Canelo vs Chavez Jr: Does Leonard vs Hearns 2 suggest Chavez has a chance?Written by Lee Cleveland
History often repeats itself...
For those looking for reasons to not count out underdog Julio Cesar Chavez Jr is his upcoming superfight with Canelo Alvarez, they need look no farther than the epic 1989 rematch between Sugar Ray Leonard and rival Thomas Hearns.
That classic bout, the 1989 Fight of the Year, was ruled a draw as the heavily-favored Sugar Ray would taste the canvas twice in a back-and-forth war that many believed Tommy, the clear underdog, deserved to win.
Today, many in boxing are discounting Chavez's chances the same way fans dismissed Tommy's prospects against Sugar in 1989. Hence, Canelo vs Chavez Jr, in some ways, bears a striking resemblance to Leonard vs Hearns 2.
Leonard, who won their first meeting eight years prior via a come-from-behind 14th Round stoppage, entered the ring as a 3 to 1 favorite to beat Hearns in their rematch. But many forget Ray started as high as a 7 to 1 favorite. In the days leading up to the fight, strong money started coming in for Hearns who appeared motivated and ripped in training.
Currently, Canelo is roughly an 8 to 1 favorite over Chavez as many believe Chavez will be ill-prepared physically and emotionally for May's assignment.
However, video footage released today seems to suggest Julio is already fit, and may be very on target to make the 164.5 pound catchweight.
Like Leonard vs Hearns 2, look for the Canelo vs Chavez Jr odds to tighten quite a bit come fight time - IF Chavez Jr is, in fact, motivated and disciplined for this showdown.
Although Leonard and Hearns's super middleweight (168 lb) titles were on the line, Team Leonard, like Team Alvarez, imposed at catchweight. Leonard and Hearns fought at a 164-pound limit while the limit for Chavez vs Canelo will be 164.5 pounds.
Why was there a catchweight for Leonard vs Hearns?
Canelo vs Chavez Jr
Date: May 6, 2017
Location: Las Vegas
Broadcast: HBO PPV
Cost (est):$59.99 Standard def
Division: Super Middleweight (164.5 lb catchweight)
Tommy was naturally larger than Ray so the latter used his leverage as the A-side fighter to 1) minimize any perceived size and strength advantages his opponent would have and 2) TO give the taller, naturally bigger man one more thing to worry about during the training.
The same holds true with Canelo and Chavez Jr. The smaller man with more leverage is simply using his influence as the A-side stack the odds in his favor.
When Leonard vs Hearns 2 was made official, the public didn't immediately warm up to the match. Sugar Ray Leonard, following his sensational points win over middleweight fight legend Marvelous Marvin Hagler, had come out of retirement again a year and a half later to knockout WBC Light Heavyweight Champion Donny LaLonde.
Ray wasn't fighting often but when he did, he was extraordinary.
Although Canelo Alvarez, today, isn't the bonified legend Leonard was in 1989, he's a superstar of boxing and considered an elite top 10 pound-for-pound fighter. And while there's no comparing Chavez's accomplishments to Hearns's in 1989, the former, like Tommy back then, was considered washed-up. Hearns had been knocked out by Leonard and Hagler in his previous superfights, and staggered silly by lesser opponents in subsequent bouts.
In fact, just as Chavez Jr was knocked out last year by Andrzej Fonfara, Hearns entered the rematch with Leonard a year after being knocked out by a then lightly-regarded Iran Barkley.
Desire, motivation, something to prove
Did Hearns fight above himself that night? Perhaps... But Thomas would not be denied that evening. He'd thrown himself into training like he hadn't done in years, knowing his rematch with Ray would be a defining moment in his career.
He wanted to prove he wasn't washed-up and that he deserved consideration as one of the greats of his era.
Today, Chavez Jr also has something to prove. He wants to show the world he's not the lazy, undisciplined brat his critics label him. He wants to prove once and for all, he's a fine fighter who is more than just the son of a legend.
So what if Julio hasn't looked good lately. Hearns hadn't looked good leading up to the Leonard fight. Back then, we knew what Tommy was capable of in the ring, provided he had anything left. Today, we know what Chavez Jr is capable of, if he has anything left.
Desire means a lot. If Chavez is anywhere near as motivated as Hearns was for his rematch for Leonard, Canelo may be in for a tough night.
Will Chavez Jr be in the best shape of his career come May 6? Early indications tell us 'yes.'
Does he have anything left as an elite fighter?
... We'll see.
Leonard vs Hearn 2 highlights - Fight of the Year 1989
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.