By Keith Idec
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has shown some improvement in recent fights, enough to take a middleweight championship from a previously undefeated fighter.
Peter Manfredo Jr. lasted less than three rounds in his first world title fight.
Chavez’s handlers still anticipate a difficult fight Saturday night when Manfredo challenges Chavez for the WBC middleweight title Chavez narrowly won from Germany’s Sebastian Zbik on June 4 in Los Angeles.
“I think it’s a very, very competitive fight,” said Carl Moretti, vice president of boxing operations for Top Rank Inc., Chavez’s co-promoter. “The biggest difference here is that Julio has been in shape for a while, and has no problem making the weight. But on the same token, I think Manfredo knows what’s at stake. He’s not in awe of fighting Chavez.”
The Chavez-Manfredo match will be broadcast by HBO from Reliant Arena in Houston. It’s an optional defense for the unbeaten Chavez (43-0-1, 30 KOs), as Manfredo (37-6, 20 KOs), of Providence, R.I., is ranked No. 4 by the WBC.
The odds heavily favor the 25-year-old Chavez (about 6-1), but Moretti senses some fight fans are underestimating Manfredo as Chavez’s first defense nears. Manfredo, a star of the first season of “The Contender” on NBC, has won six straight fights since Sakio Bika stopped him in the third round of a super middleweight fight three years ago in Providence.
“I think they know Manfredo’s a little bit older, and maybe they think he’s a little over the hill,” Moretti said of the 30-year-old Manfredo. “But recent performances haven’t indicated that. And this fight’s been signed for eight to 10 weeks, so you’re going to get the best of both guys and at the end of the night, you’re going to get a great fight.
“I don’t know how the styles don’t match up for [a great fight]. Neither guy’s going in there to win a 12-round decision. I’m sure both guys are looking at it like they can knock the other guy out.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.