Tonight's Top Rank pay-per-view main event between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and John Duddy is one of those fights that you absolutely have to be a boxing fanatic to care much about at all, or, if not a boxing fanatic, a diehard Mexican boxing fan, or a diehard Irish or Irish-American boxing fan.
It's because neither Chavez (40-0-1, 30 KO) nor Duddy (29-1, 18 KO) have earned their stripes with anyone else. These are fighters who have been purposely marketed toward their ethnic fanbases, and rightly so -- the Mexican audience is arguably the most loyal in the world, and Junior Chavez's father is, you can say, the most famous and most revered Mexican fighter of all-time. The Irish and Irish-American audiences always love a good scrapper, and if nothing else, John Duddy's always willing to bleed.
I have waffled on whether or not to order this fight. I still am not sure I will. But I get the feeling that my curiosity will get the best of me. This is no promise, but we might have round-by-round live coverage of this card. You'll know by about 5pm EDT if that'll be the case or not.
Middleweights - 12 Rounds
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. v. John Duddy
The key might be in the weight class. Duddy has fought consistently at 160, briefly entertaining ideas of going to 154. He weighed in at 157 to fight Billy Lyell last year, and the light-hitting Lyell from Youngstown scored the upset. It's a fight I continue to term an upset even though Duddy is, in my opinion, not very good, because Lyell is really not very good.
Chavez, meanwhile, started his career at 130, moving up to 135 and 140 quickly. He started that low because he turned pro at 17, with no amateur career or anything of the sort. He had a name. Seven years later, he's continuing to feed off of that. He's moved his way up in weight, capping out at 160 for last November's fight with Troy Rowland, a woefully unimpressive display in a fight that while easily won, should have been won even easier. Michigan club fighter Rowland had no business on the Cotto-Pacquiao card, certainly not in a televised role, and absolutely, positively, 100% not in the main set-up fight. The live crowd agreed, booing the fight when it was over.
That win has also since been scratched from Chavez's record, as Junior failed his post-fight drug test, testing positive for a diuretic. The WBC made a big, impassioned to-do about getting Chavez involved with a dietician or nutritionist or something, one who would find out exactly what weight JCC Jr. should be fighting at, because that's the sort of thing the WBC needs to spend their time doing, making sure that a mediocre, second-generation middleweight with a famous dad has all the right tools to succeed, not maintaining any sort of credibility or legitimacy, or perhaps restoring an image which has been utterly shattered after years of nefarious dealings and other assorted nonsense...
Duddy's last fight was also on a Pacquiao undercard, as he opened the big Cowboys Stadium show in March against Michael Medina. Duddy won a split decision, continuing to rehab a career that fell apart last year with the loss to Lyell. A loss was only a matter of time for Duddy, really, as he probably deserved one against Walid Smichet and maybe even a couple other guys, but with an undefeated record, he still had box office upside. It turns out he was fed one too many "easy marks." The fight with Medina was also close, but I scored it 96-93 for Duddy.
The bottom line is neither of these guys are particularly impressive, but they've both had fights that were damn fun to watch, Duddy in particular. Duddy abandoned his free-for-all style last year and hired Pat Burns, who trained Jermain Taylor into the middleweight championship of the world. A more safety-focused Duddy routed Matt Vanda in '09, the same Vanda who had given Junior Chavez a life-and-death battle in Mexico, which one of the competent ringside judges scored a shutout for Chavez. A Chavez-Vanda rematch was more definitively in Chavez's favor, too.
So we know both guys are better than Matt Vanda. We also know that they can stop guys like Juan Astorga (who cannot take a body blow to save his life) and Jason LeHoullier in one round.
But what will they do against each other? Will Duddy come out with the guns blazing, or will he continue to operate foolishly under the idea that he's some sort of accomplished boxer? Will Chavez finally look to stamp his name on a truly impressive performance, or will he be the same tentative, never-improving non-prospect living off of his name?
One of them has to lose, is the thing. Chavez will have, for all intents and purposes, a hometown advantage in San Antonio. Duddy is as unlikely to get any favors on the cards in Texas as he would be to get any favors on a card in Germany.
If John Duddy is going to win this fight, he has to beat up Junior Chavez and sap his will. I have no doubt he can do that. But I also have no doubt that John Duddy can't do that, that he won't take the initiative often enough, and that we'll wind up with a really boring fight between two guys who just aren't willing to take that big step into the danger zone and let it fly.
This could be a very good fight. It could be an absolute dud. Picking a winner isn't easy because it's sort of like picking who's going to win tomorrow's Pirates-A's game. I'm going with Duddy TKO-10, and that's mostly hope. I want to see a good fight, and the only way I can see it being particularly good is if it ends with a Duddy stoppage, which will mean they mixed it up.
Undercard after the jump.
Lightweights - 10 Rounds
Marco Antonio Barrera v. Adailton de Jesus
In a move designed to sell a few more tickets to Mexican boxing fans, Top Rank signed Marco Antonio Barrera and added him to this card in a fight that isn't interesting in the slightest. Barrera (65-7, 43 KO) has not fought since his March 2009 loss to Amir Khan in England, his third and final fight under the Don King banner. Barrera, 36, is no more a lightweight than he is a welterweight, and years of tough fights have taken their toll on him. He is but a shadow of the brilliant warrior he used to be, and it's sort of sad to watch him continue the same silly quest for another world title as it is to watch Erik Morales do the same thing.
De Jesus (26-4, 21 KO) is a 31-year-old Brazilian who has only fought outside of South America on a handful of occasions. He did take the "0" from Noe Bolanos back in 2007, and followed that with losses to Marcos Ramirez, Roinet Caballero and Yuriorkis Gamboa, though Gamboa did go down in the fourth round of that fight.
Since the loss to Gamboa, de Jesus is 7-1, with the loss coming to Oscar Jesus Pereyra (KO-1) and the wins coming over a gaggle of unfit foes who entered the fights with a combined record of 20-25, with one of them making his pro debut.
Make no mistake, De Jesus isn't very good, but Barrera is worn out and probably rusty to boot. Barrera is rightly the favorite, but a loss to a marginal opponent like this wouldn't shock me. It would trouble me a bit, but not shock me.
Bantamweights - 10 Rounds
Raul Martinez v. Gabriel Elizondo
Martinez (26-1, 15 KO) lost at flyweight to Nonito Donaire in April '09, which is his only blemish. Donaire ripped him and stopped him in four. Martinez has moved up in weight and won twice since. Elizondo (22-3-1, 10 KO) is 0-2-1 in his last three fights, which date back to 2006. He hasn't fought in a year, since drawing Saul Gutierrez (8-14-3, 2 KO) in Hidalgo. This should be a really easy win for Martinez.
Featherweights - 8 Rounds
Salvador Sanchez v. Tomas Villa
Sanchez (19-3-2, 9 KO) is another famous name. His uncle was the Salvador Sanchez. Salvador II isn't near that level of fighter, but he's already shown plenty of resolve in his young career. He started out 0-2, and was just 2-2-2 in his first six bouts. But since then he's gone 17-1, with only a 2007 loss to Eduardo Lazcano not in his favor. He's won nine straight against opposition that could be very kindly regarded as limited. Villa (22-7-4, 14 KO) is best-known for his Solo Boxeo fight against Rogers Mtagwa in 2008, a blistering knock-down, drag-out affair. In his last fight he was stopped in one by Mikey Garcia on April 3. Villa is clearly here to give Sanchez some rounds, but it's another fight where the upset wouldn't stun me. It's not likely, but if Salvador Sanchez can't beat Villa, I'm not going to be amazed. Villa would be by far his best win.