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Mark Whicker: Chávez Jr. at the Crossroads for Promising Career

Mark Whicker, Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES – Either he looks like he never has boxed or that he has boxed very, very well.

His face is welt-free. His features are almost porcelain. Someone at Monday’s press conference even thought Julio César Chávez Jr. resembled Jerry Seinfeld, which might work as long as Costanza and Kramer weren’t working the corner.

With Floyd Mayweather encircled in personal hells, boxing could use another Pretty Boy. At least one who can fight.

Chávez is 41-0-1 with 30 knockouts, but nobody is sure if he can carry a sport that has caved in shoulders more sturdy than his.We will learn more Dec. 4 at Honda Center, when Chávez meets Mexican challenger Alfonso Gomez Visually, the apple has fallen several miles from the tree.

Julio César Chávez was 140 or so pounds of bad road. He grew up in an abandoned railroad car, and wound up winning 107 fights and losing six with two draws. He played defense with his eyebrows and relied on a critical mass of punches and an unnerving will. If he was not the best Mexican fighter of all time he was in the runoff.

Junior, who is ranked No. 1 by the WBC at 160 pounds, is 5-foot-11, taller than his father, and he has the requisite heart and chin to be a gladiator. And he is only 24. He and his fans agree that it is time to leap into championship water, which is why he hired Freddie Roach to train him for his most recent fight.

“At first he didn’t know too much about me,” Chávez said of Roach, as he spoke through an interpreter. “He said he was very surprised at the qualities I had. He wanted me to work on my jab, how I moved around the ring, my footwork, all the little things that you don’t think about until you get in there.

“I thought I knew a lot of boxing until I started working with him.”

Chávez responded with the most inspiring performance of his career, beating a tough cup of Irish coffee named John Duddy by unanimous decision. Chávez looked tenacious and pay-per-view worthy, which is why it will cost the couch-bound fan $44.95 to watch him against Gomez.

“It was the fight of my life,” Chávez said. “It established my credentials as a fighter.”

Chávez will soon go to the Philippines to train with Roach, who is preparing Manny Pacquiao for his Nov. 13 bout with Antonio Margarito at Cowboys Stadium.

Roach is far too busy to put up with anything short of total commitment. If Chávez is not ready to give it, he will never be. He is getting to the main-event segment of his career, but he is just a loss away from warming up the audience again.

“If he wins this fight I’m going to put him in against Miguel Cotto,” promoter Bob Arum said. “Cotto’s still a terrific fighter and he won’t be intimidated by the Chávez name. Is Julio ready for a challenge like that? I don’t know.”

“I think Freddie thinks there’s a lot of potential there, and the last fight was definitely a big step.”

Then again, Junior was not forced into the gym to provide for his family, as Senior was.

“Julio was a rich kid,” Arum said. “I remember when his dad was training against Oscar De La Hoya, in Colorado. He was very proud of the way Junior could pitch, and he got down in a catcher’s stance to show us. But Junior was always around the gym.”

“Boxing is all I knew,” Junior said. “He didn’t want us to box, but I never thought of doing anything else.”

He left his illusions at the door. When he was 4, his dad was being thrashed by Meldrick Taylor in Las Vegas. Senior somehow turned around the fight, and it was stopped in his favor with :02 to go.

By then Junior was back in his room at the Hilton. “I vaguely remember it,” he said, “but I didn’t want to see any more.”

Junior also watched Senior lose twice to De La Hoya, which was the stop sign for a glorious career. There was much talk inside Top Rank that Chávez Jr. would someday fight De La Hoya to avenge those losses, but De La Hoya retired first.

“Everybody wanted to see that,” Chávez said. “I would have loved to have the opportunity. Maybe when De La Hoya loses all his money he will want that fight.”

Chávez laughed. Now is not the time to hold one’s breath.

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Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Zanfer Promotions, “In Harm’s Way” will be televised Live on Pay-Per-View, beginning at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT. Tickets, priced at $200, $100, $50 and $30, will go on sale on This Friday! October 8 at 10 a.m. PT, and will be available at Ticketmaster.com, via Ticketmaster charge-by-phone (800-745-3000), and all Ticketmaster retail locations. Seats will go on sale at the Honda Center box office, beginning Saturday October 9.

The pay-per-view portion of “In Harm’s Way” will feature THREE 12-round championship battles, including: Chávez Jr. (41-0-1, 30 KOs), of Culaican, México, defending his WBC Silver middleweight title against Top-Five contender Gomez (22-4-2, 11 KOs), of Gudalajara, México; two-division world champion NONITO DONAIRE (24-1, 16 KOs), of General Santos City, Philippines, vs. former WBA bantamweight champion WLADIMIR SIDORENKO (22-2-2, 7 KOs), of Energodar, Ukraine, battling for the vacant WBA interim bantamweight title; and WBC lightweight champion HUMBERTO SOTO (53-7-2, 32 KOs), of Los Mochis, México, defending his title against Top-Five contender URBANO ANTILLON (28-1, 20 KOs), of Maywood, Calif.; The broadcast will open with top-rated lightweight contender BRANDON RIOS (25-0-1, 17 KOs), of Oxnard, Calif., risking rating and record against NOE BOLANOS (21-5-1, 13 KOs), of Ciudad Obregon, México, in a 10-round lightweight bout.

The Chávez Jr. vs. Gomez pay-per-view telecast, has a suggested retail price of $44.95, will be produced and distributed by Top Rank. The telecast will be available in HD-TV for those viewers who can receive HD. For Chávez Jr. vs. Gomez fight week updates, log on to www.toprank.com .

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