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The Two Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s

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THE ENIGMATIC JCC JR. — There have been two Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s over the course of his professional boxing career. Let’s refer to them here as Chavez the Decent and Chavez the Aloof. Neither fighter is all that great, but neither is middling either.

Chavez is a fierce competitor. He’s a large-framed, strong-willed, hereditarily advantaged predator who does not possess his Hall of Fame father’s immense fighting repertoire, the one that made the elder a lightweight machine capable of precise destructive force augmented by relentless vigor, or at least Chavez the Decent doesn’t in the way Senior’s form-perfect ferocity was equal parts fervor and precise mechanics.

But at his very best, Chavez the Decent is an above average professional who fights less like an heir to a Mexican fortune and more like a poverty stricken, mean-spirited bully who throws hard hooks to the head and body until his most-always-undersized-by-design opponents are beaten into submission or concussed into unconsciousness.

It’s fun to watch.

Where the elder Chavez was the embodiment of weaponized artistry, a truly remarkable representation of what Pierce Egan meant when he called men otherwise known as bombastic butchers sweet scientists instead. Junior’s career is the hallmark of a talented but otherwise just barely above average bourgeois tradesman. In short, Chavez Jr. may only be the local butcher born into the trade because of his father, but man that kid can cut a steak when he wants to do it.

As much malcontent the “Son of a Legend” has been accused of over the years, and though at minimum a very large percentage of it was downright warranted, the 31-year-old from Culiacan, Mexico at the very least deserves proper credit for making a name for himself in boxing beyond the Chavez family legacy.

Not only do boxing fans know Chavez Jr. for what he has done, rather than only for dad’s exploits, but he’s been such an intriguing personality that he’s inspired hordes of people who would otherwise not usually care to see him fight flock to see what he does whenever he laces up the gloves.

Indeed, some of these people plainly hate Chavez Jr. for no other reason than him not being his father, but there’s something more here at play, too. After all, Chavez Jr. is one of the more well-known fighters in the same sport his younger brother, Omar Chavez, plies in relative obscurity.

Maybe it’s the second piece of what embodies the two Chavez Jr.’s that draws us to him. Chavez the Aloof seems to revel in what he is, while at the same time not caring in the least. He frequently walks around media roundtables and the like as if he were a crown prince among paupers, royalty among peasants. To be fair to him, at least in boxing circles, he sort of is. For if Senior is one of boxing’s great kings, what else could we call his son?

Chavez Jr. excels at being—well…Chavez Jr. He doesn’t play the part as if it were simply some role handed down to him by forces outside his control. Chavez Jr., if anything, just acts like himself no matter what his family, fans, friends or enemies have to say about the matter.

In a way, he should be equally commended for that as he is for being a pretty decent fighter fighting out from under his father’s immense shadow.

He gets in public spats with his father. He rolls his eyes at comments and questions he doesn’t want to answer or address. He walks up to and engages whomever he wishes whenever he wishes and walks away from people just as quickly.

Because Chavez the Aloof, the one who also isn’t really all that great a fighter and sometimes shows up to fights disinterested in being there, is…in fact…disinterested in whatever he wants to be disinterested in.

He doesn’t care; or at least doesn’t seem to care about his place in the world. One might assume the immense material wealth surrounding him gives him the luxury, one not afforded almost every other successful fighter in our sport.

But that isn’t his fault, and he doesn’t live as if he should be held accountable for forces outside his control.

Regardless, both Chavez Jr.’s, Chavez the Decent and Chavez the Aloof, can straight-up fight. It’s not pretty. It’s not perfect. It’s not something you’d show young fighters as something to emulate. But for a guy who people thought would end up being the less accomplished of his father’s fighting sons, Chavez Jr. has accomplished things most other professionals, including Omar, never attain.

Chavez Jr. is one of boxing’s power figures, and he’s earned it.

While it’s true, no matter what promotional press releases might say, that Chavez Jr. wasn’t the true middleweight champion of the world, somewhere between the hardline stance of “only lineal championship banners really matter” and “all title belts are created equal” is the fundamental reality—recognized or not by the various interested parties—that capturing any of the four alphabet belts recognized as legitimate is a truly praiseworthy accomplishment.

