For boxing fans in general and Mexican fans in particular, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has been a dream match whose marination has rivaled that of Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. The dream was thought to be dead after Chavez packed on the pounds and lost fights to Sergio Martinez and Andrzej Fonfara; however, after back-to-back wins over Marcos Reyes and Dominick Britsch at super middleweight -- and following Canelo's wins over the undersized Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan as well as the brave but outclassed Liam Smith -- an agreement that included a 164 1/2 pound catchweight was reached.
With both fighters known for rehydrating dramatically, this fight could pit a light heavyweight (Alvarez) versus a cruiserweight (Chavez Jr.). What it also will likely provide is toe-to-toe action, which, for those who love boxing, is what the sport is all about.
Canelo vs. Attackers: Alvarez's greatest struggles have been against those who put defense above offense, such as Mayweather, Erislandy Lara, Cotto (at least for that night), Austin Trout and Khan. In those bouts, Alvarez threw eight fewer punches per round than his foes (37.5 vs. 45.5), landed fewer jabs (6.1 vs. 2.6) and landed fewer total punches each round (10.3 vs. 12.4). However, Alvarez hung tough due to his accuracy (27.5% vs. 27.3% overall, 39% vs. 35% power) and, against Lara and Trout, his star power.
But when he faces attackers like Alfredo Angulo, James Kirkland and Smith, Canelo performs at his very best. Yes, he still throws fewer punches per round (49.3 vs. 62.3) but the numerical gaps between himself and those rivals are almost comical -- 24.5 vs. 11.9 in total connects per round, 6.8 vs. 3.4 in landed jabs per round, 17.7 vs. 8.5 in power connects per round and percentage gaps of 50% vs. 19% overall , 35% vs. 12% jabs and 59% vs. 25% power.
He also produced the 2015 knockout of the year against Kirkland and a highlight-reel body-shot stoppage last time out against Smith, which capped a bout in which he prevailed 157 vs. 115 overall and 113 vs. 68 power, as well as 37% vs. 29% overall and 51% vs. 33% power. Given this history, the 6-foot-1 Chavez should maximize his advantages in height (four inches) and reach (three-and-a-half inches) by boxing on the outside. But if he does that, then Chavez wouldn't be Chavez, right?
Changing His Game?: After nearly pulling out a miraculous TKO win over Sergio Martinez in September 2012, Chavez has gone 4-1 with no knockout wins and a KO loss to giant light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara three fights ago. In those five fights, Chavez, once a big-time volume puncher, had slowed to just 40.7 punches per round to his foes' 71.3, was out-landed 18.4 vs. 16 overall and 5.9 vs. 2.9 jabs, and was nearly out-landed in power connects (13.1 vs. 12.5 for Chavez).
But Chavez has replaced volume for accuracy (39% overall, 22% jabs, 48% power) and better defense (26% overall, 18% jabs, 32% power). However, against the one world-class foe he fought, Fonfara, the numbers were badly lopsided as Fonfara threw more (91.2 vs. 36.4 punches per round), landed more (285 vs. 118 overall, 77 vs. 9 jabs, 208 vs. 109 power), scored a ninth-round knockout and forced Chavez to quit on the stool like his father did against Oscar de la Hoya. Yes, Chavez was more precise (36% vs. 35% overall, 41% vs. 40% power) but the difference in class was graphic. However, Fonfara was a bigger, stronger man, a problem Chavez won't face against Alvarez, who has created most of his reputation at 147 and 154 pounds. But Canelo is the best fighter he's faced since Martinez.
COMPUBOX ANALYSIS – CANELO ALVAREZ vs. JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR.
Inside The Numbers: Both throw well below the super middlweight average, but land well above in total punches and power punch percentage. In his last eight fights, Canelo landed 46.5% of his power shots -- 9% higher than the weight class average. Canelo's 40.9 punches thrown per round are the sixth-fewest among CompuBox Categorical Leaders. Opponents landed just 7.0 power shots per round vs. Canelo (Chavez opponents landed 13 power shots per round). Further, 73.6% of Canelo's landed punches are power shots.
Chavez and GGG are the only fighters to land 40% or more of their total punches. In his last eight fights, Chavez landed 48.1% of his power shots (No. 4 on our leaders list). Chavez's 40 punches thrown per round is the fourth-lowest total on our list. Further, 82.9% of Chavez's landed punches are power shots. This won't be a jab fest, as 78.6% of their combined landed punches are power shots(CompuBox avg.: 71.6%).
Prediction: Chavez has the height and reach to force Canelo to chase him and the power to hurt Alvarez badly if he connects with his best punches. That, along with both fighters' charisma, is why this fight was made and has drawn so much interest. But Chavez is, at heart, an aggressor, and he is trying to re-ignite his career and seek redemption for past failures. The only way he can achieve both is to be aggressive and, against Alvarez, that will prove disastrous. If Chavez packs on the pounds he'll be able to take Alvarez's punishment much like Daniel Jacobs was able to do so against Golovkin. But if the gap in talent is especially graphic, Alvarez could well stop Chavez. Either way, Chavez loses and Canelo wins.