Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. makes his first appearance on HBO on June 4 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, facing what the Top Rank promo video below describes as "fearless German brawler" Sebastian Zbik. This is about as accurate a description as last year when Joshua Clottey was called a brawler, but it's an important fight in its way.
The fight is important entirely because one of the world's, oh, five or so most popular fighters is making the leap to HBO. Chavez has for years been all but hidden from the mainstream audience on Top Rank's "Latin Fury" pay-per-view shows. There has been the feeling that HBO and Showtime were passing on Chavez because they didn't want him. That may have been partially true; more accurately, they probably didn't want most of his fights, which were mediocre at best.
But Chavez is worth money. You can call it nepotism and frankly you'd be right as rain, but the fact is that Chavez has a large audience that roots for him every fight, that has proven they will buy pay-per-views, and will likely deliver ratings to HBO. The fact that Showtime is running the far, far superior Carl Froch-Glen Johnson fight that night is probably irrelevant. Zbik-Chavez will almost surely beat the pants off of Froch-Johnson in the ratings. You might not care about that because you just care about the fights, and that's fine. I'll be watching Froch-Johnson, too.
HBO, though, needs the ratings. Having lost two of their flagship stars (Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto) to Showtime, as well as Shane Mosley, and with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the sidelines, HBO needs a ratings draw. Chavez has a natural and enormous audience. He and young "Canelo" Alvarez could well deliver two of HBO's best ratings this year in the month of June, facing opponents foreign to American and Mexican viewers. Both could wind up in much bigger fights as soon as this fall, and their presence equals eyeballs.
It may not have made sense before for HBO to feature Chavez. It makes sense now.