Will ‘Nacho’ make a difference?


Ed C. Tolentino

The upcoming May 6 showdown between Mexicans Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Las Vegas has been generating a lot of hype from the time the fight was announced to the public. As if the match needs additional media ink, venerable boxing trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain recently agreed to join Chavez Jr.’s camp and provide valuable inputs on how to beat the highly fancied Alvarez.

As a trainer, Beristain produced his first world boxing champion in 1985, when Daniel Zaragoza defeated Freddie Jackson for the World Boxing Council (WBC) bantamweight (118 lbs.) title. Beristain has since trained a host of Latino fighters, the most notable being the Marquez brothers Juan Manual and Rafael. Beristain is known for his reputation of harnessing a boxer’s technical skills which explains why majority of the boxers he has handled, notably Juan Manuel Marquez, are known tacticians.

The 77-year-old Beristain, who has been associated with boxing for over 55 years, is looking at Chavez Jr. as his final project before he retires from the business. As things stand, Beristain is expected to have his hands full on Chavez Jr. who has been described by many as a “lazy” fighter. Notable trainers Freddie Roach and Roberto Garcia both bailed out on Chavez Jr., with Garcia noting that fighter is saddled with so many personal issues.

The issues on Chavez Jr. include drunk driving charges and drug abuse. Chavez Jr. is also known for his “unorthodox” training methods which includes “working out” in the living room or in the kitchen instead of a regular gym.

At his best, Chavez Jr. (50-2, 32 knockouts) is a ferocious body puncher who also loves to dig inside with vicious short hooks. He was at his prime in 2011, when he displayed above-par boxing skills in dismantling Peter Manfredo Jr. Chavez Jr. briefly held the World Boxing Council (WBC) middleweight (160 lbs.) title in 2011-2012 before losing it to Sergio Martinez. Chavez Jr. was criticized in the Martinez fight for being too passive. He did not open up on offense until the 12th round, when he nearly knocked out Martinez.

Since the Martinez fight, Chavez Jr. has been a huge mess. Chavez Jr.’s weight started fluctuating and he barely dodged defeat in a 2013 fight against journeyman Brian Vera. In April 2015, Chavez Jr. tipped the scales at an obese 171 + pounds and was stopped in nine rounds by Andrzej Fonfara.

Chavez Jr. has posted just two wins since the Fonfara debacle and both victories came via lackluster decisions. Weight and a serious lack of dedication are the two main issues Beristain will have to deal with.

Chavez Jr.’s showdown with Alvarez will be fought at the contracted weight of 164.5 pounds. Chavez Jr. has weighed 170 pounds in three of his last five fights. The last time Chavez, Jr. weighed in below 165 pounds was 2012, when he checked in at 159 pounds in his middleweight title fight against Martinez.

“It’s a challenge,” Beristain told ESPN. “You have to work with him (Chavez Jr.) because he is in the best position to train. I asked him to put all the meat on the grill, the intention, the idea, that he has to win. It’s going to be a great fight.”

If Beristain can whip out a miracle in Chavez Jr., it will be a one hell of a fight, indeed. If Chavez Jr. ends up training in the kitchen again, Alvarez will feast on him like, well, nachos.

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For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@yahoo.com.


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