And Chavez Jr.’s thrashing at the hands of then lineal middleweight king Sergio Martinez, in that single attempt to wangle the middleweight championship away from one of the better middleweight titleholders of recent years, showed the kid wasn’t just a product of good genes and clever matchmaking.

When the chips were down, as they were late in a fight in which he was beaten to the punch almost every minute of every round, no matter which Chavez Jr. had prepared for the fight, the Decent or the Aloof — perhaps both — the fighter who came out in Round 12 was the truest indication of what kind of man Chavez Jr. is truly right down to his soul.

A fighter.

Because no matter how hopelessly outclassed he was by the faster, better fighter that night, Chavez Jr. almost pulled the upset by fighting the ever-rising, always more brutal and more bloody tide by clobbering Martinez in the final round. Most fighters aren’t standing there in Round 12 to throw that punch, much less actually land the thing.

Had Martinez not been Martinez, in fact, Chavez Jr. probably would have become the lineal champion. A lesser fighter — perhaps anyone who isn’t elite and first-ballot Hall of Fame-worthy like the proud Argentinian — would have stayed right down there on that canvas.

Still, one wonders if Canelo-Chavez Jr. will play out even more brutally than that fight. Canelo is one of boxing’s top stars. He’s young, strong, fast and in his prime years. He’s an elite combination puncher, and he’s tested himself against the very best junior middleweight fighters in the world. No matter what all the so-called experts have to say on the matter, Alvarez could truly end up being the man to defeat middleweight monster Gennady Golovkin.

And where age-wise Martinez was a champion on the verge of falling off the cliff at the time Chavez Jr. faced him, Alvarez is still a man headed toward that scenic championship peak fighters dream about, with the looks of someone scheduled to stay up top to enjoy a nice long view from the precipice.

Chavez Jr. has done a lot of dumb things. For example, he foolishly parted ways with Top Rank Promotions and their cadre of matchmaking wizards, and has appeared middling ever since.

His primary asset as a middleweight-ish fighter, after all, was always his freakishly large size in comparison to the competition. His move up to light heavyweight solidified the claim that girth and will were his greatest attributes—not artistry and skill.

So the only real question about his May 6 battle against Alvarez is whether or not he’s simply big enough physically to combat the obvious disadvantage he’ll be facing skill-wise. And we likely won’t know the answer to that until late in the fight.

What we do know is what is sure to make Canelo-Chavez Jr. a truly special event. We know against Canelo, Chavez Jr. will return to the playground he once ruled and seek to reinstate his reign there as schoolyard bully. Canelo will be the faster, better fighter, to be sure, but Chavez Jr. is a huge fighter with an iron chin and a natural inclination toward bullying—a decent, larger fighter who could pull the upset by virtue of will and girth alone.

No matter which Chavez Jr. is training for the fight, which one heads to the ring adorned in red, white and green—once the bell rings on May 6, with as good a fighter as Canelo standing in the other corner and boxing’s full attention on perhaps the premier fight weekend of the year, fans are in for a real show.

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The BWAA Shames Veteran Referee Laurence Cole and Two Nebraska Judges

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In an unprecedented development, the Boxing Writers Association of America has started a “watch list” to lift the curtain on ring officials who have “screwed up.” Veteran Texas referee Laurence Cole and Nebraska judges Mike Contreras and Jeff Sinnett have the unwelcome distinction of being the first “honorees.”

“Boxing is a sport where judges and referees are rarely held accountable for poor performances that unfairly change the course of a fighter’s career and, in some instances, endanger lives,” says the BWAA in a preamble to the new feature. Hence the watch list, which is designed to “call attention to ‘egregious’ errors in scoring by judges and unacceptable conduct by referees.”

Contreras and Sinnett, residents of Omaha, were singled out for their scorecards in the match between lightweights Thomas Mattice and Zhora Hamazaryan, an eight round contest staged at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa on July 20. They both scored the fight 76-75 for Mattice, enabling the Ohio fighter to keep his undefeated record intact via a split decision.

