Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. ain't half bad as a fighter. But he suffers the slings and arrows from fight fans and pundits for, as much as anything else, something he has no control over. His father is the Hall of Famer Julio Cesar Chavez, a god of pugilism in his native Mexico. Dad was a lifetaker, a legend, an all-time great from a land that has produced loads of them. The abuse Junior takes probably isn't all that fair, but he can salve himself with the knowledge that he holds the WBC middleweight title, and he's made a nice chunk of change plying the boxing trade since 2003.
We'll not delve into the particulars on whether or not he "deserves" that title, as such matters are best left to the maddog fanatics. Most fans these days aren't suckered into watching a fight because they heard that the WBC, WBA or any darned title is on the line; they watch because they know who's good, and likely to engage in an entertaining fight.
Junior (43-0) will take on Peter Manfredo (37-6), the so-called "Pride of Providence (RI)" on Saturday night. Some of those who grumble that Junior is a sad shadow of pop aren't looking forward to the scrap, which will unfold in Texas and run on HBO. They think that while Junior is no all-star, Manfredo is a Triple A type, and a shellacking could be in order. I predict that Manfredo won't be in over his head, as Junior is still a work in progress at age 25, and while he's improving year over year, he hasn't elevated himself to the tippy-top tier. Freddie Roach, who trains Junior, isn't looking past Manfredo to bigger and better names. "I think Manfredo is a tough opponent, but I think Chavez is too big and strong. I think we will win."
I asked Roach this afternoon to assess Junior, who has admittedly in the past been questioned about his work ethic, his dedication to the craft. Is he in or close to the same class as Sergio Martinez, the Argentina-born 154/160 pounder who is seen, though he owns no belt now, as the best middleweight in the world?
Roach said that we should know soon enough. If Junior beats Manfredo, Roach thinks it would be a no brainer to match him with the Saul Alvarez-Kermit Cintron winner. Alvarez (38-0), a Mexican phenom at 21, is favored to beat Cintron when they tangle on Nov. 26 in Mexico. "A good performance here, and maybe we fight the winner of the Canelo fight. The winner of that would I think have to fight Martinez. The winner will be ready to fight Martinez."
Roach isn't the type to blow smoke, to help inject confidence in his guy or nudge ticket sales with hyperbole. In so many words, he's saying that the jury is still deliberating on Junior.