Few fighters have taken so much criticism so early in their careers, or responded so well to it, as has Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
When he was regularly accused of being coddled by his handlers or coasting on the coattails of his Hall of Fame father not so long ago, Chavez simply continued winning and improving until the narrative changed. The newest knock on Junior: that he didn't rightfully earn the middleweight strap currently in his possession -- the title that had been stripped from lineal champ Sergio Martinez.
But Chavez (46-0-1, 32 KOs) will be afforded a rare opportunity to answer the catcalls directly and legitimize his championship when he takes on Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KOs) in Las Vegas on Sept. 15, in a matchup that would have been unthinkable little more than a year ago. Chavez's work with trainer Freddie Roach has transformed him into something more than a paper champion, and some believe that his new polish combined with his size and chin give Junior an outside shot, if not the upper hand, against Martinez.
ESPN.com enlisted the help of HBO to get Chavez's take on his career, his future and Martinez. As part of an ongoing feature ahead of the fight, we will provide periodic updates with Chavez's thoughts.
On his best and worst memory as a fighter, and which wins have been the most satisfying:
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My best memory as a fighter is winning the world middleweight championship. It was my dream to become a world champion. That's why I decided to become a professional fighter. Beating Sebastian Zbik in Los Angeles to become the middleweight champion is something that I will never forget -- and for so many reasons. Not many people believed that I could do it, and that inspired me. The select few who did believe in me encouraged me and sacrificed for me. And to win the title only a few blocks from the old Olympic [Auditorium] where my father won his first world title, well, that made it even more special for me. My father and I will always be linked together because we won our first world championship belts in the same city.
My worst memory was in July 2008 in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. I had a very difficult time in the ring. It was very hot all week and I started getting sick the day before the weigh-in and never fully recuperated after the weigh-in. I had a fever the night before the fight, but I went through with the fight and the last two rounds were the most difficult time I've had in the ring. I could barely walk and was just standing up because of my pride and my heart. I threw up in the ring after the fight and had a fever.
My most memorable victory was against Zbik and winning the middleweight championship of the world. It was a very difficult fight early, but I was able to come back in the second half of the fight and win it. It's a feeling that will stay with me forever. To hear the ring announcer say, "The winner and new " that is something I will never forget. That is something I never want to forget. Of course, I now like hearing the ring announcer say, "The winner, and still " And that's exactly what he will say in the ring on Sept. 15 after my fight with Sergio Martinez ends.
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