Five keys for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Plotting the middleweight champ's path to victory against Andy Lee
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 Chavez on Saturday:
|Aside from throw punches and don't get hit, we can't think of a more obvious key for Chavez. Junior is the most relentless body puncher in the business right now, even if he isn't especially powerful or accurate. He is a pressure fighter who aims a huge percentage of his punches for the area between the rib cage and waistline, and he seems to routinely set new personal bests on CompuBox stats in this category. If Chavez maintains his usual punch rate Saturday, Lee isn't likely to have any legs left after the eighth round or so, and then he'll be ripe for the picking. |
Walk like dad
|Body punching is his forte, but footwork is another trait Junior seemingly inherited from his old man. He may look awkward afoot, but he is clever and rarely gets cornered for more than a few seconds. Lee isn't a particularly mobile fighter, but he knows his way around the canvas. Chavez will need to stay nimble and avoid allowing Lee to cut off the ring and pin him down.|
|Junior is just a nickname, but he is definitely the younger, fresher fighter in this matchup, even though the opponents are separated by only two years. Despite his physical style and the expected wear and tear of 46 professional fights, Chavez has looked more energetic than Lee by a wide margin, probably because he didn't have the long, strenuous amateur career Lee, a former Olympian for Ireland, endured dating back to his early teens. Turning this fight into a tiring affair will play into the hands of Chavez, who can outmuscle Lee in the clinch and sap his energy as the rounds go by.|
Some like them cold
|Lee owns quite a few early-round knockouts. He could be labeled as a quick starter, but turn it around for a moment: Is he ready to feel the power of Chavez's punches while he's still cold? Chavez should try to get to Lee early and often, just to set the tone against a fighter who has the skills to outbox him. If Chavez beats some caution into Lee with some excessive aggressiveness early on, he can build an advantage that could become decisive as the fight -- and Lee with it -- wears on.|
|During individual rounds -- and occasionally for entire fights -- Chavez can be plagued by severe blackouts in which his energy level drops drastically without any obvious reason. Few of his first 30 fights went the distance, and he grew accustomed to not having to save any juice for the home stretch. This has become evident in his past few fights, when he has shown a propensity to lose steam before recovering with a second wind and finishing the proceedings with a bit more zip. Lee will definitely be ready to fight 12 hard rounds, and if Chavez fails to match his energy level at any point, the going will get tough for the young champ.|
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.
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