The fight everyone wants to see probably won’t happen any time soon.
No, in this case, we’re not talking about Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. We’re referring to a fight that would be enormous in Mexico and big in the U.S, too, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the two hottest young fighters south of the border.
Chavez and Alvarez — who fights Ryan Rhodes on Saturday in Guadalajara, Mexico — are both are undefeated and recently won their first major titles by decisions, Chavez over Sebastian Zbik on June 4 and Alvarez.over Matthew Hatton on March 5. And they both have other intangibles that could make them stars – the name (Chavez), the red hair (Alvarez), the charisma.
A fight between them isn’t likely now for a variety of reasons, one of which is size. Chavez, a middleweight, fights at around 180 pounds on fight night, Alvarez, a junior middleweight, maybe 165.
Still, more and more fans seem to be asking the question: Who would win?
In lieu of an actual fight, RingTV.com went to three experts who have followed the careers of Chavez and Alvarez closely and have no ties to them – trainer Abel Sanchez, trainer Ben Lira and respected Mexican boxing writer Salvador Rodriguez — and asked them to break down the matchup.
One assumption: They would meet at a weight that is comfortable for both of them.
Sanchez has seen both fighters spar extensively. Rodriguez has been a regular at ringside for his countrymen’s fights, whether in Mexico or the U.S. And Lira, a fixture on the L.A.-area boxing scene, has watched Chavez spar a number of times and studied Alvarez.
We used the format for our head-to-head analyses. So here goes:
Skills: The panelists unanimously believe that Alvarez is the better boxer. “I think Canelo has better technique, better all-around boxing skills,” Sanchez said. “And he uses his skills. Chavez tries to bore in and go to the body. He has a nice long jab but he doesn’t use it. Alvarez uses fast hands and quick feet to get in and do his work and then get out.” Rodriguez coincidentally spoke with Chavez over the phone about an hour before the writer spoke with RingTV.com. Junior acknowledged that he took too many punches in the Zbik fight, which he rallied to win by a majority decision. “He told me that one of the things he needs to do better is use distance, use his reach. And he said his defense has to be better.” Said Lira: “The question about Chavez is whether he will be strong enough [in terms of technique] when he meets a higher level of opposition. I don’t think he will be. Canelo? Yes.”
Power: Chavez and Alvarez have 56 knockouts in a total of 82 fights, which is a solid KO ratio. They generally must put their punches together to take their opponents out, though. Chavez delivers heavy punches (particularly to the body) while Alvarez’s shots are more explosive. “They have about the same punching power but in different ways. Canelo is a littler sharper, a little quicker. His power comes from his sharpness and quick hands. Chavez had more thudding power.” Rodriguez gives Chavez a slight edge. “I don’t think they will get a knockout with one punch. Chavez has a better punch.” Lira disagrees. “Without a doubt, it’s Canelo. He’s more explosive.”
Speed and athletic ability: The panelists see Alvarez as quicker and more athletic than Chavez. Canelo is shorter (5-foot-9; 175cm) and probably more coordinated. Junior is tall (at least 6 feet; 183cm) and lanky but very strong. “Canelo is a little better athlete,” Sanchez said. “He has better movement, better reflexes, sharper moves with his shoulders and hips. Chavez is willing to accept getting hit. Canelo isn’t.” Rodriguez gives Alvarez the edge here but believes we’ll see Chavez develop more speed as his technique improves. “I’m sure Canelo has better speed. I think Chavez is going to get better and better with (trainer) Freddie Roach. I think Chavez had better velocity in his last fight. I think it will be a draw [in time].” Lira believes Chavez is underrated in this category. “I think Junior has athletic ability, maybe even more than Canelo. I like his lateral movement. I don’t think he’s as quick as Canelo but he moves well.”
Defense: No doubt that Alvarez has the edge here. Chavez ate hundreds of punches in his taxing fight against Zbik while Alvarez has never taken much punishment, although it's important to point out that Zbik is a very good boxer. “You have to give Chavez props for his tenacity and chin. That only goes so far, though. Canelo is better than Chavez (in this category). He’s still young, though. He’s only 20. He hasn’t experienced tough fights like Chavez has where he had to use his defensive skills. (Matthew) Hatton didn’t test him. (Jose Miguel) Cotto didn’t really test him. We don’t know how he’ll respond. Rhodes might test him. We’ll see.” Said Rodriguez: “Chavez didn’t have very good defense in his last fight. His defense has to be better.” Lira said it all comes down to fundamentals. “We go back to the fact that Canelo has sound skills. I think Chavez gets a little (wild). That opens him up to get hit.”
Experience: Chavez has had 45 pro fights, Alvarez 37. Chavez has fought 206 rounds, Alvarez 225. Neither had much of an amateur career. And the prevailing wisdom is that both have been carefully matched as they’ve learned their craft. That includes their title fights, although Zbik certainly is better than Hatton. Thus, the panelists had a difficult time separating the two in this category. “I’d say it’s even,” Sanchez said. Rodriguez gives a slight edge to Chavez. “They are two young guys but Chavez has had better opponents, (John) Duddy, Zbik.” Lira also leans toward Chavez because he’s been around boxing his entire life. “He was born with gloves on,” he said.
Chin: Chavez seems to have inherited his ability to take a punch from his famous father. Junior is very durable. Alvarez also appears to have a good chin but everyone points to the fact he was hurt in his fight against Cotto, a naturally much smaller fighter. “I give the edge to Chavez until we learn more about Alvarez. He was hurt against Cotto,” Sanchez said. “Chavez was rocked a few times; I think Duddy rocked him once. Not like Alvarez against Cotto, though.” Rodriguez was emphatic in this category. “Absolutely Chavez when you see what happened with the brother of (Miguel) Cotto, a lightweight moving up to welterweight,” he said. Lira believes both fighters have been fed light-punching opponents but believes Alvarez has the edge here. “I think he’s more durable, the stronger guy” he said
Conditioning: Alvarez has always worked hard, although he said myriad distractions in Mexico before his fight against Hatton hindered his training. Chavez developed a reputation for being lazy but proved against Zbik that he’s capable of dedicating himself fully to the sport. He went 12 hard, taxing rounds to win the title. Of course, Roach and conditioning coach Alex Ariza were there to push him. Sanchez gives Alvarez the edge. “Canelo is proven (in this category). Chavez did it for one fight,” he said. Rodriguez thinks Chavez has turned a corner. “If you asked me one year ago, I would’ve said Canelo," he said. “In the last fight, we saw a lot of progress with Chavez going 12 rounds. Now I think it’s even.” Lira leans toward Alvarez. “I think Canelo has a little better work ethic,” he said. “I heard a lot of stories about Junior, his work ethic. Freddie Roach brought out the best in him, though. The fact Freddie is who he is is important. Junior isn't going to say, ‘I’m Julio Cesar Chavez’s son. I don’t want to do it.’ He’ll do what Freddie says.”
Wear and tear: Neither fighter has taken a significant beating in their careers, although Chavez had to dig deep to beat Zbik and his faced was marked up afterward. “I think Chavez has had more wear and tear,” Sanchez said. “The three or four fights he’s been the distance, he comes out bruised and marked up. He takes a lot of shots. That has to wear on you a little. Canelo tries not to get hit. He moves his head more. Chavez bores in and gets popped.” Rodriguez said both of them remain fresh. “I don’t think either guy has a problem. But Chavez absolutely takes more punches.” Lira said neither fighter has been in a particularly taxing war.
Corner: Alvarez’s trainers, José Reynoso and Eddy Reynoso, have done a good job with the young fighter but obviously are at a disadvantage against Freddie Roach. The Los Angeles-based trainer is regarded by many as the best in the world. “I saw Canelo’s trainers work up in camp and they’re very competent,” Sanchez said. “They worked with Oscar Larios, the former champion. They have experience in big fights. They’re not in awe of the kid at all; they actually teach him. The only reason Chavez has an edge here is Freddie’s presence. He’ll just demand certain things from Chavez, which you know makes him better.” Rodriguez agrees. “Absolutely Freddie Roach. The Reynoso guys are a good team. I saw them work with Larios and other guys. They’re good trainers but not the same as Freddie Roach.” Said Lira: “Without a doubt, Chavez.
Outcome: The panelists agreed on one thing – it would be a good, competitive fight. Sanchez believes Alvarez would simply outwork his rival. “I think Canelo is the busier fighter,” he said. “I think he’d win a decision in a tough fight. Chavez would take everything Canelo has to give him. Canelo isn’t a one-punch guy who will catch (Chavez). Freddie will have Chavez in good condition, able to take Canelo’s pressure. Chavez has proven he’s tough; he’s going to weather the storm. His chin is a gift from his father. He’s willing to get hit, though. I don’t like that. His chin keeps him in fights … but for how long?” Rodriguez envisions an interesting matchup between a boxer and a brawler. He believes Chavez’s durability will be the difference in the end. “I think Chavez has some advantages in this fight,” he said. “He has a better chin, a longer reach, a better corner. And I think Chavez will have an advantage with weight. I think Chavez by decision. It would definitely be a great fight.” Lira went with Alvarez. “I just think he’s the more-durable, stronger guy. I think his determination, his will will put him over the top. Canelo will pressure you and pressure you and pressure you. I think Chavez would land body shots but, like I said, that will open him up. And Alvarez goes to the body, too. I want to see it. They’re both Mexicans, both have something to prove. Great, great fight.”
Prediction: Alvarez by decision