LAS VEGAS, May 5, 2017 – As a raucous group of 5,000 fans cheered them on, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. stepped onto the official scale at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas Friday afternoon.
In one of the most anticipated weigh-ins in recent boxing memory, both men weighed in at 164 pounds, a half-pound under their contracted catchweight of 164.5 pounds. Amigos, we have a fight Saturday night.
Due in part to being the larger man and due in even larger part to his previous lack of work ethic, observers speculated Chavez Jr. would have trouble getting to the weight limit. Although he looked extremely lean, Chavez Jr. didn’t look drained and put a lot of doubters behind him. Whether it was the motivation provided by trainer Nacho Berestain or the motivation provided by the fine of $1 million for every pound Chavez Jr. blew through the weight limit, it worked.
Now the sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will play host to a classic Cinco de Mayo weekend matchup, a Mexican civil war in boxing. Who will prevail, the younger redheaded Mexican who worked his way up the ranks starting at age 15, or the son of the most beloved boxer in Mexican history who is perceived to have grown up with every advantage?
The match-up comes with inherent drama worthy of a telenovela. Neither man has much respect for the other and the dislike between them is all too real. Alvarez sees Chavez Jr. as a frivolous party boy who is a disgrace to his father’s name. Chavez Jr. sees Alvarez as the favorite son who’s ducked his toughest opponents, specifically middleweight Gennady Golovkin.
All of this accompanies them into the ring Saturday night along with their history and their skills.
Former two-division world champion Canelo Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs) has knockout wins over Liam Smith, Amir Khan, and James Kirkland in his last three bouts. His sole loss is to Floyd Mayweather at 154 pounds. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KOs) has losses on his record to Andrzej Fonfara in 2015 at light heavyweight, a fight in which he quit in the corner, and an epic middleweight fight with Sergio Martinez in 2012 in which Chavez Jr. nearly scored a knockout win in the final seconds in a fight he otherwise lost badly. He has two decision wins since Fonfara to Marcos Reyes (who will fight David Lemieux in the co-main event) and Dominic Britsch, but neither distinguish him.
Chavez Jr. should come into the ring the bigger man, perhaps as much as 180 pounds, with Alvarez in the 170-plus range. There is no rehydration clause. Chavez Jr. is four inches taller at six-foot-one with three inches of reach advantage.
Chavez Jr. needs to use his weight to muscle and pressure Alvarez in an effort to crowd him and stop him from getting leverage on power punches. If Chavez Jr. can work to the body without taking too much body damage of his own, he stands a chance of tiring Alvarez out and surviving a brawl into the later rounds, as he did with Martinez.
Alvarez is the faster, more accurate puncher. He is a slow starter in the early rounds. Just when an opponent thinks he’s getting the upper hand outboxing Alvarez and tries to make a move, the natural counter puncher strikes. Just ask Amir Khan. But we may see Alvarez try to score an early knockout with an element of surprise, along the lines of James Kirkland. Chavez Jr. can take some punishment, but when the going got tough against Fonfara, he folded his cards.
Neither man can afford to lose. There are no titles on the line, no fancy belts. But there is something much more important, pride and honor. In a boxing crazy country, whoever wins will be a hero. The other might as well exile himself to Southern California, at least in the near future.
Chavez Jr. has a chance to redeem himself. Alvarez needs to maintain his trajectory toward the anticipated megafight with Golovkin. A loss for Alvarez would be a disaster for Golden Boy Boxing and Oscar De La Hoya.
We aren’t going to buck the odds. Alvarez is the favorite for a reason. He’s younger and more skilled, backed up by a tremendous work ethic and will. He is a serious and focused fighter. Just because Chavez Jr. made weight doesn’t mean he’ll hang tough when Alvarez puts a hurt on him. Chavez Jr. is the perfect opponent for Alvarez, a man who will come right at him, stand in front of him and throw. But what he can do is rehabilitate his poor image with a good effort.
Ringside Seat predicts a TKO stoppage by Canelo Alvarez in the seventh or eighth round of this fight.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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