By Chris Robinson
Over the weekend I made the trek from Las Vegas to the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California to cover the ShoBox: The New Generation tripleheader, headlined by IBF junior middleweight champion Cornelius Bundrage’s rematch with Cory Spinks as well as showcases from unbeaten featherweight Gary Russell Jr. and stylish Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara.
All three contests were interesting in their own right, as Bundrage chopped down a reluctant Spinks in the seventh round while Lara outclassed a determined Freddy Hernandez and Russell Jr. plowed through overmatched Christopher Perez in three heats.
Having personally been fine-tuning Bundrage’s skills over the past few years, trainer Emanuel Steward would tell me after his fighter’s victory that he is only eyeing big fights and expressed interest in a meeting with WBC champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
And while it’s nice to know that Steward and Bundrage could be on the verge of some meaningful fights in the division, I actually am still taken back to a conversation I had with the respected Kronk trainer one day prior.
It was at the Spinks-Bundrage II weigh-in when Steward and I spoke about a variety of topics in the sport, one of them being the recent wave of performance-enhancing drugs in boxing, as the past few months have seen former champions Lamont Peterson, Andre Berto, and Antonio Tarver all fail some form of a pre-fight drug test.
Asked for his take on the situation, Steward quickly directed his suspicions towards WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who defeated his fighter Andy Lee via 7th round TKO on June 16th in El Paso, Texas.
“I am very, very surprised and I am very concerned,” Steward admitted. “In my experience I just recently had with Andy Lee; to my knowledge Julio Cesar Chavez [Jr.] never really took any drug test. They me tell me he was going to take a test after the fight and at the last minute they had my nephew come in, ‘Oh, he’s going to take it now’ and here, he comes in the room with two other guys and they said he took the test so he doesn’t have to take nothing now.”
The Chavez-Lee fight was a lively affair full of plenty of toe to toe action. And while the contest was pretty even over the first half of the fight, Chavez would break through with a punishing seventh round, battering Lee along the ropes and forcing referee Laurence Cole to call a halt to the action.
Speaking to Steward following his defeat, Lee seemed dumbfounded at how physically strong Chavez was.
“As Andy said, ‘I’ve boxed with Wladimir Klitschko many times; for this fight I boxed with guys 180 pounds. His strength was going like he was almost a 500-pound man’. Based on that and some of the other things I am beginning to see, I realize that there may be something going on that I don’t know of,” Steward said.
Chavez Jr. trains under the tutelage of four-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach, known best for his work with eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao. While not implying anything directly, Steward seemed to direct his attention towards that particular camp as he continued to vent.
“I’m looking at this, and he’s having leg cramps and Manny Pacquiao having leg cramps; there’s too many strange things going on,” Steward explained. “I really do believe now that’s become a very serious issue in our sport that has to be seriously dealt with, because having advantages of hometowns and small rings, even partial officials, that’s one thing. But to have where a person’s human strength and endurance is doubling and tripling that of an opponent, that could be one of the most difficult and problematic problems in our sport in the next year or so.”
It should be noted that both Top Rank, and the governing commission in Texas, confirmed that Chavez was tested prior to the fight and his results came back negative for any illegal substances.