by Eric Raskin
A son of a great boxer can inherit his dad’s jab. He can inherit the old man’s left hook to the liver. He can inherit his hand speed, his athleticism, his punching power. What he typically can’t inherit is his hunger.
To be a great fighter requires a willingness to absorb physical punishment and overcome it. Kids raised in a comfortable, middle-class-or-better environment just don’t have the mental makeup -- usually -- to persevere in the prize ring.
That’s what makes it all the more remarkable that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. now stands on the precipice of great things. And that’s also what makes it possible for Chavez to already be recognized as the greatest son of a truly great fighter, ever.
Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. is arguably the finest fighter Mexico has ever known, a Hall of Famer who won titles in three divisions, sat atop the pound-for-pound lists, and ended his career with 107 victories in 115 bouts.
Junior will never catch up to the accomplishments of “The Lion of Culiacan.” But he has probably already surpassed all the other sons of legendary fighters who tried to follow in their fathers’ footsteps.
Marvis Frazier, son of Joe Frazier, had a decent career, but he got crushed twice at the top level. Marcel Cerdan Jr. showed some promise but never quite panned out. Same for Hector Camacho Jr. (whose dad may or may not deserve the “great” label anyway). Others like Roberto Duran Jr., Ronald Hearns, and Aaron Pryor Jr. never got past clubfighter status.
There are certainly a few sons of pro boxers who exceeded the accomplishments (thus far) of Chavez Jr. -- it’s just that their dads can’t be categorized as true greats. Cory Spinks won the world welterweight title, but his dad Leon, despite upsetting Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title, was mostly a disappointment as a pro. Guty Espadas Jr. repeated his father’s feat by winning a title, but neither of the Espadas men will be more than a footnote in the annals of history. Floyd Mayweather is on his way to going down as one of the greatest ever to lace on gloves, but his dad was merely a talented fringe contender.
If there is a son of a truly great fighter who still stands above Chavez Jr., it’s Tracy Harris Patterson. However, Tracy was adopted at age 13 by former heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson, so they aren’t blood relation. Debate amongst yourselves whether the Pattersons should be included in this discussion.
In any case, if you change the categorization from son of a great fighter to child of a great fighter, Chavez Jr. does get some stiff competition from Laila Ali. The daughter of the most famous fighter who ever lived shocked the naysayers by becoming arguably the top women’s pro boxer in history. You could make a case that her career accomplishments -- even if the competition was somewhat limited -- go beyond those of Chavez Jr.
For now, anyway. If Chavez dethrones Sergio Martinez on Saturday night, it’s safe to say Ali is no longer the greatest.