Youth, power and an illustrious name are a few of the things that would make most anyone's wish list in life, fighter or otherwise. But when these traits are the most outstanding and scrutinized features of a pugilist, they can easily become a burden. Such is the plight of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
As the son of a boxing legend, Junior probably never will shake the shadow of his all-time-great father and mentor, and his youth and power are mentioned more often as flaws than virtues. He is suspected of having reached all of his accomplishments via the exploitation of his youth and respectable punching power, rather than the result of the sort of tactical and technical genius that his fighting father displayed during his epic campaign in the last quarter of the past century.
Searching for the respect that has eluded him so far, Chavez (44-0-1, 31 KOs) will face one of his toughest challenges to date in the motivated and skilled Marco Antonio Rubio (53-5-1, 46 KOs) at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Saturday. A victory would position Junior closer to the bigger challenges in the division, especially the universally recognized linear champion Sergio Martinez, who has worked to force his way into a long-awaited and desirable fight with Chavez through a series of explosive comments, derogatory remarks and sanctioning-body politics.
We caught up with Chavez during a break in his intense training camp, and this is what he had to say:
How was your training for this fight? How is your weight?
Everything has gone well. We have done an excellent job of preparing, and we're ready to give a great fight to everyone. I didn't have much trouble making weight in my last few fights. I've followed everything as I was instructed, and this time won't be an exception.
What can you tell us about Rubio? What sort of challenge do you expect from him?
I expect a tough fight. He's a tough puncher and very experienced. But I believe we've done a great job of preparing, and we're ready to win.
How did you feel about Rubio's remarks indicating he thinks he'll need a knockout to take the title from you?
Well, I find them laughable, really. Whatever he says means nothing to me. Whatever statements he chooses to make are pointless. I'm just focused on my preparation, and I believe I'll demonstrate up in the ring -- with facts and not with words -- what I'm trying to demonstrate.
What's your strategy for this fight? Will you look for a KO?
I want to win the fight, either by knockout or by decision. I believe I prepared well and we're ready. If the knockout comes, it's good, but if we have to fight 12 rounds, then we're ready to fight 12 rounds.
Tell me about your current situation with Sergio Martinez. Do you have any serious intentions to fight him?
The truth is that there haven't been any negotiations or anything. Simply, as everyone has seen, he has been talking about me, mouthing off and making statements. I expect to win [Saturday] and then I want to make that fight. If there is a deal to be made, I would love to fight Sergio Martinez.
Do you believe there's something personal in his attacks, or is he simply trying to drag you into a lucrative fight?
I honestly believe he's just looking for the payday. I believe he's doing it because he knows he's already 36 years old, and that the fight that would make him the most money and get him the most recognition would be with me because neither [Manny] Pacquiao nor [Floyd] Mayweather is interested in fighting him, because he doesn't generate much interest.
Do you believe your legacy or position as champion will be affected if you fail to face a top-notch fighter like Martinez in your prime?
Logically, I believe this fight should materialize at one point or another, and obviously I want to fight him because he is one of the best middleweight champions out there. But we are waiting for the fight to be made. I believe that, sooner or later, the fight has to be made because it's getting bigger every day, and we hope it will generate enough interest so we can reach a deal.
You've insisted you want to fight Martinez, but what is the distance between what you want and what Top Rank is willing to allow?
I'm willing to fight him, and the truth is that I'm very open to it and I'm not running away from it. But also, as everyone knows, this is [Top Rank's] business, and logically, if they're not interested in making the fight and they say no to me, there is nothing I can do. But I will try, and I will do my best to comply with the WBC rule that asks me to fight Martinez. I will try to do it, and I will try to talk to Bob Arum. But first we have to get past [Saturday], and then the doors will be open for that fight and for other fights that will generate similar interest.
Do you seriously believe that Arum has any intention of putting you in with Martinez one day?
I believe he does, that he is really interested. But he's waiting for the fight to get bigger, because obviously he's the businessman, he wants to make good business and obviously he wants the fight to generate more money. But we'll be patient making this fight because I really want to fight Martinez to see who is the best champion in the middleweight division right now.
Let's move away from Martinez for a minute. Who are the other men to beat in the division? Is there an alternate road to recognition for you as the best middleweight in the world?
Well, there's Felix Sturm; there's Dmitry Pirog, who challenged Martinez and didn't get to fight him; there's the other guy from the WBA, the Russian guy [Gennady Golovkin]; and they are all tough, strong, young champs. I believe those fights would give me a lot of credibility, but we will wait. I believe everything has to go step by step, and I don't want to get ahead of myself, because I have this one fight [Saturday]. But God willing, I will pass this test, and then if Martinez or whomever comes along, I will be ready.
How do you anticipate the rest of the year unfolding in terms of your opponents?
Actually, after this fight I would love to do a 10-rounder in Mexico and then fight either Miguel Cotto or Sergio Martinez. Those are my plans: fighting Cotto or Martinez in my next championship fight.
I know you hate the question, but when are we going to see you fight Saul "Canelo" Alvarez?
The truth is that Canelo hasn't been interested in this fight for a while now. He is out there with his own plans and ... I don't know, it's like they stopped talking about me or they lost interest. I don't know whether the fight became too tough for them all of a sudden or what. But I'm open to fight anyone, and I hope it is made, because it's a fight that many Latinos, and especially many Mexicans, want to see.
How do you envision the fight against Rubio playing out?
Well, he is a strong fighter. He punches hard, and I will try to use my ability to knock him out. I believe that's the kind of fight we'll do on [Saturday].
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.