Although Mattice vs. Hamazaryan was a supporting bout, it aired live on ShoBox. Analyst Steve Farhood, who was been with ShoBox since the inception of the series in 2001, called it one of the worst decisions he had ever seen. Lead announcer Barry Tompkins went further, calling it the worst decision he has seen in his 40 years of covering the sport.

Laurence Cole (pictured alongside his father) was singled out for his behavior as the third man in the ring for the fight between Regis Prograis and Juan Jose Velasco at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on July 14. The bout was televised live on ESPN.

In his rationale for calling out Cole, BWAA prexy Joseph Santoliquito leaned heavily on Thomas Hauser’s critique of Cole’s performance in The Sweet Science. “Velasco fought courageously and as well as he could,” noted Hauser. “But at the end of round seven he was a thoroughly beaten fighter.”

His chief second bullied him into coming out for another round. Forty-five seconds into round eight, after being knocked down for a third time, Velasco spit out his mouthpiece and indicated to Cole that he was finished. But Cole insisted that the match continue and then, after another knockdown that he ruled a slip, let it continue for another 35 seconds before Velasco’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.

Controversy has dogged Laurence Cole for well over a decade.

Cole was the third man in the ring for the Nov. 25, 2006 bout in Hildalgo, Texas, between Juan Manuel Marquez and Jimrex Jaca. In the fifth round, Marquez sustained a cut on his forehead from an accidental head butt. In round eight, another accidental head butt widened and deepened the gash. As Marquez was being examined by the ring doctor, Cole informed Marquez that he was ahead on the scorecards, volunteering this information while holding his hand over his HBO wireless mike. The inference was that Marquez was free to quit right then without tarnishing his record. (Marquez elected to continue and stopped Jaca in the next round.)

This was improper. For this indiscretion, Cole was prohibited from working a significant fight in Texas for the next six months.

More recently, Cole worked the 2014 fight between Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido at the San Antonio Alamodome. During the fight, Salido made a mockery of the Queensberry rules for which he received no point deductions and only one warning. Cole’s performance, said Matt McGrain, was “astonishingly bad,” an opinion echoed by many other boxing writers. And one could site numerous other incidents where Cole’s performance came under scrutiny.

Laurence Cole is the son of Richard “Dickie” Cole. The elder Cole, now 87 years old, served 21 years as head of the Texas Department of Combat Sports Regulation before stepping down on April 30, 2014. At various times during his tenure, Dickie Cole held high executive posts with the World Boxing Council and North American Boxing Federation. He was the first and only inductee into the inaugural class of the Texas Boxing Hall of Fame, an organization founded by El Paso promoter Lester Bedford in 2015.

From an administrative standpoint, boxing in Texas during the reign of Dickie Cole was frequently described in terms befitting a banana republic. Whenever there was a big fight in the Lone Star State, his son was the favorite to draw the coveted refereeing assignment.

Boxing is a sideline for Laurence Cole who runs an independent insurance agency in Dallas. By law in Texas (and in most other states), a boxing promoter must purchase insurance to cover medical costs in the event that one or more of the fighters on his show is seriously injured. Cole’s agency is purportedly in the top two nationally in writing these policies. Make of that what you will.

Complaints of ineptitude, says the WBAA, will be evaluated by a “rotating committee of select BWAA members and respected boxing experts.” In subsequent years, says the press release, the watch list will be published quarterly in the months of April, August, and December (must be the new math).

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Popo vs. “La Hiena”: Blast From the Past – Episode Two

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Freitas

When WBA/WBO super featherweight champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas met Jorge Rodrigo “Il Hiena” Barrios in Miami on August 8, 2003, there was more on the line than just the titles. This was a roughhousing 39-1-1 Argentinian fighting an equally tough 33-0 Brazilian. The crowd was divided between Brazilian fans and those from Argentina. To them this was a Mega-Fight; this was BIG.

When Acelino Freitas turned professional in 1995, he streaked from the gate with 29 straight KOs, one of the longest knockout win streaks in boxing history. He was fan-friendly and idolized in Brazil. Barrios turned professional in 1996 and went 14-0 before a DQ loss after which he went 25-0-1 with 1 no decision.

