Julio Cesar Chavez will defend his WBC middleweight title against Andy Lee on June 16th, 2012. The winner will supposedly take on the true middleweight champion in Sergio Martinez. Chavez had three choices here; Martin Murray, Vanes Martirosyan, or Andy Lee. The softest touch was Murray but he had criminal convictions that would have been an issue so Chavez’ Top Rank braintrust settled on Lee. Martirosyan would have been a much tougher fight and even harder to look good against.
Lee himself was in the running to face Sergio Martinez but lost out to Matthew Macklin.With a victory here, he has an opportunity to make that fight happen.
I see the match-up breakdown as follows:
Age & physical equipment: At 6’2”, Andy Lee is one of the few middleweights that will have a height advantage over Junior. Lee appears to be in his prime and has not endured any prolonged beatings at this stage of his career. Chavez at 26 years of age is entering his physical prime. At six feet tall, he is among the bigger middleweights. Furthermore, Chavez is a bit more robust in the upper body than Lee who appears to be someone who can be outmuscled. EDGE: CHAVEZ
Speed: No speed demons here but neither fighter is exactly ponderous. Lee has only average foot and hand speed. His advantage comes from his use of angles and his southpaw style. His movements can appear awkward and gangly at times. Chavez has above average hand speed but only average foot speed. He does have quicker hands than Lee but I believe Lee throws more punches which may negate this slight edge. I don’t believe either fighter has a significant advantage in hand speed or foot movement here to merit significance in the outcome. EDGE:EVEN
Technique: Lee is no defensive wizard. He rarely moves his head and stands straight up. His money punch is the left cross and his right hook is decent. He has a bad habit of pawing with his right jab. But again, his advantages come from his height and an ability to create angles. Some of this comes from being a southpaw; some comes from Lee’s own ability to create openings. His primary weakness is his defense and he often commits the boxing sin of backing straight up when pressed. Chavez, in contrast, does very little to hide his intentions. He is, for lack of a better description, a poor man’s version of his father (albeit a larger version.) He keeps his hands high and bores in, burrowing his left to the body and right hand over the top. It appears that he has inherited his father’s uncanny ability to maneuver opponents to the ropes and force them to fight off their back foot. Junior is rather good at not giving his opponents room to punch. In short, Chavez appears to be better at his chosen techniques than Lee is at his. EDGE: CHAVEZ
Power: In looking at Lee’s brain trust (Emanuel Steward) and his long, angular physique one immediately assumes he is a power puncher in the mold of so many of Kronk fighters. I consider his power to be only slightly above average, however. He does throw the left cross with bad intentions but the fact that a guy like Alex Bunema went the distance with him permits me from labeling him a fighter with fight changing power. The same can be said for Junior as well. Junior has gone the distance with far too many fighters that he should have stopped. He has some of the same favorite combinations of his Dad (lead right, left to the body) but lacks the numbing power of Chavez the Senior. EDGE: LEE
Intangibles: Lee has Emanuel Steward in his corner and Steward himself steps up his game in high profile matchups. Lee is now four years removed from the loss to Brian Vera but he hasn’t really stepped up in competition (granted, this may be no fault of his own.) He has been a pro for over six years and is without significant victory. He is a hungry fighter and is by all accounts a very hard worker, a stark contrast to the perception of his opponent.
Chavez has been a pro for nine years. If he is going to catch his stride, it should happen now. Junior has more than his share of detractors but his improvement is evident in his past couple of fights. The big intangible here in his favor, of course, is the face that this is a Top Rank production and Chavez is the house fighter. The fight is taking place in Texas which will have a partisan Mexican crowd.
Because of his inability to gain ground in the division, I sense an air of desperation on the side of Lee while Chavez seems to be riding a wave of growing momentum and interest in his career. EDGE: CHAVEZ
Conclusion: Chavez is a class above Lee in terms of talent. Lee, like so many of his UK compatriots, has the look of the gallant loser about him. He can defeat the lesser lights of the division but I surmise that he has hit a ceiling and would be hard pressed to defeat anyone in the top 6 or 7. Chavez Jr, on the other hand, has the look of someone who will blame his defeats on lack of preparation.
The most likely scenario for a Lee victory here is if he can outwork Chavez. Junior has a tendency to allow his opponents to outwork him as he tries to gain inside position. This may be a tough fight with some drama as Lee can take an early lead with a superior punch volume. I think this fight will be decided in the later rounds. Buoyed by a partisan crowd and higher expectations, I do see Junior gathering steam as the rounds go on. Lee may have the guts and gumption to last the full distance but the judges will be influenced by the partisan crowd and the fact that Junior is the house fighter. Lee will need to win at least eight of the twelve rounds to get a verdict here and I don’t see that happening.
Prediction: Chavez by decision.