Since trainer Freddie Roach began working with him, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has legitimized himself as a fighter with five straight victories, including one over New York’s tough John Duddy and another against previously unbeaten Sebastian Zbik for the WBC middleweight title.
Chavez (45-0-1, 31 knockouts) has made two defenses of that belt, by fifth-round knockout over Peter Manfredo Jr. in November, and unanimous decision over Marco Antonio Rubio in February.
On Saturday night on HBO, Chavez meets southpaw challenger Andy Lee (28-1, 20 KOs) at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, in what could be a prelude to a clash with left-handed RING champion Sergio Martinez on Sept. 15 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Chavez Jr. was attracted to Roach after visiting the trainer’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif, where he spotted Roach working with eight-division titlewinner Manny Pacquiao.
“This is my [sixth] fight with Julio. He first came to our gym to watch Manny work out. Since he saw how hard Manny works out, Julio began doing the same,” said Roach.
“He has done everything I have ever asked and is prepared to fight Andy Lee. This will be a tough fight. Julio knows it. To me, he is a special fighter.”
Lee, who turned 28 on June 11, has won his past 13 fights, eight of them by knockout. He suffered his lone defeat by seventh-round stoppage in March of 2008 against Bryan Vera, but avenged it with a 10-round unanimous decision win in October of last year.
“Andy Lee is young, a good fighter, and he wants what I have — my world title,” said Chavez, who turned 26 in February.
“I have been training with Freddie Roach, who is teaching me all about how to fight a left-hander. Boxing is my life. It means everything to me. I am not sure Andy Lee feels the same way.”
MANNY STEWARD: LEE LOOKS TO SCORE A KNOCKOUT
Chavez-Lee matches two of the sport’s premiere trainers in Roach and Lee’s trainer, Manny Steward.
Roach also handles Pacquiao and former IBF and WBA junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan, while Steward has guided the careers of Thomas Hearns and Lennox Lewis, and THE RING heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, owner of the IBF, WBC and WBO belts.
Vera was among Lee’s sparring partners in preparation for Chavez, as were hard-hitting super middleweights Donovan George (22-2-1, 19 KOs) and Edwin Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs), who fought each other on HBO as the co-feature to Martinez vs. Matthew Macklin in March.
Also in the sparring mix were light heavyweights Adonis Stevenson (18-1, 15 KOs) and Mike Jiminez (7-0, 4 KOs), said Steward.
“I don’t train for decisions, we’re training for a knockout,” said Steward. “So we plan on winning by a knockout.”
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com