As the son of a boxing legend, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight-by-fight has stepped out of his father's shadow to command a spotlight of his own.
Chavez didn't disappoint Saturday night in defense of his world middleweight title, showing himself as a boxer as well as a big puncher in stopping Peter Manfredo Jr. at 1:52 of the fifth round.
Referee Lawrence Cole had no choice but to step in after Chavez landed a wicked right-left combination followed by a series of unanswered power shots that abruptly turned the scheduled 12-round main event from Reliant Arena in Houston and televised on HBO Boxing After Dark.
The victory was Chavez's 31st knockout and ran his unbeaten record to 44-0-1, while Manfredo said he was calling it a career after losing an HBO bout for the third time.
"It didn't go my way," said the challenger (37-7, 20 KOs), from Providence, R.I. "I guess I'm not an HBO fighter because every time I get on HBO, I lose. But he caught me with a good shot."
Chavez, accompanied into the ring by his dad, the former lightweight great, continued to show himself ready and worthy of prime time, having taken apart Manfredo with boxing skills that heretofore he hadn't displayed.
"It took some time to get into it, but we've been working on it a lot, boxing and defense, and it worked out well," Chavez said. "I was ready for a brawl because that's my assets. But my boxing and defense made a difference."
After a feeling-out first round, Chavez picked up the pace with combinations to Manfredo's head in the second and third rounds and clearly established himself as the superior puncher.
In the fourth round, Manfredo responded by going to Chavez's body and following it with a head shot that bloodied the champion's nose. But, coming out for the fifth round, that's when Chavez decided to press the action and bring it to a conclusion.
Manfredo acknowledged he was hurt, but nonetheless thought he could have continued. "It was quick," he said of the stoppage. "But what are you going to do? I'm not used to grabbing and holding on, but I did. They didn't give me a chance. But I knew I had to fight."
While Chavez holds one of the sanctioning organization's 160-pound titles, he says he's willing to challenge the champion considered the true middleweight king, Sergio Martinez. As a native of Culiacan, Mexico, he also talked of a possible showdown for national pride.
"I want to fight the best and Sergio Martinez is a great champion,'' Chavez said. "Canelo Alvarez would be a good fight for the Mexican fans. But we'll have to wait and see who's next. I fear no one."