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Is Julio Cesar Chavez Not a Legend?

Julio Cesar ChavezBy Michael Lieberman: Since everyone has been busy discussing Julio Cesar Chavez Jr’s poor performance on Saturday against Matt Vanda, I thought this was the best time to examine the boxing career of Chavez Jr’s father, Julio Cesar Chavez (107-6-2, 86 KOs). I don’t really see the greatness there, to tell you the truth. Sure, he’s got a lot of wins on his record, but the vast majority of the wins have come over soft opposition.

I see some good fighters in the group of wins over good fighters like Hector “Macho” Camacho, Greg Haugen, Meldrick Taylor, Roger Mayweather and Edwin Rosario, but there’s no truly excellent fighters of Chavez Sr’s wins in his career. Perhaps his best win of his career was over Taylor, but that win was made much less impressive considering that he was losing the fight at the time it was stopped with two seconds to go in the 12th round.

Taylor’s subsequent blowout losses to Terry Norris and Crisanto Espana also seemed to put Chavez’s in perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I think Chavez was certainly a good fighter, good enough to beat other good fighters like himself, but not anywhere close to being that of a great fighter. In terms of ability, he was more like a limited plodder, a fighter that would come face forward in a straight line against mostly average competition. When he did finally start facing good fighters near the end of the career, his success took a hit, with losses to Kostya Tszyu, Oscar De La Hoya, Frankie Randall and Willy Wise.

At that point, Chavez was still young, in his early 30s, and still fought at the same pace and style that he always had. The only thing that changed, in fact, was that he was now facing fighters that were better than the standard types that he had fought against largely throughout his long career. Recently we’ve seen that if a fighter faces nothing but slop, there’s a good chance that he’s going to have an excellent record. Case in point, Edwin Valero, a super featherweight fighter with a built record of 24-0, with 24 knockouts.

No one thinks he’s even near as good as his record indicates, and few give him any chance to beat the better fighters in the division like Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. I think the same holds true with Chavez. He was good, just like Valero, but he fought a pretty motley crew of opponents, most of them average fighters. When Chavez began to step it up against really good – not great – the fighters like Frankie Randall, then we started seeing problems occurring.

In the case of his fight with Pernell Whitaker in 1993, Chavez was given a gift draw, in a fight that was clearly a win by Whitaker in the minds of most boxing fans and experts alike. The draw enabled Chavez to extend his unbeaten streak a little further than it should have been, although he was eventually beaten a year later by Randall. To me, that doesn’t seem like the credentials of a fighter that is truly great, you know? If a fighter is great, like everyone says Chavez is, then how come he didn’t beat Whitaker, Randall, Tszyu, Wise and De La Hoya? Can you answer me that? I personally don’t think any of them are great, but in light of the fact that they beat Chavez, I see them as being better fighters than him at least.

When you look at a fighter’s record, especially someone with a hugely inflated record with a lot of wins, you must immediately filter out the wins over nobodies, because they don’t count. Focus only on the good fighters and use only them to determine the worth of a fighter, not the overall record because that’s often bloated and meaningless. So by going over Chavez’s real fights, he comes out to be more of 50-50 fighter, with some good wins over Rosario, Camacho and Mayweather, and then some bad loses to Randall, Wise, De La Hoya and Tszyu. That pretty much says all there is to say about Chavez being great. He’s good, but that’s about it.

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