Five keys for Andy Lee
Plotting the challenger's path to victory against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s fight against top contender Andy Lee on Saturday is about respect and credibility as much as it is for a title and the bragging rights that come with it. Both fighters have been hyped as the next big thing since their early days as professionals, only to fall a bit short of expectations along the way.
But the road to the top isn't a cakewalk, and after dealing with their shares of ups and downs, Chavez (45-0-1, 31 KOs) and Lee (28-1, 20 KOs) seem ready to face what appears to be a career-defining challenge for each. Chavez, 26, will attempt to silence his many critics by taking on his most difficult rival to date. Lee, 28, a former Irish Olympian now living in Detroit, has also felt the sting of criticism, which he'd like to put an end to with an explosive performance against the biggest draw in the middleweight division.
A defeat will push one of them back down the contender ladder, while the winner will move a step closer to being regarded as the best 160-pounder in the world today.
With the stage set, here are five keys to victory for Lee on Saturday:
Watch the body
|Nobody wins on defense alone, but against the biggest body puncher in the division today, Lee would be well advised to stay alert and make this an essential part of a winning strategy. Chavez, the son of one of the toughest body punchers from a country known for them, seems naturally inclined to work downstairs. Making matters more difficult for Lee is that the kid is pretty good at it. Without a good plan to neutralize Chavez's body attack, everything else is moot.|
Set the pace
|Chavez tends to throw long combinations, working his way up from his excellent body punches and always firing for effect, not just to score. Once Chavez gets in his rhythm, it's difficult to get him out of the zone. Lee will have to upset the timing of Junior's punches and make him miss or counterpunch him early during the combinations just to keep him honest. Limiting Chavez's output to two or three punches at a time will be a positive thing for Lee.|
Blow from the south
|In 46 fights, Chavez has never fought a southpaw, and Lee is a bit more skilled and less awkward than most lefties in the business. Lee must make his stance advantage count. Chavez has all kinds of defensive weaknesses from all angles. Let's see how he handles being punched harder than usual -- Lee has decent power -- from unexpected sides. Chavez is slow enough for Lee to try all the typical lefty tricks on him (slip below the jab and land the straight left/right hook, for example) and be successful. If Lee makes the effort, he'll put Chavez in lots of trouble.|
Innocent until proven guilty
|The Hall of Fame trainers in both corners (Emanuel Steward for Lee, Freddie Roach for Chavez) aren't there to hold a loser's hand. They are in the business of winning fights, and they likely will pull out all the stops to motivate their charges Saturday. But the most pressure is clearly on Chavez, who is ducking linear champion Sergio Martinez for the fourth straight fight while facing the most legitimate contender -- and, for once, a natural middleweight -- in his career. Lee needs to let the pressure on Chavez work for him and operate from the counter-offensive to pick apart Junior's weaknesses.|
Be the boxer
|In his own analysis of the fight, Lee offered that he can outbrawl, outsmart, outslug and pretty much out-anything Chavez. As good as he may be, the truth is Lee probably can't do it all. He needs to choose one area to best Chavez and stick to it. A suggestion: Why not lean on his premier boxing skills? Lee's remarkable amateur career -- during which he topped current contenders such as Ismail Sillakh, Alfredo Angulo and Gennady Golovkin -- stands as testimony to his superiority in this department. He should force the issue by outclassing Chavez first, because that's the area where Lee holds the widest advantage.|
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.