Can Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. emerge from his father’s shadow?
It isn't easy being the son of a legend.
Ask Marvis Frazier. The son of late legendary heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, Marvis finished his career with a 19-2 record. His lone losses were to men often listed among the greatest heavyweights who ever lived: Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson.
But he'll always be remembered first for being Joe's son. Always.
Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. is in the same boat. Chavez, the current WBC middleweight champion of the world, isn't known for what he's done inside the ring, but instead who he is outside of it. Heck, he's headlining a major HBO card this Saturday and he doesn't even have his own website to show for it.
Google it and you'll see. His official internet presence is a subpage on his father's site.
But don't feel sorry for the guy. Not yet. Chavez isn't in the twilight of his career. He's not looking back on what might have been or counting losses against all-time greats. He still has time to make the Chavez name known for more than just his father. He still has time to emerge from the shadow of his father's greatness.
Some fight fans just aren't having it, though.
Go to any Internet message board and you'll see. They seem to hate the guy. They argue Chavez doesn't deserve to be a showcase fighter on HBO. They mock how he spent much of his early career being prominently featured on undercards. They detest the number of minor PPV cards he's had with revenue numbers propped up by eager Mexican fight fans ready to embrace another Chavez.
But Chavez isn't just his father's son. He's a fighter who, despite the obvious advantages his father's fame has afforded him, has had to defeat the fighters placed in front of him to get to this point. He's had to do it in such a way as to keep Mexican fight fans interested, and he's had to have been good enough doing it for HBO to believe he should be carried on a major network.
Say what you want about the kid, but he still has a chance to be something special.
You could see it in his last fight. Fighting the undefeated and very game Sebastian Zbik for a middleweight title belt, Chavez found himself down on points early. No one had told Zbik he wasn't there to give the kid trouble. The European had come to America to fight on HBO and make a name for himself, not be Chavez's HBO coming-out party. He was well on his way to doing it, too.
But when Chavez found himself down, he didn't flinch. He didn't slink off into obscurity. He didn't become just a footnote to his father that night. Instead, he did what his dad would have done in the same situation. He just kept coming. He just kept punching.
It wasn't quite the stirring turn of events Chavez Sr. had in his epic encounter with Meldrick Taylor oh so long ago, but by the end of the fight, Chavez Jr. had earned a majority decision for the WBC title. Sure, everyone knows the real champion of the division is Sergio Martinez, but a win is a win, and a win on HBO in a close, exciting showcase fight gets you another date to show off your skills. It gets you another date with destiny.
This Saturday, that destiny leads him to face former world title challenger Peter Manfredo, Jr. It's not the biggest fight of the year. It's not even the biggest fight of the month. But it's a good test for Chavez, and yet another rung in a ladder that leads him towards a chance to make a name for himself.
And it may happen sooner rather than later.
Fellow rising Mexican star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez fights the very next week on HBO. There have long been rumors that the fighters are destined to clash, and obviously both fighters would be in a position scheduling-wise to make it happen. It's an intriguing fight for sure. A win over Manfredo, and Chavez will have done his part.
Regardless of that bout being made, Chavez will have options should he find himself the winner Saturday. His WBC belt will keep the fights coming to him, and there are plenty of good middleweights out there for him to keep fans watching. Potential matchups besides Alvarez, such as Andy Lee or even division kingpin Sergio Martinez, are also fights worth getting excited about, which is exactly why his father was so beloved.
But Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. is not his father. He never will be. He's his own man, and right now is still in his father's shadow. But with each bout comes opportunity. With each opportunity comes another test. And every test he passes is another important step out of the tremendous shadow of his father and into the light of his own destiny.