Canelo vs Chavez Jr preview: Last chance saloon for 'Son of a Legend'
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alverez faces Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in an all-Mexican showdown this Saturday in Las Vegas. Can 'Son of a Legend' upset the bookmakers' odds and pull off a shock victory? James Oddy previews the big fight...
Nothing quite sets the heart racing for the boxing aficionado like an all-Mexican showdown. Barrera vs Morales, Vasquez vs Marquez and Olivares vs Castillo were all classic showdowns which sparked epic rivalries and created engaging trilogies still remembered fondly to this day.
It’s for this reason that the otherwise underwhelming match-up between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alverez (48-1-1) and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr (50-2-1) has caught the attention and imagination of fans and media alike.
This Saturday, at the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, the pair meet in a 164 and a half pound catchweight contest, broadcast on HBO in the USA and Boxnation in the UK.
The catchweight has become something of a call sign for ‘Canelo’ over the past few years. Rather flippantly, the 26-year-old has often been described as fighting at ‘Caneloweight’, as he has floated between super welterweight and middleweight, becoming the lineal middleweight champion after defeating Miguel Cotto in a 155lbs contest. Canelo is said to rehydrate after 'day before' weight-ins to a staggering degree, a theory which, using the eye test, seems perfectly feasible, as he often looks huge come fight night.
Regardless of how you view his use of catchweights and ability to pile on extra pounds quickly, there is no denying the flame-haired young Mexican is a prodigious talent.
His sole loss came in a one-sided flogging by pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013. It was a fight that probably came too soon for Canelo, but that small bump on the track has done little to derail his general momentum and his CV is littered with quality fighters.
He has outpointed slippery boxers such as Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara and he has knocked out Liam Smith (in a fight which saw him pick up the WBO super welter title), Alfredo Angulo, Amir Khan and - most spectacularly of all - James Kirkland. He also out-hustled the great Miguel Cotto.
To put it bluntly, Canelo is an elite level talent who can box or punch depending on the circumstances. His hand speed is electric and, due to throwing shots that often catch opponents unawares, his stoppages are often stunning.
Regularly fighting in the pocket, he smartly varies shots to the head and body when pressing the action, and utilises good defence when under attack. He can, on occasion, look a little leaden footed when up against a stylist such as Mayweather or Lara, but this is a minor criticism and something that he seems to be improving on.
Canelo's opponent on Saturday, which coincides with the traditional Cinco de Mayo weekend, is certainly no stylist. Chavez Jr is a raw-boned gunslinger who has had one of the most maddening careers in recent memory.
Nicknamed ‘Son of a Legend’ due to his genetic lineage, Chavez Jr has shown bursts of real promise and excitement alongside extended periods of lethargy. He is, or perhaps more accurately 'was', talented, that is without question. But despite being 31 and having had more fights than Canelo, his resume is much thinner.
He was the WBC middleweight champion for a period, besting the likes of Sebastian Zbik, Andy Lee and Marco Antonio Rubio during the most consistent section of his career. However, since losing the belt in a largely one-sided fight against Sergio Martinez in 2012, Chavez Jr has struggled for any kind of form or consistency.
He has only fought five times since, losing one of those contests to Andrzej Fonfara. Not only did he lose to the Chicago-based Pole, but he was also knocked down and stopped, an alarming sight for a fighter who long had the reputation for inheriting his father's iron jaw.
Battles with both motivation and the scales have regularly dogged Chavez Jr, and his two most recent wins came against fighters more domestic than world level.
When he is fit and on form, Chavez Jr is a hard-punching, tough, come -orward fighter who never had an issue taking one to give one. His stoppage of Andy Lee, probably his best win, exhibited his hand speed and killer instinct, as he trapped Lee on the ropes and unleashed a barrage of shots from all angles.
Should that Chavez Jr turn up, we may be in for another Mexican classic. Indeed, with this being something of a last shot for Chavez Jr and with national pride on the line, perhaps he will be revitalised.
It is also crucial to note that he is a huge middleweight who is more accustomed to fighting at around this catchweight limit than Canelo, meaning he should have a significant size advantage when the two men step in the ring.
Yet footage of Chavez Jr this week has shown a ghoulish-looking figure compared to the healthy looking Canelo. The worry is, having not really boxed anyone elite for around five years, Jr may simply not able to deal with the buzz saw of Canelo.
As such, I expect adrenaline and pride to see Chavez Jr start well, maybe even bullying Canelo with his size for a round or two, providing he manages to rehydrate himself back up to full strength.
However, when Canelo begins punching, and landing, in combination, Jr will be in trouble. At best, he will go out all guns blazing, trying to fight fire with fire. At worst, he will be stopped on his feet around the fifth or sixth, with ‘Canelo’ landing sickening shots to head and body.
Either way this looks set to be a one-fight rivalry and I don’t expect to see these two in a ring against each other again.