Perhaps it's inevitable. After all, the words rich kid, silver spoon and privileged don't really go hand in hand with professional fighter. Most boxers come from lower income, many times even poor upbringings. That is what drives them. Need. The need for economic security, the need to provide for their families, the need for respect and recognition, the need to make something of themselves. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has never had that need.
He has said many times that he wants to prove himself, that he wants to show the world that he can be a world class fighter, that he wants to have his own legacy separate from his all-time great father's . But there is a big difference between NEED and WANT.
Chavez Jr. has never needed money, his father made plenty of it. He's never needed recognition, his first pro fight was aired on a major network in Mexico when he was 17 years old, and most of his fights thereafter. So where does he find that drive, that burning desire that every world class fighter must posses, aside from talent. The only thing he doesn't have is the universal respect of the boxing public, but apparently that hasn't created that need. His inexplicable lack of preparation before his fights against Sergio Martinez and Brian Vera are testament to that.
The most exasperating aspect of all this is that he actually has talent, and plenty of it. Maybe not all-time great talent, but he could certainly be a top level fighter if he took himself and his sport seriously. He has very solid power with both hands, not one-punch knockout power but what some refer to as thudding power that debilitates opponents; he has a strong jab when he decides to use it; he attacks the body very well; he has good mobility which he displayed against Vera even with his poor physical conditioning (Andre Ward talked about it during the live broadcast); and up to now he's shown to have a very sturdy chin. All these attributes should make for a complete top level fighter, and yet he continues to disappoint.
He's had his high points: his gutsy performance against Sebastian Zbik to win the middleweight title, his solid if unspectacular title defense against Marco Antonio Rubio, and most of all his destruction of Andy Lee when Lee was a top ten ranked middleweight. But for the most part he continues to underperform, mostly because of his lack of preparation. Which leads us back to question: where can he find that drive?
Next Saturday he has another chance to make people take him seriously. If he comes in and fights to his full potential against Vera in the rematch, he should win clearly and probably by stoppage. He's bigger, stronger and overall a superior fighter than Vera. The Chavez Jr. that knocked out Lee should be able to do the same against Vera. By all accounts he's trained very well for this fight, he looks trim and muscular. He's been training for three months, a pretty long camp. He's saying all the right things: he's hungry again, he wants to show the world what he can do, he wants to be a top level talent. We've heard all that before. The one thing that has changed, and that he mentions is his new source of inspiration, is that he became a father a few months ago. He says he now fights for his daughter.
Perhaps fatherhood could be a source of drive and dedication. Perhaps now he has a NEED and not only a want. Perhaps now he'll need to be successful to make his daughter proud of him. Perhaps that will provide the fire and along with his talent he'll finally achieve his full potential. Perhaps.
But perhaps it's inevitable that someone who has never has an overwhelming need will never really find that fire. This Saturday could be the start of a new chapter where he becomes the fighter and the man that he could be, or he continues to be the fighter and the man that he is. Only time will tell.