By Jake Donovan
Everything is bigger in Texas. It’s not just a phrase, but truly a way of life for those who reside in the Lone Star state.
It perhaps in part explains the newfound swagger in Julio Cesar Chavez Jr’s step these days. The unbeaten middleweight makes his second straight ring appearance in Texas, as he prepares to face veteran contender Marco Antonio Rubio on February 4 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
A middleweight belt may or may not be at stake when the two collide in their HBO-televised 12-round bout, but that hasn’t stopped Chavez Jr. (44-0-1, 31KO) from carrying himself like a champion.
“Rubio has said in the past that I would never face him,” Chavez Jr. defiantly stated while addressing the media on hand during Tuesday’s press conference at the Alamodome. “But here I am now.”
The demeanor he carried was as much in stark contrast to that of Rubio as were their respective appearances.
Rubio arrived cleanly shaven and in a traditional blazer, dress shirt and slacks. His moments behind the microphone were spent more appreciative of the long-awaited opportunity, anxious to do his talking in the ring.
Chavez Jr. bore the look of a modern-day fashion model when he strutted confidently into the arena for the media session. A zippered up red leather jacket, blue jeans and black ski cap was the outfit of choice for the scruffy-faced 25-year old, wardrobe more suggestive of being camera-friendly than indicative of the mid-60’s temperatures outside in sunny San Antonio.
The son of the legendary Hall of Fame fighter whose name he proudly bears has every reason to be confident these days, though you wouldn’t know it based on comments made in the media and among his peers. The remarks are not completely without merit. Chavez Jr. is far better in the ring than is often given credit for, but there is reason to not fully embracing the thought of this fight taking place.
His last appearance in the ring – also in Texas – was an agreed-upon optional defense against Peter Manfredo in Houston, five months after beating Sebastian Zbik for a vacant middleweight belt.
Chavez was granted the optional defense on the condition that with a win, he would next defend against Sergio Martinez, who was talked into giving up his belt rather than facing Zbik in a fight that HBO wasn’t interested in airing.
Instead, his handlers – Bob Arum of Top Rank and Fernando Beltran of Zanfer Promotions – decided that a Martinez fight wasn’t necessary, even if it resulted in their fighter being stripped of his title, which hasn’t happened but remains a possibility as the WBC has yet to give its blessing for this fight.
While nobody knocks Rubio’s credentials or his chances of winning, many in the industry have taken issue of the slight against Martinez. Though Chavez Jr himself is willing to fight Martinez or anyone else, he is blamed by default for the fight not happening in recognition of being captain of his ship.
After years of criticism and accusations, the second-generation no longer chooses to play nice.
Criticisms of his dogging it in camp were dismissed in his last fight, showing up in the best condition of his career in easily making weight. He looked equally as fit on Tuesday for a fight still a month away.
Come February 4, his only intentions in facing Rubio are to win or go out on his shield.
“If I have to die in the ring, then I’ll die in the ring,” Chavez proclaimed, in the tradition of so many proud Mexican warriors before him. “This is a fight that I really want to win.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected].