Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. sets first defense
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the son of Hall of Famer and Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., will make the first defense of his middleweight belt against Peter Manfredo Jr., on Nov. 19, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum announced Wednesday night.
The fight, in the works for months, will take place at Reliant Arena in Houston and headline an edition of HBO's "Boxing After Dark."
The 25-year-old Chavez (43-0-1, 30 KOs) claimed a 160-pound belt by via majority decision against Sebastian Zbik in Los Angeles on June 4. Chavez was due to make his first defense in his hometown of Culiacan, Mexico, on Sept. 17 against Ronald Hearns, the son of all-time great Thomas Hearns.
However, Chavez withdrew from the bout about three weeks ahead of time claiming that a laceration on his hand caused by a ceiling fan had not fully healed.
Even before the Hearns fight was scheduled, Arum had an HBO date waiting for Chavez to face Manfredo on Nov. 19.
"It is good to see the 'Pride of Mexico,' Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., return to the ring to defend his world middleweight championship that he won when he dethroned Sebastian Zbik in Los Angeles," Arum said in making the announcement. "Houston has a rich and meaningful boxing tradition. We are delighted that Julio's first defense against Peter Manfredo Jr. will take place at Reliant Arena."
With his Mexican heritage, Chavez will be the significant crowd favorite in Houston.
"It was always my dream to win a world championship and I accomplished that in my last fight when I beat Zbik," Chavez said. "Now I want to be more than just a world champion. I want to be a world champion for the rest of my career. I am taking my first title defense very seriously and I couldn't be happier to be making it in front of the great boxing fans of Houston."
Manfredo, 30, of Providence, R.I., gained fame as a contestant on the first season of "The Contender" reality series in 2005. He parlayed that popularity into a super middleweight title shot against Joe Calzaghe in Wales in 2007, but was stopped in the third round.
Since being knocked out by super middleweight contender Sakio Bika in the third round in November 2008, Manfredo (37-6, 20 KOs) has won six fights in a row and returned to middleweight, where he has had more success, for his recent bouts.
"I am very excited about getting the opportunity to fight Chavez," Manfredo said. "He is a world champion and I followed his father growing up, so this fight is very special to me. I have a lot of respect for him.
"This is a great opportunity for me and also great opportunity for the fans as this is going to be a great fight. I am going to be prepared 100 percent to win and bring this belt home to Rhode Island. Winning this fight for me is everything."
Manfredo said if he loses, he will retire.
"If I lose this fight I am done with boxing," he said. "I see this as my last opportunity, and I don't plan on letting it pass me by. I know I am in for a tough fight but it's a winnable fight and I am very confident I will do just that."
Lou DiBella, Manfredo's promoter, campaigned hard to get Manfredo the shot at Chavez. He believes Manfredo is much more equipped to win as a middleweight than at super middleweight.
"Peter is a warrior and he is very strong at 160," DiBella said. "He will pose a serious threat to Chavez Jr. in what we expect to be an exciting fight. Conceivably, Peter could return to Providence with Chavez's title belt.
"Chavez better know he is in for a tough night. He better be prepared for a war. If he thinks he's going to walk over this guy he will be surprised. Chavez is younger and fresher, but Peter is hungrier. He knows it is the greatest opportunity of his life.
"This kid (Chavez) isn't a Hall of Famer like Calzaghe is going to be. Peter is going to stand there and throw and take. He is not easy to knock out. I think he has a good chance to win. He is going to go in there and give everything he has. If he doesn't win this it's time to say goodbye."
Dan Rafael is the senior boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.