The Son Also Rises: What the Rise of Julio César Chávez Jr. Means for My Generation

by Robert Pecchio: Not many people seem to like Julio César Chávez Jr. Well, let me clarify that: Not many people WANT to like Julio César Chávez Jr. After all, what is there to like, really?

He’s a moderately talented party boy who gets way more attention than he deserves simply because he shares the name of his father, an all-time great fighter. Critics say he’s overprotected, overrated—really just a sideshow attraction for greedy promoters.

At 26, Chavez Jr. has already worked with some of the world’s best trainers, fought in world-class arenas, and trained in some of the world’s best gyms. He’s had opportunities that most fighters only dream of, way beyond what his talent-level and career resume would warrant.

And we HATE him for that.

Give us Manny Pacquiao. We like his story better—a boxing legend who grew up selling used cigarettes on the streets of the Philippines. Give us Bernard Hopkins—a great champion who turned his life around after spending years in prison. We want Cinderella Man, not this Keeping Up with the Kardashians spin-off.

Chavez Jr. has faced this kind of criticism since the beginning of his professional career at the young age of 17.

I remember when I was17. It was the fall of 2006. I was entering my senior year of high school, bursting with optimism and youthful self-esteem. As the son of a successful attorney, I too had received privileges unearned by my work-ethic.

I remember sitting in my guidance counselor’s office one day, smugly describing my illustrious future, filled with impressive degrees and fantastical accomplishments. Nothing seemed impossible for me at that time. Years of elite instructors at private schools had brought me to the center of the universe where I simply had to exert a little bit of effort and I could outsmart every other mere earthling in my path.

Now, six years later, I sit here, writing this article in a coffee shop just minutes away from my parents’ house, having accomplished next to none of those dreams.

But I’m not the only one.

A couple days ago, published an article titled “Boomerang Kids”, describing how 85% of this year’s college grads plan to return to their parents’ home after graduation.

This should be a shocking statistic. For decades, getting a college degree from a good university made one very likely to surpass their parents’ level of financial success. But, as any young person looking to start a career in this troubled economy could tell you, this number is not at all surprising.

We are the first generation in memory that will not be able to build off the success of our predecessors. We have better degrees, better technology, and more expertise, yet we would be foolish to expect a better career, a better car, or a bigger house than those that came before us.

We are the anti-boom generation, silently stewing over the lack of opportunity granted by our gift-wrapped ability. We are entitled because we expect our dreamy futures to magically work themselves out the way the overdraft fees on our bank accounts disappeared after Mom and Dad spoke to the bank manager.

In a way, Julio César Chávez Jr. embodies this generation, trapped beneath the ceiling of our parents’ success. He’ll never fight as many times as his father. He’ll never win as many times as his father. He’ll never fight as many great fighters as his father did. For as long as his career lasts, he will be reduced to the label of a reluctant heir to the throne who was handed the crown instead of earning it.

But, as we all saw last Saturday with his vicious KO over top fighter Andy Lee, Julio César Chávez Jr. has something that his dad will never have. He has this moment, and he is ready to take it.

Somehow, someway, Julio César Chávez Jr. went from being a lazy, stubborn sideshow act to a menacing, ferocious contender for the top spot in the middleweight division. Two years ago, we were all saying that he was simply a protected pretty boy whose name was being used to make money.

Then, he won his first belt.

So we started saying that Julio César Chávez Jr. was simply a paper champ, and could not fight with elite fighters or show any legitimate skill.

Then, he bobbed-and-weaved, showed athleticism, and cut off the ring against a veteran Peter Manfredo.

We still didn’t approve. We said he couldn’t hack it with top competition.

And then he beat Marco Antonio Rubio, a top 10 fighter.

JCC's defiant journey to legitimacy culminated last Saturday. He and his father drove a limo up to the ring to face a primed, one-loss fighter in Andy Lee.

And he destroyed him.

With his brutal 7th Round stoppage over Andy Lee, Chavez Jr. put the final apostrophe on his application letter to face middleweight kingpin Sergio Martinez.

Six months ago, nobody said that Julio César Chávez Jr. had what it takes to even be mentioned in the same breath as a fighter like Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez.

Nobody is saying that now.

With every devastating punch thrown this past weekend, Julio César Chávez Jr. began to set the foundation for his own masterpiece, his own destiny. Whether or not he beats Sergio Martinez this September, he has already done more than many expected him to do—become a self-made man. And, in my opinion, that’s a huge success in itself.

After his victory over Andy Lee, the good-looking Julio César Chávez Jr. stood in the center of the ring, and in his Spanish tongue, promised the great Sergio Martinez that he was going to knock him out and “shut his mouth” in September.

Not many people think he can do it. Sergio Martinez is probably the best fighter not named Mayweather or Pacquiao.

But, for some reason, I personally think he’s got a good shot. He’s getting stronger with each fight. He’s got a classic iron chin, and the heart of a fighter evident in all great Mexican champions.

The two will square off on September 15, a fight that many will tune in to, hoping to see the “real champion” Martinez put the paper king back into his place behind his father.

Not us, Julio. Not my friends and I. We’ll be rooting for you, champ. Not just because you’ll be the underdog, but because you’re one of us. We’ll huddle in front of the TVs in our parents’ basements, cheering you on while forgetting to use our mothers' coasters.

You can do it, champ. You can show ‘em that we’re still here--we're still in this fight—and it’s our time now.

Article posted on 19.06.2012

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