Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. set for bout
The last names are world famous to boxing fans: Chavez and Hearns. Hall of Famer and former three-division champion Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. is revered as perhaps the greatest Mexican fighter in history. Thomas Hearns, who won world titles in five divisions and was involved in some of the most exciting fights in history, will be eligible for the Hall of Fame next year.
While they never fought in the same division, their sons do -- and they will meet Sept. 17 when Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., in his hometown of Culiacan, Mexico, defends his middleweight belt for the first time against Ronald Hearns, Zanfer Promotions' Fernando Beltran announced.
Despite relatively short notice and a promotion so disorganized that Hearns promoter Lou DiBella had not even seen a contract until a few days ago, the fight was formally announced at a news conference Monday in Culiacan, where the local government is bankrolling the event.
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"This fight is very important to me. Fighting at home and defending my world championship will always be special to me," said Chavez, who was accompanied to the news conference by his father. "I have trained hard and will do even more to give my people a nice evening against a good opponent like Hearns."
On June 4 -- a week before his father was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame -- the 25-year-old Chavez claimed a majority decision against Sebastian Zbik in Los Angeles to claim a 160-pound belt that Zbik had been awarded when lineal champion Sergio Martinez was unceremoniously stripped.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, Chavez's co-promoter with Beltran, has a Nov. 19 date from HBO on hold to match Chavez against Peter Manfredo Jr., so Arum was strongly against Chavez fighting in September. He has disavowed the fight with Hearns, which was originally supposed to be Sept. 24 but moved back to the weekend of Mexican Independence Day.
For weeks, Arum told people the fight would not happen. However, he said Chavez pushed hard for it and he gave in.
"I'm totally out of it. I have absolutely no responsibility for it," Arum told ESPN.com. "The only condition we put on the fight is that Chavez has to sign a paper that says this fight doesn't count against our promotional contract. So (I said), 'Go ahead, do it without me.'
"The father and son were so adamant about him fighting on the date and the government in Culiacan was putting up the money," he said. "They were talking about Sept. 24, but I said no because it was within two months of an HBO show (the standard non-compete window). Then they moved it to Sept. 17 and I had no comeback for them. But I said I wouldn't help put it on (television) in the U.S. or help with the promotion. They are on their own."
There is considerable dysfunction in the Chavez camp. He will be without trainer Freddie Roach in preparation for the bout. When Arum told Roach that Chavez would not be fighting in September, Roach, with several other commitments, filled his schedule, according to Billy Keane, Chavez's manager.
Keane said he was consistently left out of the loop on the plans for the bout but has been scrambling on short notice to set up Chavez's training camp in Mexico and to get sparring partners. Keane also acknowledged that Chavez (43-0-1, 30 KOs) had quite a bit of weight to lose in order make the 160-pound limit, something he has struggled with.
To that end, Alex Ariza -- Chavez's strength and conditioning coach, who works with several of Roach's fighters -- went to Mexico to begin working with Chavez immediately.
"Alex will work with him and get him in the best shape he can get him in and we're trying to work it out where Freddie can at least be there for the fight," Keane said.
Keane said Chavez would do his boxing training with others in his camp.
The 32-year-old Hearns (26-2, 20 KOs) hardly has a resume worthy of a world title bout, but he has his famous name, which is why he is getting the opportunity. In his last fight in February, Hearns got a shot at titleholder Felix Sturm for the same reason and was dominated before being knocked out in the seventh round.
"I feel fortunate that I have been given this opportunity," Hearns said. "I am the son of a legend and it has not been easy, but Chavez Jr. showed me that dreams can be fulfilled and that will come on Sept. 17. I will come and do my job."
Said DiBella: "Obviously it's a great opportunity that Ronald will jump all over. Chavez is a strong kid, but he doesn't have any of the pedigree, slickness or jab of Felix Sturm. Is Chavez a favorite? Yeah. Does Ronald have a chance? Sure he does."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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