The Fight

The wild swinging “Hyena” literally turned into one as he attacked from the beginning and did not let up until the last second of the eleventh round. Barrios wanted to turn the fight into a street fight and was reasonably successful with that strategy. It became a case of brawler vs. boxer/puncher and when the brawler caught the more athletic Popo—who could slip and duck skillfully—and decked him with a straight left in the eighth, the title suddenly was up for grabs.

The Brazilian fans urged their hero on but to no avail as Barrios rendered a pure beat down on Popo during virtually the entirety of the 11th round—one of the most exciting in boxing history. Freitas went down early from a straight right. He was hurt, and at this point it looked like it might be over. Barrios was like a madman pounding Popo with a variety of wild shots, but with exactly one half of one second to go before the bell ending the round, Freitas caught La Hiena with a monster right hand that caused the Hyena to do the South American version of the chicken dance before he went down with his face horribly bloodied. When he got up, he had no idea where he was but his corner worked furiously to get him ready for the final round. All he had to do was hang in there and the title would change hands on points.

The anonymous architect of “In Boxing We Trust,” a web site that went dormant in 2010, wrote this description:

“Near the end of round 11, about a milli-second before the bell rang, Freitas landed a ROCK HARD right hand shot flush on Barrios’ chin. Barrios stood dazed for a moment, frozen in time, and then down he went, WOW WOW WOW!!!! Barrios got up at the count of 4, he didn’t know where he was as he looked around towards the crowd like a kid separated from his family at a theme park, but Barrios turned to the ref at the count of 8 and signaled that he was okay, SAVED BY THE BELL. It was panic time in the Barrios corner, as the blood continued to flow like lava, and he was bleeding from his ear (due to a ruptured ear drum). In the beginning of round 12, Freitas was able to score an early knockdown, and as Barrios stood up on wobbly legs and Freitas went straight at him and with a couple more shots, Barrios was clearly in bad shape and badly discombobulated and the fight was stopped. Freitas had won a TKO victory in round 12, amazing!!!!”

Later, Freitas tarnished his image with a “No Mas” against Diego Corrales, but he had gone down three times and knew there was no way out. He went on to claim the WBO world lightweight title with a split decision over Zahir Raheem, but that fight was a snoozefest and he lost the title in his first defense against Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz.

Freitas looked out of shape coming in to the Diaz fight and that proved to be the case as he was so gassed at the end of the eighth round that he quit on his stool. This was yet another shocker, but others (including Kostya Tszyu, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya and even Ali) had done so and the criticism this time seemed disproportionate.

Popo had grown old. It happens. Yet, against Barrios, he had proven without a doubt that he possessed the heart of a warrior.

The Brazilian boxing hero retired in 2007, but came back in 2012 and schooled and KOd the cocky Michael “The Brazilian Rocky” Oliveira. He won another fight in 2015 and though by now he was visibly paunchy, he still managed to go 10 rounds to beat Gabriel Martinez in 2017 with occasional flashes of his old explosive volleys. These later wins, though against lower level opposition, somewhat softened the memories of the Corrales and Diaz fights, both of which this writer attended at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut. They would be his only defeats in 43 pro bouts.

Like Manny Pacquiao, Freitas had a difficult childhood but was determined to make a better life for himself and his family. And, like Manny, he did and he also pursued a career in politics. Whether he makes it into the Hall will depend on how much a ‘No Mas’ can count against one, but he warrants serious consideration when he becomes eligible.

As for the Hyena, on April 8, 2005, he won the WBO junior lightweight title with a fourth round stoppage of undefeated but overweight Mike Anchondo. In January 2010 he was involved in a hit and run accident in which a 20-year-old pregnant woman was killed. On April 4, 2012 Barrios was declared guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to four years in prison. He served 27 months and never fought again, retiring with a record of 50-4-1.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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The Avila Perspective Chapter 6: Munguia, Cruiserweights and Pacman

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Adjoining states

Adjoining states in the west host a number of boxing cards including a world title contest that features a newcomer who, before knocking out a world champion, was erroneously categorized by a Nevada official as unworthy of a title challenge.

