Monday, July 20, 2015

Is The Future For Chavez At 168lbs.?

The main storyline going into the Super-Middleweight bout between former WBC Middleweight world champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and relative unknown contender Marcos Reyes was whether or not Chavez could bounce back from his first knockout loss. Although this fight had the appearance of a mere “Comeback Fight” for Chavez, one may well have been justified in wondering if not only Chavez could rebound from his loss earlier this year to top Light-Heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara, but also whether or not his status as a star of the sport was also at stake.

In some ways one might argue that Chavez entered into this fight in what could be described as a “No-Win” situation. If he were to win the fight against Reyes in dominant fashion there would be some who would say that he did what he was supposed to do against a relative unknown opponent. If however, Chavez were to win the fight, but have difficulty in the process or if he were to lose the bout some could say that not only his status as a star in the sport, but more importantly his career may be in jeopardy.

Even though it is understandable how some may have viewed Chavez’ position prior to this fight as being in a “No-Win” situation, this observer believes Chavez was in a “Must Win” situation. He needed a victory in this fight to first and foremost restore his confidence and secondly to maintain his status as a star in the sport and therefore, potentially set up some lucrative opportunities for big fights down the road.

Chavez would answer those questions on July 18th when he met Reyes at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas. A change for Chavez as he entered this fight was in the form of new trainer Robert Garcia. In addition to wondering if Chavez would have any ill effects from the loss to Fonfara, I wondered how he would respond to working with one of the best trainers in the world in Garcia, after previously being trained by Freddie Roach and Joe Goossen in his career.

One thing that was immediately noticeable in this fight was Chavez using a tactical approach early on. Unlike his bout with Fonfara, Chavez did not lead in with his head and patiently worked to capitalize on openings that Reyes left him. Although Chavez was more tactical in this fight than he was against Fonfara, he did allow Reyes to get his punches off first while trying to walk him down and get him on the ropes where he could do damage. Even though Chavez was successful in walking Reyes down, he did not throw punches as he came forward early on and only let his hands go once was able to close distance.

As this fight progressed it clearly became a battle of Reyes’ greater activity in throwing his punches in volume versus the effectiveness of Chavez when he was able to close distance and let his hands go. Reyes was most effective in this fight during periods where he was able to get his punches off first and use lateral movement to evade Chavez as he came forward. Reyes was able to have success periodically in snapping Chavez’ head back when he threw combinations.

Chavez meanwhile had a clear power advantage over Reyes and was most effective when he was able to close distance and land effectively with both hands to the body and head. As this observer has often stated over the years, a conundrum that can be present for judges in regard to close fights where both fighters are able to be effective is to determine which fighter is dictating the tempo of the fight.

In this fight although Marcos Reyes was clearly the busier of the two fighters throughout much of the fight, Chavez was more effective in executing his offense when he let his hands go and was able to land the more damaging punches of the two. Reyes was deducted a point in round nine for a head butt, which opened a cut over the left eye of Chavez. What was a close fight in the eyes of this observer was changed slightly by the point deduction against Reyes as Chavez would go on to win a hard fought ten round unanimous decision. Although two official judges Miguel Acuna and Ruben Carrion scored this fight by wide margins in favor of Chavez turning in scores of 97-92 and 98-91 respectively, unofficially I scored this bout the same as the third official judge Oren Shellenberger 96-93 in favor of Chavez.

Although some may feel that Chavez’ performance in this fight did not live up to the expectations that some may have had prior to the fight, this observer felt that it was a good performance by a fighter who was looking to get back in the win column. Some may choose to criticize Chavez for not being able to knock his opponent out in this fight, but this observer will not be one of them.

Marcos Reyes was able to give Chavez a tough fight and sometimes coming off of a loss, especially one that was a knockout loss it can be beneficial for that fighter to be tested in their first fight back rather than being put in against an opponent who will not provide much resistance. Even though Reyes came out of this fight on the losing end, he gave a good account himself and it would not surprise this observer to see him against another contender in either the 160lb. Middleweight division or the 168lb. Super-Middleweight in the near future.

As for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. this fight did serve a purpose in getting him back in the win column. The biggest question in this observer’s eyes coming out of this fight is whether or not the future for Chavez will be in the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division. It is important to remember that Chavez did come in overweight for this fight at 170.8 lbs. For his part, Chavez stated after the fight that despite not making weight for this fight, he feels he can still make the 168lb. Super-Middleweight limit.

Whether or not Chavez can make that weight limit in the future is a question that only he can answer. In terms of what this win will do for him as far as his position in the Super-Middleweight division is concerned, Chavez will likely maintain his number five and number ten rankings in the WBC and WBA respective Super-Middleweight ratings.

It will be interesting to see how the recent retirement of longtime division cornerstone Carl Froch will impact the Super-Middleweight division. Chavez is certainly a fighter that has marquee value and it is not difficult to envision him finding himself in position to challenge for a world championship at some point in the future. Chavez however, must show that he can be consistent not only in terms of making weight, but more importantly in the ring.

Although he was able to get the win in this fight, one victory will likely not erase the memory of being stopped for the first time in his career. If Chavez is able to build momentum off of his victory over Marcos Reyes and can show the ability to be consistent, the periodic struggles that he has experienced throughout his career may become a distant memory in the future.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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