LAS VEGAS – Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. scored 86 knockouts in 115 career fights, a staggering rate that places him among some of the sport's most fearsome punchers.
The elder Chavez scored knockouts in 74.7 percent of his bouts, a figure that far exceeds Sugar Ray Robinson's 54 percent rate (108 KOs in 200 fights). Heavy-handed heavyweights Mike Tyson (75.9 percent/44 KOs in 58 fights) and "Big" George Foreman (84 percent/68 KOs in 81 fights) are only slightly ahead of Chavez Sr.
But Chavez Sr. wasn't the kind of puncher like Foreman, who could knock a man out with a single shot. Rather, Chavez would relentlessly bore in on his opponents, raining punches upon every part of their bodies. Eventually, they couldn't lift their arms, were unable to move their legs and simply wilted under the pressure of his onslaught.
As his oldest son, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., was starting his own professional career, there were few comparisons between the two except their names.
But as Chavez Jr. prepares to defend his WBC middleweight title on Saturday against Sergio Martinez before a crowd in excess of 19,000 at the Thomas & Mack Center, the one striking similarity between them is, stunningly, their punching power.
Just like his famous Dad, Junior is the type of puncher who mauls his opponents and batters them into submission. He stopped Andy Lee in his second title defense on June 16, battering Lee with punches before referee Laurence Cole had to save him in the seventh round.
Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward trains Lee and told BoxingScene that Lee marveled at Chavez's punching power.
"As Andy said, 'I've boxed with Wladimir Klitschko many times,' " Steward said. " 'For this fight, I boxed with guys [who weighed] 180 pounds. His strength was going like he was almost a 500-pound man.' "
Chavez Jr., 26, is 46-0-1 and has scored 32 stoppages, putting his 68.1 knockout percent slightly lower than his father's. While one-time Chavez Sr. opponent Greg Haugen once derided the elder Chavez’s opponents as "Tijuana taxi drivers," for years, that would have been a compliment for Junior's opposition.
It wasn't until the last several years that Top Rank was willing to match him with anyone who was even remotely competitive. And clearly, one of the major advantages Martinez will have over Chavez Jr., is having already faced quality opposition.
Martinez has beaten the likes of Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron, all three of whom are better than anyone Chavez has faced.
But about two years ago, it began to click for Chavez. Suddenly, his strength increased dramatically. His footwork improved significantly. He began to punch with authority. And, as if it were a gene he inherited from his famous father, he developed an iron chin.
"He's got an amazingly good chin," said boxing manager Cameron Dunkin, who handles Pavlik, a potential opponent for Chavez down the line. "He's just like his father. It's like you can't hurt him."
It's that chin and the power in his fists that gives Chavez a chance to pull off a victory that few would have considered possible even 18 months ago.
Martinez is the third-rated fighter in the world in the Yahoo! Sports rankings, but is just a 2-1 favorite at the MGM Grand sports book – that's according Chavez a lot of respect.
As he showed against Peter Manfredo and Lee, Chavez is a determined body puncher whose wicked shots to the midsection can be heard in the first few rows. He's also developed a quality uppercut and doesn't get tied up when fighting inside despite his long arms.
He'll probably come to the ring at around 180 pounds after rehydrating following the weigh-in, trainer Freddie Roach said. That's going to be a lot of man for Martinez to handle, considering that Martinez is probably better at 154 pounds than he is at 160.
"Look, I'm not [expletive] anybody," Martinez promoter Lou DiBella said. "I believe my guy is going to win, but this kid is huge and he punches like a [expletive]. This is a fight, a serious, serious fight."
That someone of DiBella's stature would perceive Chavez as a threat is a testament to the vast improvement Chavez has made and the ground he's covered over the last several years.
Chavez has tried desperately to carve his own niche and create an identity all his own, separate from his father. And in many ways, they're vastly different.
"I can't help that people say that stuff about me," Chavez Jr. said. "I am the son and that is who I am. He is my Dad, but little by little I have proven myself. I have proven it in the ring. You have seen what I have done in the ring the past few fights. You can't take that away from me, my victories and my championship. I have done a lot of things on my own. I have my own story now.”
He's his own man, for sure, but in terms of their power, the one area that made Senior a Hall of Famer and makes Junior a champion, they're just about carbon copies.
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