Merchant's Take on Saul Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

By Chris Robinson

As reported by various media outlets over the past few weeks, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum appears to be very keen on matching up WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. against WBC junior middleweight kingpin Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez around the first quarter of 2012. While there was controversy surrounding how both Alvarez and Chavez won their respective belts, the fact remains that this would be an extremely high-profile fight, especially in each man’s native Mexico.

It’s certainly an intriguing pairing and the two fighters have already traded some verbal barbs with one another, but when looking at the matchup the question becomes whether or not this is a fight that would showcase the prizefighters at the peak of their abilities.  The respective roads to the titles that Alvarez, who turned 21 over the summer, and the 25-year old Chavez Jr. collected were less treacherous than may have been expected and they both are inexperienced in certain aspects despite their talent and star appeal.

I discussed what Alvarez-Chavez Jr. would mean with HBO color analyst Larry Merchant and several subplots rose to the surface during our conversation, including the popularity that would be attached to the event, why you don’t have to be the best fighter in the world to have star appeal, and which man has been more impressive thus far. Merchant also weighed in as to whether Arum was pushing for the fight to happen after seeing a potentially huge bout between featherweight stars Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa get set back after Lopez suffered an upset loss earlier this year.
In his own words, this is what Merchant had to say…
A huge event for Mexico…
“Alvarez draws the equivalent of Super Bowl numbers when he’s on television in Mexico. And Chavez is the most famous name and important name in Mexican boxing so it’s a very, very big event in the Mexican and Mexican-American world. And they both can make a bunch of money.”

The term ‘superstar’…
“The definition of a superstar is flexible. There are terrific fighters who never become stars or superstars. A superstar is somebody who, not only can fight, but has some connection with a fan base. And clearly, these two young fighters have that. Do they have they superstar, Ray Leonard-level ability? How many fighters have that? How many fighters are superstars in the ring and superstars at the box office? Very, very few.”
The impact of a star…
“The impact that Oscar De La Hoya had on the sport as a really good fighter and an Olympic Gold Medalist, and they called him, for the first time I had heard in boxing, a ‘crossover star’. He appealed to fight fans, to woman, to people beyond the hardcore fans. That’s rare. There have been many outstanding fighters but really, very few that had that kind of appeal. And so, that’s just part of the spectrum of fighters we get. Will either or both turn out to be great champions? We don’t know. Maybe they both will. Maybe neither of them will. They see an opportunity to have a big event, make a lot of money right now and the future will take of itself.”

When the timing is right…
“You know, I think Bob Arum has had enough experience in this to sense when the timing is right. There are some things even a promoter can't have control of. And there are sometimes when promoters make mistakes. And the case can be made that Gamboa and Lopez should have been made. Their calculation in that case was that if these guys won another fight or two as spectacularly or as impressively as they had in the past, that it would help to build a much bigger event. And there are no guarantees in boxing and we know it didn’t happen but we don’t know it still can happen.”

No guarantees in boxing…
“I think Alvarez has been more consistently impressive but Chavez’s last fight against Zbik, he was surprisingly impressive. The question with him is, he has something as a reputation for not being self-disciplined and having difficulty making weight. And that can become a serious issue. There’s no guarantee that he’s going to beat Manfredo. He’s the favorite but if he spends all of his training fighting the scale instead of getting ready for the opponent, he may be vulnerable. And maybe that’s part of the feeling that the fight has to be made sooner than later.”

In search of a great fight…
“Gatti-Ward. At the end of the day it’s ‘How good is the fight?’. They don’t have to be Leonard and Hearns to make a big fight in this case because they are so popular. In a sport like boxing, in which, how well you draw people is a more crucial element than any other sport, then these kinds of things can make a lot of sense. Because they’re not just athletes, they’re professionals and the idea of a professional athlete is to make money. And maybe we’ll get a great fight and they’ll do it again and again.”
[Reader's note: For a picture by picture look at the young careers of Chavez Jr. and Alvarez, including their title-winning efforts and battles with Hatton, Zbik, and others, please visit Comparing Alvarez to Chavez Jr. Gallery ]

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by AHUEVO on 10-13-2011

[QUOTE=StrangerInTown;11284624]On the night Chavez Jr. stood toe to toe with John Duddy, Julio displayed a temperment that Alvarez has yet to show. This was the fight that encouraged Duddy to retire. My guess is that Canelo could not have stood…

Comment by Ringlife on 10-13-2011

This fight will make lots of money

Comment by Tulisanto on 10-13-2011

yeah, 2 hypejbs going at it. i think it'll be really exciting considering both would'nt want to be the bigger hypejob. i got chavez junior in this one due to size .

Comment by gibo on 10-13-2011

[QUOTE=pistol whip;11284642]Fuking Island rat talking about Hype jobs after Juanma got his ass handed to him by a Mexican Journeyman. You are the last mothfuker who should be talking about hype jobs you disgusting AIDS infected vermin!![/QUOTE] Why does this…

Comment by PRBOXINGCOTTO on 10-12-2011

Hey the only rat is you infesting the united states you idiot like 4 billion of you climing the gates need sticky traps for you listen you 4 foot midget juanma earned his titles is not a hype job dummy…

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