Boxing

Chavez brilliant in TKO victory

The Boxing Tribune Kelsey McCarson
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HOUSTON

“I’m so very happy with my performance,” exclaimed Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. to the press after his spirited TKO win over a hard-charging Peter Manfredo Jr.

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He had good reason to be. Chavez Jr. fought brilliantly in the fight many in press row were clamoring was his best performance to date. The son of legendary champion Julio Cesar Chavez, Chavez Jr. is always — and perhaps unfairly — measured against expectations far beyond other fighters.

But Saturday night, he lived up to them, and he did it in his own way.

Chavez (44-0-1, 31 KOs) employed a steady jab throughout the five-round slugfest, in which he retained his WBC middleweight title. At times, he seemed to glide back effortlessly, flicking his strong left fist out in front, aimed to stop Manfredo (37-7, 20 KOs) in his tracks. Then he’d stop and let his hands go — blazingly fast and precise. Then he’d be gone again.

It was a brutal artistry only boxing fans know exists.

But Manfredo wouldn’t be deterred, so Chavez began raking him with thunderous hooks and uppercuts. Every time the challenger would work his way in to do some damage, he’d be visibly shaken by the hard-hitting champion. By the fifth round, Manfredo realized he would have to leave himself open in order to land something big enough to hurt the larger Chavez.

So he did.

And just like that it was over. Chavez hurt Manfredo in the fifth with a brilliant combination. The ever-brave challenger had spaghetti for legs, but he refused to give in. He stayed upright through it all, even when Chavez let loose punch after punch after punch for which Manfredo was unable to reciprocate.

Referree Laurence Cole rightfully halted the action at 1:52 of Round 5, when the fearless Manfredo had little left to do but stand there defenseless.

When asked after the fight if he had gotten careless, Manfredo responded with the wit and charm that made him a television star on "The Contender" in the first place.

“I always get careless,” he shrugged. “Look at my face.”

But it wasn’t just carelessness on his part. Chavez fought tough and smart. He made Manfredo make that decision by choosing to be the smart boxer-puncher his tall frame allows him to be, rather than the brooding, heavy-footed slugger he’s tried to be in the past.

“I realized I was so tall and didn’t use my jab,” Chavez said. “I needed to use my jab and I did.”

In the end, Chavez and his promoter, Bob Arum, were peppered with questions about what the future holds for the undefeated WBC titlist. Promoter and fighter spoke of lining up big names in the future. Sergio Martinez, who sat in the room almost disinterested, was mentioned along with Saul Alvarez, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. For his part, Chavez gave but one response, and it was the kind any fight fan would appreciate.

“I’m ready.”

Time will tell if he is or not, but he looked ready against Manfredo, at least. Where he goes from here is now up to Top Rank and Team Chavez, but where he is now is a good place to be.

A fighter who often is saddled with expectations of living up to the Chavez name, as well as earning the adoration of the thousands of Mexican fight fans who show up to the fights to chant it, showed once, if not for all, that he really could be something special.

“I’ve been converted from a spoiled kid to a real fighter,” professed Chavez after the fight, perhaps not knowing how truly poignantly he encapsulated what he had just displayed inside the ring, because against Manfredo, he truly did appear to be just that — a real fighter.

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