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Canelo vs Chavez Jr: Fight preview and analysis

Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr meet on Saturday. Who’s got the advantage?

Canelo Alvarez v Julio Cesar Chavez Press Tour - Los Angeles Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Canelo Alvarez

Canelo Alvarez v Liam Smith Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Record: 48-1-1 (34 KO) ... Streak: W6 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'9" / 70½" ... Age: 26

Thoughts: Canelo has the skill advantage, but the size game, which we’ll talk more about below, is all Chavez. Canelo has to avoid getting into a real firefight with Chavez, or he’s playing with fire.

In a way, this fight is reminiscent of the 2008 bout between Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao, for a recent reference. Pacquiao moved up two weight classes and De La Hoya down one for that fight. This isn’t quite that size difference, but it’s a truly notable size difference, anyway, and the tactics should be the same as we thought going into that one. The common sense was that if De La Hoya was able to impose his physicality, Pacquiao would be toast.

In reality, De La Hoya was drained, and even if he hadn’t been, Pacquiao may have simply been too fast and young at that point for him to do much of anything. Pacquiao took him apart with bee stings, battering De La Hoya into quitting. Canelo and his team may look to do something similar here. Alvarez isn’t spectacularly fast with his hands and can be a little flat-footed at times, but he’s going to have a speed advantage over the lumbering Chavez. Sticking and moving seems like the right idea.

That said, Alvarez is a proud fighter, and this fight is largely about pride (well, and money). He’s going to want to impress against Chavez. He’s going to want to hurt him and do visible damage. How many risks will he take? Will he look for calculated spots to go for something big? Will he get himself into trouble trying to go toe-to-toe with the bigger man?

Even though Chavez isn’t a great fighter, this is a different beast than Canelo’s 2016 fights with Amir Khan and Liam Smith, men who posed no real threat to him. Sure, Khan was able to outbox him for a few rounds, but the end was inevitable, and violent. Chavez is a threat. He can’t be taken lightly, and Canelo, no matter if he gets ahead big early and does some damage, can’t ever start to coast or get too confident. He’ll have to be on his toes through the fight.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. v Andrzej Fonfara Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Record: 50-2-1 (32 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’1" / 73" ... Age: 31

Thoughts: Chavez is not that good of a fighter. But the reasons he might win this fight have nothing to do with his talent and everything to do with his physical size. He’s got a clear height advantage over Alvarez, a solid reach advantage, and will be the heavier man in the ring by a good bit.

The first concern is Chavez making the catchweight. He hasn’t had to come in below 168 in four and a half years, since he fought Sergio Martinez back in 2012. Even if he does make the weight, will he be drained doing so? Will he have left everything in training camp?

Talent-wise, he’s not on Canelo’s level. Even if you want to say that Alvarez isn’t a greatly skilled fighter, he’s never gone nip-and-tuck with the likes of Bryan Vera, Matt Vanda, Billy Lyell, or Sebastian Zbik. These are thoroughly mediocre fighters Chavez has struggled with, and Vera is within his last five fights, too, not ancient history.

If Chavez is going to win, it will be on brute force and physicality. Lucky for him, he has that ability here. This isn’t a situation like Andrzej Fonfara in 2015, when Fonfara, a man as big as Chavez, absolutely demolished him and beat him into submission. Fonfara was not going to be overwhelmed by Chavez’s size. Sergio Martinez, who embarrassed Chavez for 11 rounds, found himself the victim of Julio’s physical size advantage in the 12th round back in 2012, and if Chavez actually wakes up and throws punches before the last minute, he could do something similar early against Canelo.

Matchup Grade: B-. It’s intriguing enough physically, and it’s a big event, which will have a great atmosphere at T-Mobile. Whether we like it or not, whether “deserved” or not, this will be one of the biggest fights of 2017, and if there’s no Canelo-GGG fight made after this (or one to make, if Chavez wins), it could well be the biggest pay-per-view hit of 2017. There should also be enough action to keep it entertaining, whether it’s Chavez’s size pressing Canelo into uncomfortable depths, or Canelo sticking and moving and picking Chavez apart.

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