With every passing fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. carries an unenviable burden of proof every time he steps between the ropes: Can he live up to the legend whose name he carries?
So far he's passed virtually every test -- a six-round draw to Carlos Molina in December 2006 is his only blemish -- but many believe mandatory challenger Marco Antonio Rubio presents a new level of danger. The oddsmaker don't think so, as they made Chavez nearly a 4-1 favorite. Rubio carries a formidable 53-5 (46 KO) record, the experience of a 12-year veteran and plenty of give-and-take battles against well-regarded names.
Will the "Son of the Legend" clear this vital hurdle or will Rubio prove to be his stumbling block? Their CompuBox histories offer these clues:
Not Afraid to Trade: Both battlers have lived through their share of firefights because they unleash plenty of bombs and aren't fearful of their opponents' artillery. In five middleweight fights, Chavez's power punches comprised 71.7 percent of his offense (as opposed to the 58.3 percent middleweight average) and his 45.8 percent connect rate is 17.3 percent higher than the 37.9 division norm. Chavez's numbers against John Duddy were off the charts: 66.8 percent overall accuracy, 68.4 percent power precision and bulges of 506-378 (total connects) and 362-289 (power connects).
Although power shots made up 55 percent of Rubio's offense against Rigoberto Alvarez (Saul's older brother), Jose Luis Zertuche and Matt Vanda, he connected at a 41.6 percent rate -- 9.1 percent above the middleweight norm.
Neither is a defensive wizard, and in Chavez's case the numbers are alarming. He tasted 46.9 percent of Sebastian Zbik's punches and 53.8 percent of his power shots, 44.3 percent of Duddy's power punches and 45.6 percent of Troy Rowland's hooks, crosses and uppercuts. Against an out-classed Peter Manfredo Jr. the numbers improved as he tasted just 23.6 percent of his overall punches and 24.3 percent of his power punches.
In beating Enrique Ornelas, Rubio tasted 49 percent of his rival's power punches (218 of 443) but the percentages were better against Zertuche (38.0 overall, 37.1 power), Lemieux (29.5 overall, 44.5 percent power) and Pavlik (21.0 overall, 19.7 power). However, he may have to come forward against Chavez because the six-foot champion with the 73-inch wingspan holds a two-inch height and three-inch reach edge.
The Vanda Factor: Chavez won two 10-round decisions against Matt Vanda while Rubio stopped the Minnesota gatekeeper in five last time out in December. The numbers heavily favor Rubio, perhaps because Vanda met him three years and 11 fights (five losses) after the Chavez rematch.
In losing a disputed split nod in July 2008, Vanda out-landed Chavez 279-262 overall and landed 43 percent of his overall punches to Chavez's 38. But despite tasting a far higher percentage of Vanda's power punches (49.2 percent to 39.1), Chavez produced a 234-197 connect edge which, along with home ring advantage, gave him the nod. In the rematch Chavez was better: a 241-167 overall connect advantage, a 195-113 power connect bulge and a 37.5 percent to 31 percent lead in overall accuracy.
Conversely, Rubio averaged 81.8 punches per round and produced connect advantages of 159-68 (overall) and 87-43 (power). Rubio landed 38.9 percent of his overall punches to Vanda's 28.9 and 44.8 percent of his power punches to Vanda's 37.1.
Does this translate to a big Rubio victory? Not necessarily, but common opponents nevertheless offer an interesting comparison.
Stage Fright?: The bright lights have never been a problem for Chavez Jr., for he has lived with his father's celebrity all his life. As a child he appeared on HBO pre-fight features and walked the aisle with his dad countless times. As a pro, he's topped numerous independent pay-per-views and premium cable cards and has yet to taste defeat.
The same can't be said of Rubio. Outside the U.S. he boasts a 45-2 (40 KO) record, but on American soil he's 8-3 (6 KO). More tellingly, Rubio is 1-3 with two KO defeats on U.S.-based premium cable or pay-per-view shows. Kofi Jantuah stopped Rubio in 33 seconds on the Hopkins-De La Hoya undercard while Pavlik turned the trick in nine as the card-topper. Kassim Ouma split-decisioned him on the De La Hoya-Mayorga program (90-yr old judge Billy Graham's 117-110 tally for Rubio was hideous) , while Rubio's only victory was a 12-round split decision over Ornelas on the Hopkins-Pavlik show, a fight that saw Rubio out-landed 264-256 (overall) and 218-188 (power).
Prediction: Chavez's fans will experience some nervous moments early, but their hero will eventually find his groove and win by decision.
HBO WCB - Feb 4, 2012
Nonito Donaire vs. Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr.