By Jake Donovan
The most anxious part of any given event featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. isn’t how he will do in the ring, but how he looks when he hits the scales.
All fears were alleviated on Friday afternoon, when the second-generation fighter showed up at a lean 159 lb. for his middleweight title defense against Andy Lee on Saturday night at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. HBO will televise the bout, which is preceded on the broadcast (Saturday, 10PM ET) by the exclusive replay of last week’s welterweight bout between Tim Bradley and Manny Pacquiao.
Chavez Jr. (45-0-1, 31KO) makes the third defense of the alphabet belt he acquired a year ago with a hard-fought decision over Sebastian Zbik. His first defense showed the unbeaten middleweight at his physical peak, looking lean and mean in dismantling Peter Manfredo Jr. in five rounds last November.
It was a far different tale this past February. Chavez Jr. struggled through a training camp that included a DUI arrest and having to dehydrate in order to weigh 160 lb. just long enough to make the fight with Marco Antonio Rubio an official middleweight title bout.
Three separate locations were offered for this latest camp, with Chavez Jr. training in Mexico, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The results showed as the emerging star had no problems making weight.
Lee (28-1, 20KO) gets his first crack at a major title. The southpaw contender was once a hotly rising prospect before brawling his way into the loss column as he was stopped by Bryan Vera in March ’08. It’s been smooth sailing ever since, with Lee even avenging the loss last September, showing that he can box as well as brawl, depending on the situation.
This year has been a frustrating campaign for Lee thus far, who didn’t hide his disappointment with promoter Lou Dibella in being passed over for a shot at lineal middleweight champ Sergio Martinez (both fight for DiBella Entertainment). Lee remained patient and – after original Chavez Jr. opponent Martin Murray fell through due to visa issues – finally landed in the right place at the right time.
Some call this weekend’s bout the toughest test to date of Chavez Jr’s career. Others call it a stroke of matchmaking genius, pitting the Mexican banger against a southpaw to somewhat prepare him for a potential fall showdown with Martinez.
How will the action play out? Read on to see what the Boxingscene.com staff believes will go down.
“I'll take Lee to upset Chavez, TKO 10, with Chavez underestimating a tremendously in-shape Lee.”
- Mitch Abramson, Staff Contributor/NY Daily News Sports Writer
“I think this will be Chavez Jr's coming out party. After a great training camp in Vegas, I think he puts together the best performance of his career. Chavez is too big and too strong for Lee. Chavez TKO 8.”
– Ryan Burton, Staff Contributor/ Co-Host of Boxingscene’s “The Boxing Lab” Internet radio show.
“Most of the picks seem to go the same way but for different reasons. I like Chavez to score a knockout mid-to-late, but believe that Andy Lee is being undersold. His southpaw stance and aggressive style should give Chavez fits early. A mid-fight adjustment by Chavez will prove to be a momentum changer, with the unbeaten titlist never looking back.”
– Jake Donovan, Managing Editor
“Julio Cesar Chavez Jr is a hunk! Just jokes, people. Chavez looks to be in the same (top) shape when he fought Manfredo in Houston last year. He didn’t look like he trained hard (versus Rubio) but found a way to win. Coming in at his best, I think he’s too strong for Lee and knocks him out.”
- Nina Mariah Donovan, staff photographer
“Chavez Jr., while obviously not Marvin Hagler or Carlos Monzon, is a pretty good light heavyweight in a middleweight's body. He's done well to clean out the second-tier contenders in the division and I don't see why that would stop here. I'd expect him to come in as the bigger man, the stronger man and the more fundamentally sound man, which will allow him to wear Lee down through the middle rounds and get a stoppage before the end of the single digits. Chavez Jr., TKO9.”
– Lyle Fitzsimmons, Feature Writer
“Chavez TKO8. Too big and strong for Lee, who will have his moments of showcasing his superior overall skillset. In the end, Chavez’ pure size and aggression will cause Lee to wilt.”
– Ernest Gabion, videographer/Co-Host of Boxingscene’s “The Boxing Lab” Internet radio show
“Chavez KO10 Lee: Despite an excellent amateur pedigree, Lee never really seems to firm on his legs and I wonder about his chin. He also, despite early hype, hasn't done much more as a pro than Junior. He can crack, and Chavez is there to be tagged, but Lee will still be in range of Middleweight. Chavez has shown a decent beard and tends to rehydrate as a small Cruiserweight. As the rounds wear on, it will be a grind for Lee and Chavez should be able to score an accumulative stoppage.”
– Cliff Rold, Managing Editor
“I think Chavez's size and strength will be the difference in this bout. Say what you want about JCC Jr, but he's shown he has a solid set of whiskers and is becoming bigger and stronger with every passing fight. I think Andy Lee will try to box and mix it up with Chavez but Chavez's will impose his size and strength on Lee and eventually wear him down with a dedicated body attack to boot. Chavez TKO10.”
- Luis Sandoval, Staff Contributor/Co-Host of Boxingscene’s “The Boxing Lab” Internet radio show
“If it wasn’t under all-mighty Bob's aegis, I’d call this fight a toss-up. After seeing Manny Pac being brutally kayoed in his battle with the judges I can only think of the pre-given result of the bout. JCC Junior's body blows will be served as an excuse, and Lee isn't all that fragile to be stopped on his feet; he is well upgraded since Vera fight.”
– Alexey Sukachev, Boxingscene Eastern European Editor
Total: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. 8, Andy Lee 1
The middleweight title fight between Chavez Jr. and Lee serves as the standalone live event on HBO. The live portion of the show will be preceded by the exclusive replay of Tim Bradley’s controversial split decision win over Manny Pacquiao, which opens the HBO broadcast (Saturday, 10PM ET).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]