Saturday, February 4, 2012
Updated: February 5, 3:30 PM ET
Chavez Jr. overpowers Rubio for win
By Dan Rafael
SAN ANTONIO -- Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., his life filled with drama, found time for some drama inside the ring, too, where he outslugged Marco Antonio Rubio to retain his middleweight title by unanimous decision Saturday night at the Alamodome.
At 25, Chavez is youthful enough that he was able to overcome the issues he has had with cutting weight and drinking, as he showed good stamina to outlast Rubio in a tough, physical fight before a rowdy crowd of 14,120, most of whom were rooting for Chavez in the all-Mexican showdown.
Chavez entered the ring after a training camp that was anything but smooth.
On Jan. 22, just two weeks ago, he was arrested in Los Angeles, where he trains with Freddie Roach, on charges of drunk driving and spent part of the night in jail. He has a hearing in the case set for March 16.
Perhaps that was one of the reasons for his serious problems making weight. Members of his inner circle whispered that Chavez had to cut 8 pounds over the final two days before Friday's weigh-in to make the 160-pound limit.
Although Chavez didn't comment on the arrest, he did acknowledge his problems making weight, which were bad enough that he was working out and swimming in the hour leading up to the weigh-in.
"The fact that I had so much trouble making weight didn't allow me to knock him out," said Chavez, whose father, Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., was ringside. "I got overconfident after making the weight so easily for my last four fights, and I made a mistake. Never again."
Although Chavez (45-0-1, 31 KOs) made 159½ at the weigh-in, he had blown all the way up to 181 by the time he stepped onto HBO's unofficial scale when he arrived at the arena. Rubio (53-6-1, 46 KOs) had gone up to only 171.
Chavez's size difference helped him, as he was able to bull Rubio around.
"He was too heavy for me. I couldn't handle his weight," said Rubio, who saw his 10-fight winning streak come to an end, after having not lost since being stopped in the ninth round by then-middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in 2009. "It was body on body, and it was too much for me to handle."
Indeed, Chavez and Rubio spent long stretches locked in an inside battle as they banged away at each others' bodies and traded flush shots from short range.
"Both fighters came in shape, and they both fought their hearts out," Roach said. "We were bigger, and that was the difference."
Chavez and Rubio had a few accidental head-butts because of their inside fighting, but mostly it was a grinding, physical fight.
They both landed a tremendous number of body shots, and Rubio was warned for low blows in the fourth and sixth rounds.
Chavez seemed to slow down a bit in the second half of the fight.
"I had a little problem with the weight, and in the seventh and eighth rounds, I started to feel my legs. I just need to be more careful with the weight. He wasn't as tough as I thought he would be. I felt good about myself the whole fight," he said.
He came back to life in the late stages of the fight as he and Rubio finished with two electrifying rounds. The crowd was on its feet as they bombed away in the 11th and 12th rounds.
In the 11th round, Chavez caught Rubio on the ropes, and they got into a wicked exchange -- and then another one in the final minute of the round. It was more of the same in the 12th round, even though it was clear Chavez was going to win.
All three judges had it for Chavez, who made his second title defense: 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113. ESPN.com had it for Chavez 117-111.
"I felt a lot stronger than him," Chavez said. "He never hurt me. I felt his punches, but he never hurt me."
Chavez won despite showing far less activity -- but a much higher connect percentage -- than Rubio. According to CompuBox statistics, Chavez landed 237 of 560 punches (42 percent) while Rubio connected on 201 of 962 (21 percent).
Despite the weight issues, Chavez said he had no plans to move up to super middleweight. He wants to continue defending his belt, which he won via decision against Sebastian Zbik last year and then defended against Peter Manfredo, knocking him out in the fifth round of a lopsided fight.
Lineal champion Sergio Martinez has been calling Chavez out, and even though Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has shown little interest in making the match, Chavez is a fighter. He said he would gladly accept it.
"Let's go," he said. "If my promoter says go, let's go. But if I fight like I did today, [Martinez] will win. But I'll prepare and I'll win the fight. Whatever my promoter wants, whoever they put in front of me, I will fight."
Dan Rafael is a boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.