bias against Chavez, Jr. The Mexican middleweight rose to prominence on his illustrious father’s name, and that coupled with the WBC stealing their title from Sergio Martinez and giving it to Chavez on a platter made him look like a paper champion. I have been slow in discarding that attitude, but no longer.
Beating Lee confirms Chavez as the #2 middleweight in the world. He would be the odds favorite in a clash with anyone ranked beneath him. While he still is not the rightful WBC champ, Chavez has certainly earned the right to challenge Martinez, the people’s champ, for the crown.
That said, his success is based largely on his sheer size. Frankly, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. is not a real middleweight anymore. In Saturday’s fight, Lee was the taller guy, but he looked like a stick figure next to Chavez. Before the fight, I speculated that Chavez must be walking around at 190 lbs, but failed to fully factor his being a de facto light heavyweight in a middleweight bout into my equation. It is not a mistake I will make again. Like Arturo Gatti at 130 lbs, Chavez’s prowess as a puncher is enhanced because he is naturally much bigger than the guy in the other corner.
Of course, that sheer size means Chavez has to work hard to make weight. That has a downside, which I will address later on.
Martinez vs. Chavez
Chavez now looks like a threatening opponent for Sergio Martinez in September. Of course, Chavez has never fought anyone like Martinez before, but that can’t be held against him, because there simply isn’t anyone else in the 160 lbs division in Martinez’s caliber… except just possibly Chavez himself.
When I think about Martinez vs. Chavez, three salient facts come to mind. First, Martinez is a small middleweight. In his mid-30s, he was still fighting at 154 lbs, whereas JC, Jr. has grown into a natural light heavyweight at the age of 26. Chavez’s usual size advantage will be that much greater come fight night.
On the other hand, if I had to pick a style to undo a guy who must be coming down 30 lbs or more by fight night, it would be Martinez’s style. The Argentine is busy with both his feet and his hands, and Chavez has yet to fight at a pace outside of his comfort zone.
Finally, if Chavez has never fought anyone like Martinez, Maravilla has never fought anyone like Chavez. I think that is a point most pundits will overlook in the coming days. Chavez doesn’t have anyone on his resume like Paul Williams or Serihy Dziniruk, true, but he does have some guys in the caliber of Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker. For his part, the closest Martinez has come to fighting a big, powerful puncher like Chavez is the rusty, alcohol-sapped version of Kelly Pavlik, and that isn’t comparable.
Chavez is a threat to Martinez because his out-classed size, strength and power might prove too much for the substantially smaller Argentine. Martinez is a threat to Chavez because he has just the right style to drag Chavez into deep water, leave him gassed, and drown him. In the wake of the demolition of Andy Lee, the outcome of Martinez vs. Chavez no longer looks as certain.