Welcome to the world of Mexico’s Jaime Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs) the WBO super welterweight world titlist who meets England’s Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 21. HBO will televise

Back in April when middleweight titan Gennady “GGG” Golovkin was seeking an opponent to replace Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who was facing suspension for performance enhancement drug use, it was the 21-year-old from Tijuana who volunteered his services for a May 5th date in Las Vegas.

Bob Bennett, the Executive Director for Nevada State Athletic Commission, denied allowing Munguia an opportunity to fight Golovkin for the middleweight titles. Bennett claimed that the slender Mexican fighter had not proven worthy of contesting for the championship though the tall Mexican wielded an undefeated record of 28 wins with 24 coming by knockout.

To be fair, Bennett has seen many fighters in the past with undefeated records who were not up to challenges, especially against the likes of Golovkin. But on the other hand, how can an official involved in prizefighting deny any fighter the right to make a million dollar payday if both parties are willing?

That is the bigger question.

Munguia stopped by Los Angeles to meet with the media last week and spoke about Bennett and his upcoming first world title defense. He admitted to being in the middle of a whirlwind that is spinning beyond his expectations. But he likes it.

“I’ve never won any kind of award before in my life,” said Munguia at the Westside Boxing Club in the western portion of Los Angeles. “I’ve always wanted to be a world champion since I was old enough to fight.”

When asked how he felt about Nevada’s denying him an attempt to fight Golovkin, a wide grin appeared on the Mexican youngster.

“I would like to thank him,” said Munguia about Bennett’s refusal to allow him to fight Golovkin. “Everything happens for a reason.”

That reason is clear now.

Two months ago Munguia put on a frightening display of raw power in knocking down then WBO super welterweight titlist Sadam Ali numerous times in front of New York fans. It reminded me of George Foreman’s obliteration of Joe Frazier back in the 1970s. World champions are not supposed get battered like that but when someone packs that kind of power those can be the terrifying results.

Still beaming over his newfound recognition, Munguia has grand plans for his future including challenging all of the other champions in his weight category and the next weight division.

“I want to be a great champion,” said Munguia. “I want to make history.”

The first step toward history begins on Saturday when he faces former world champion Smith who was dethroned by another Mexican named Canelo.

Cruiserweight championship

It’s not getting a large amount of attention in my neighborhood but this unification clash between WBA and IBF cruiserweight titlist Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) and WBC and WBO cruiserweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) has historic ramifications tagged all over it.

The first time I ever saw Russia’s 24-year-old Gassiev was three years ago when he made his American debut at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello. It’s a small venue near East L.A. and the fight was attended by numerous boxing celebrities such as James “Lights Out” Toney, Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. One entire section was filled by Russian supporters and Gassiev did not disappoint in winning by stoppage that night. His opponent hung on for dear life.

Ukraine’s Usyk, 31, made his American debut in late 2016 on a Golden Boy Promotions card that staged boxing great Bernard Hopkins’ final prizefight. That night the cruiserweight southpaw Usyk bored audiences with his slap happy style until lowering the boom on South Africa’s Thabiso Mchunu in round nine at the Inglewood Forum. The sudden result stunned the audience.

Now it’s Gassiev versus Usyk and four world titles are at stake. The unification fight takes place in Moscow, Russia and will be streamed via Klowd TV at 12 p.m. PT/ 3 p.m. ET.

Seldom are cruiserweight matchups as enticing to watch as this one.

Another Look

A couple of significant fights took place last weekend, but Manny Pacquiao’s knockout win over Lucas Matthysse for the WBO welterweight world title heads the list.

Neither fighter looked good in their fight in Malaysia but when Pacquiao floored Matthysse several times during the fight, it raised some red flags.

The last time Pacquiao knocked out a welterweight was in 2009 against Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas. Since then he had not stopped an opponent. What changed?

In this age of PEDs there was no mention of testing for the Pacquiao/Matthysse fight. For the curiosity of the media and the fans, someone should come forward with proof of testing. Otherwise any future fights for the Philippine great will not be forthcoming.

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