Photo via HBO.com
The sputtering career of Julio Cesar Chávez Jr. looks like it may have come to a full stop. Despite being one of the biggest attractions on the American scene (his only start in 2014, back in March, remains the highest-rated fight on HBO this year), Chávez has made several strange decisions that threaten to keep him on the block for the foreseeable future.
Erratic as ever, Chávez, instead of rolling spliffs or filling blunts, seems to be all-in on snorting bath salts—at least as far as his profession goes. In the last few months, Chávez has dragged ass on big-money bouts with Gennady Golovkin and Carl Froch. Last week, in his latest gaffe, he declined a mandatory title fight against the limited and imminently beatable UNICEF super middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell. Over the same time span, however, Chavez has found the zest to squabble with his promoter, Bob Arum, virtually ensuring that “Junior” will remain inactive until next year. For Chavez, slipshod training habits—along with a vigorous nod to the good life between fights—have long stunted his momentum, and, given some of his well-documented pastimes, an extended layoff may force him to make his return on the Food Network and not HBO.
Like so many of his contemporaries (including Mikey Garcia, Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Andre Ward), Chávez is less interested in a ring than he is in micro-managing his financial affairs. But a bigger percentage of zilch is still zilch, and this is an equation fighters ought to learn by heart before they decide to sit out on the sidelines while their managers and lawyers continue cashing paychecks regularly.
Erratic as ever, Chávez, instead of rolling spliffs or filling blunts, seems to be all-in on snorting bath salts—at least as far as his profession goes.
At 28, Chávez is almost as aimless now as he was as a teenager facing softies in sideshow attractions around Baja California a decade ago. Since debuting as a gawky teen in 2003, however, Chavez made millions of dollars, became a box-office flashpoint for a few years, and won a paper championship at middleweight. But Chávez, despite some exciting performances, remains, at heart, the dilettante he so often resembled outside of the ring.
In fact, Chavez and ambition parted ways a couple of years ago—and it looks like an amicable split based on irreconcilable differences. His last two fights were against rugged but mediocre Bryan Vera (recently flattened by Gabriel Rosado in a novelty fight—no ropes, no corners, two-minute rounds, a 17-foot circle embedded in a set resembling a roller derby track—promoted by Big Knockout Boxing), and you get the feeling that if only Chávez could face Vera exclusively, he would probably fight more often. Gearing up for topnotch competition, it seems, is beyond his reach these days. After dropping a decision to Sergio “Maravilla” Martínez in 2012, Chávez was suspended for failing his post-fight drug test. He claimed to have used marijuana during his lax training camp to calm his nerves and to help him battle insomnia. At times, Chávez sounded more like a potential case study for an issue of Psychology Today than a subject for Ring Magazine. Now, with only two fights in the last two years, Chavez seems close to admitting, through his non-actions, that prizefighting is not his main interest at the moment. Maybe it never was.
Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.