By Chris Robinson
During the recent edition of ESPN2's Friday Night Fights, analyst and trainer Teddy Atlas took some time to reflect on last weekend’s HBO doubleheader in San Antonio, Texas that saw WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. defend his crown with a unanimous decision over Marco Antonio Rubio while Nonito Donaire captured the vacant WBO junior featherweight belt with an entertaining points victory over former titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.
Speaking from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut amidst the madness of Demetrius Andrade's second-round blowout over outmatched Angel Hernandez, Atlas pointed out that Chavez is not likely neither as talented as his supporters claim nor is he as bad as his detractors make him out to be.
“You’re never as good as your press clippings and you’re never as bad as the critics will tell you you are,” stated Atlas. “But this is the chamber of truth, that boxing ring, and you better know the truth. Forget about what I think I know, he better know the truth. I think right now, Chavez is trying to find the right identity for himself.”
Chavez came into the sport under a bright spotlight due to the tremendous success of his father Julio Sr., regarded by some as the best Mexican pugilist the sport has seen, and Atlas can see Junior trying to emulate his pops in many ways.
“He’s trying to take a page out of the book of his father,” Atlas continued. “He’s not his father but he’s a game guy, he’s a real fighter. He has that Mexican pride and he has that pride that comes with the bloodlines of his father. And he wants to fight on the inside. He wants to really be an inside fighter.”
The pre-fight talk heading into the fight again circulated around another training camp that saw Chavez apparently struggle to make the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, as he came into the ring at a whopping 181 pounds by the time the first bell sounded.
Atlas feels that Chavez’s youth helped him get by this particular challenge but hints that he is walking on thin ice.
“He can get away with it with Rubio, weight or no weight,” Atlas claimed. “He can away with it with a 31-year old when he’s 25 and a guy who’s not physical like Rubio. He’s not going to get away with it with the top guys. The guys who know how to fight on the inside, the guys who won’t let him push them around, even if there is an excess of 20 pounds.”
“He’s not going to be able to do that. He’s too easy to find, he’s too easy to hit; they’re going to have to be very careful with the matchmaking. They better give those matchmakers a nice bonus to make sure they continue putting him in the right direction. But he’s limited. He’s too easy to hit. He’s not a real big puncher; he couldn’t fit in there with guys like [Sergio] Martinez and guys like that.”
Chavez may be a few fights away from moving up to the super middleweight division and if he does, Atlas doesn’t see the field being in his favor.
“And if he’s going to continue with the weight program he’s on, if he’s going to continue going up in weight like that, where’s he going to go, 168? He’s not beating Andre Ward. There’s [Lucian] Bute there. I marked it down to remind myself. There’s Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham there. That’s a tough neighborhood,” Atlas pointed out.
Atlas then shifted his attention to Donaire, the Filipino-American star regarded as one of the world’s top five fighters in nearly all circles. The 29-year old may have beaten Vazquez soundly, but Atlas points out that it was far from a walk in the park.
“I think he got bored. I think he was winning the fight a little too easily,” stated Atlas of Donaire. “I like him but he was winning the fight a little too easily. He got a little cocky and thought he had to show off a bit. Everyone thinks they have to show off. It looked like Donaire was getting into that a little too much and all of a sudden Vazquez, a serious fighter, got back into the fight a little bit.”
And for Atlas, he learned that Donaire will need to tweak a few things moving forward into his junior featherweight foray.
“It showed me that Donaire needs to keep his concentration,” Atlas said. “He needs to fight on the outside a little more consistently because that’s where he belongs. He’s tall, he’s long, especially for that weight. He should dominate guys on the outside. It showed me that Donaire has a little bit of a liability in the defensive department. He needs to get a little bit better defensively.”
Perhaps the most surprising thing to emerge from the Donaire-Vazquez melee was the absurd 115-112 scorecard issued by judge Ruben Garcia in favor of Vazquez. Given the knockdown scored by Donaire in the ninth round, that means Garcia gave Vazquez eight out of twelve rounds, which seems inconceivable to anyone who saw the fight.
This issue seemed to set Atlas off.
“Forget about that, they should arrest that guy,” he claimed. “Why do we have a commission? Explain to me, because I want to learn, why do we have a commission that gets paid by taxpayer’s money, if they’re not going to pull that judge in, sit him down, watch the video of the tape, and say ‘Explain to me how you came to this conclusion’?.”
LATEST SLIDESHOWS FROM THE BOXING WORLD
Inside Chavez Jr.-Rubio/Donaire-Vazquez Jr. - Donaire defeats Vazquez, Chavez Jr. overcomes Rubio - Candid shots from ringside of Donaire and Chavez's victories plus bonus shots of Mosley, Rigondeaux, and others / Massive Weigh-in Gallery - A closer look at all four HBO stars weighing in, and cameos by Roach, Arum, Merchant, and others / Tensions arise at final Donaire-Vazquez presser - See images of Nonito Donaire and Wilfredo Vazquez going face to face plus bonus shots of Freddie Roach, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Bob Arum, Marco Antonio Rubio and others
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