For Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and his team, Saturday's fight with WBC middleweight titlist Sebastian Zbik was eight years and 43 fights in the making.
First was the three-pronged process of acquiring professional seasoning, building his record and establishing his brand. The result was a glittering 42-0-1 (30 KO) mark, strikingly similar to the 43-0 (37 KO) record his father carried into his first major title fight against Mario Martinez in 1984.
Then there was the deft political maneuvering that removed lineal champion Sergio Martinez from the equation. Martinez, who beat Kelly Pavlik to win the WBC and WBO belts, was stripped and "elevated" to "super" champion and "diamond belt" king while Zbik -- the "interim" beltholder -- was given the "full" WBC strap and the "privilege" of meeting Chavez. The site was the final stroke: Instead of the champion defending before his home fans in Germany, he'll meet Chavez before a heavily Hispanic audience at the Staples Center. Chavez is a 9-5 favorite.
Will Chavez seize upon this nicely stacked deck or will Zbik overcome the kind of long odds a champion seldom has to face? Their respective CompuBox histories provide strategic options and since Zbik is the champion his blueprint will be presented first:
Continue to do more with less: In four CompuBox tracked fights, Zbik was out-landed in three. So how has he remained undefeated (30-0, 10 KO)? Fighting in Germany certainly helps, but statistically speaking his accuracy has been key.
Sebastian Heiland out-threw (1,089-499) and out-landed Zbik (261-180 overall, 53-17 jabs and 208-163 power) but the German kept his belt because his power shots were cleaner, harder and more precise. He landed 49.2 percent (163 of 331) to Heiland's 31.8 percent (208 of 655) while outdoing him 40.1 percent to 24.0 percent overall.
Those disparities held in his two fights with Domenico Spada. The aggressive Italian out-landed Zbik 220-174 (overall) and 196-32 (power) but Zbik won 115-114 on all scorecards because he held accuracy edges of 32.2-27.2 (overall) and 40.1-33.9 (power). In the rematch Spada's edge in connects was smaller (178-171 overall, 147-144 power) but Zbik's marksmanship again prevailed (32.3-24.3 overall, 38.9-28.2 power)
Take advantage of Chavez's porous defense: Zbik's accuracy may save him for two reasons: First, he can't match Chavez's output (43.7 in four CompuBox-tracked bouts, nearly 25 percent below the 56.9 middleweight norm). But second, Chavez Jr. can be hit hard and often.
Duddy nailed Chavez with 44.3 percent of his power shots while Troy Rowland (45.6 percent), Luciano Cuello (38.0) and Matt Vanda (37.8 in both fights) also feasted. If Zbik can strike without being struck as often, he can pull off the upset -- by keeping his belt.
For Chavez to win, he must:
Crank it up: While Chavez gets hit he also hits plenty. In his last six fights, Junior has averaged 64.4 punches per round -- 12 percent above the middleweight norm -- and demonstrated excellent accuracy in all categories (43.4 percent overall, 30.5 percent jabs and 49.2 percent in power shots).
His most impressive performance took place during his shootout with John Duddy a year ago. Averaging 63.1 punches per round to Duddy's 92.3, Chavez was 506 of 757 overall (66.8 percent), 144 of 228 (63.2 percent) in jabs and 362 of 529 (68.4 percent) in power shots. Although he weighed a career-high 160, Chavez's body -- and technique -- was tight.
His outputs in other fights are far higher than Zbik's (61.5 Billy Lyell, 56.9 Troy Rowland, 62.0 Jason LeHoullier, 76.9 Luciano Cuello and 64.3 Matt Vanda II). He should unleash lots of artillery, not only to dictate the pace but also keep the already defensive-minded champion focused on self-preservation.
Blast the body: Chavez is a prodigious body puncher, especially with the hook. Zbik prefers to work at long range and is not physically strong, so a body attack would sap his strength fairly quickly. Sixty-nine percent of Chavez's power connects against Cuello were body shots (175 of 255) and a similar ratio should make his road to a championship much easier. That's because Zbik tends to tire in the late rounds and when he knows he's ahead on the cards he often clinches to an excessive degree to run out the clock.
Prediction: Zbik is a European-style boxer who thrives on picking apart shorter opponents. But against the taller, younger and stronger Chavez he lacks the power to hurt the challenger, the physical tools to dictate range and the safe haven Germany will provide. Chavez by mid-rounds KO.
Posted 12:00 AM | Jun 1, 2011
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