By Lyle Fitzsimmons
It’s never easy for the second guy.
Whether the former entity was spectacular, mediocre or merely notorious, the latter to come down an assigned pathway with a similar surname is almost always – subconsciously or no – painted with a brush that’s unfairly similar to the one that went before him.
For example, my older brother, Mitchell – 19 months my senior – and I couldn’t be more different.
In fact, in each other’s social circles, we stand out like grotesquely disfigured thumbs.
While I’d be happy to spend fall/winter Sundays with a cheering the maddening fortunes of the New York Jets, he’s much more content to spend the time with a fishing pole or rummaging under the hood of his latest late ’60s-era muscle-car reclamation project.
And as he climbed the ladder two grades ahead of me during our shared days at Niagara-Wheatfield Senior High School, let’s just say the ground he tilled in front of me was, well… memorable.
So even though I trudged toward graduation with a little less one-on-one attention from the folks in the principal’s office, each step I took was nonetheless viewed through a “look out for him, he’s so-and-so’s little brother” prism.
In some small way, it’s a similar daily grind for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Son of a multi-division champion and Canastota-enshrined Hall of Famer, the soon-to-be 26-year-old product of Culiacan, Mexico climbed an interminable ladder of progress from his debut at age 17 to his initial title opportunity in fight No. 44 eight years later.
Upon arrival on the big stage, the responses were predictable… if not pleasant.
Rather than lauding his admission to a fraternity the old man reached 26 years earlier at 130 pounds, the reviews on Junior leaned far closer to skeptical – both for the reed-thin verdict over Sebastian Zbik and the legitimacy of the belt it yielded in a division seen as the domain of Sergio Martinez.
He wasn’t Senior. So in the eyes of many, he wasn’t sh*t.
A blowout defense of undersized reality TV alum Peter Manfredo Jr. did little to sway doubting Thomases five months later, leaving an HBO main event with rugged long-time contender Marco Antonio Rubio – a one-time failed middleweight challenger – to do the trick.
Early indications were of a mission accomplished.
A comfortable leader after controlling the first half with superior output and body work, Chavez had every opportunity to fit the critical bill and fold down the stretch as his sturdy foe seized momentum and took rounds eight, nine and 10 – putting the final outcome in at least some doubt.
But instead of folding, the youngster raised his level and finished strong, sweeping the final six minutes to clinch margins of 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113 on the official scorecards.
The Fitzbitz margin matched the four-point gap on Duane Ford’s card.
Problem was, just as the kid was about to move a rung toward respect, he tumbled. And while he should’ve been taking the victory lap of interviews and Monday morning column worship, Chavez instead was fodder for a grinding post-fight controversy surrounding an empty sample cup.
For reasons not yet known, neither the World Boxing Council nor the Texas Athletic Commission administered the requisite anti-doping tests to either fighter. Members of Rubio’s team initially alleged that Chavez intentionally left the venue to avoid taking such a test and surmised he may have been under the influence of a banned substance.
In a one-on-one Monday interview, however, a team representative stepped back a bit… sort of.
Ivan Leon, PR director for Promociones Del Pueblo, said, “We’re not accusing Julio of running away from the test. In fact, it’s not his fault that the doctors of a laboratory didn’t show up. It’s the WBC and the Texas commission’s obligation to coordinate the anti-doping tests, which conveniently was not done by either party.”
Rubio, in Leon’s estimation, performed admirably against an opponent who was reportedly 181 pounds on an unofficial locker room scale before the fight, just 24 hours after he’d weighed in at 159½.
According to punch-counting statistics, Rubio threw 962 punches to Chavez’s 560, but was out-landed by a 237-201 margin. He connected with 44 jabs to Chavez’s 28, but trailed in landed power punches – 209-157 – despite throwing 224 more than his foe over 12 rounds, 652-429.
“(Marco) did a heck of a fight. He really went to war with a heavyweight,” Leon said. “He stood there, (landing) and throwing more punches, carrying a bigger guy that kept coming forward with the head and elbows and a referee that only warned him once. He really did a good job.”
Leon refused to directly accuse of Chavez of illegal acts, but claimed the hubbub was nonetheless worthwhile because “this is a contact sport and (a) very dangerous sport. We have to be very careful with the health procedures and the following of the rules to protect the integrity of the sport and health of both fighters.”
“Our legal team will recommend what our options are,” he said. “It can be (anywhere from) a no contest, rematch to maybe an economic fine for damages caused and risk of the life of a boxer.
“But we will know in the next couple of the days. An opponent with more than 20 pounds in size difference make competition night and day in a fight, and no anti-doping tests done leads to a questionable fight that wasn’t a fair match and the WBC has no answers.
“Then there is cause for concern and suspicion.”
And toward that end, he added a handful of nuggets he called “food for thought.”
“Why doesn’t Mayweather want to fight Pacquiao with Roach’s and Ariza’s camp?” he said. “Why doesn’t Chavez fight in Nevada? Why does Pacquiao fight in Cowboys Stadium in Texas? What did Chavez test positive for in 2009 in Nevada? Furosemide, a diuretic and masking agent.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF junior bantamweight title – Los Mochis, Mexico
Rodrigo Guerrero (champion) vs. Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. (No. 9 contender)
Guerrero (16-3-1, 10 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten in Mexico since 2006 (14-0, 8 KO)
Sanchez (12-1-1, 7 KO): First title fight; Three fights against plus-.500 fighters (2-1, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Incumbent champion has fought better foes over longer period.” Guerrero by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 1-2
Overall picks record: 281-95 (74.7 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.