Last week at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and his trainer Freddie Roach gave away Thanksgiving turkeys on Chavez Jr.’s media day. As he looked ahead to his December 4th match-up versus Alfonso Gomez, the talk centered on Chavez’s improved work ethic and potentially facing the likes of Miguel Cotto in 2011.
By the weekend, Chavez had reportedly fallen ill and, according to some sources, he had disappeared. By Sunday night, he was evidently found and it was announced by Top Rank that everything was fine and the show at the Honda Center in Anaheim was good to go. A Monday afternoon conference call with Chavez, Roach and Bob Arum was scheduled to assuage anyone's concern over this event. Well, that conference call was scrapped as Chavez reportedly had second thoughts on going through with the fight. An apoplectic Arum had decided that the show- which features Nonito Donaire and the WBC lightweight title clash between titlist Humberto Soto and Urbano Antillon- would go on, with or without the son of the Mexican legend.
He had had enough.
Later on that day, as Chavez strolled back into the Wild Card and sparred- with Arum in attendance- he was given a somewhat clean bill of health and pronounced fit enough to fight late replacement Pawel Wolak. The veteran promoter would tell anyone who would listen that Chavez was fine and Chavez himself was quoted as saying, "I felt very good." Emails detailing this week’s media schedule were sent out with the heading “Chavez Jr. vs. Wolak: In Harm's Way.”
Hey, all’s well that ends well, right?
Then came Tuesday morning, when it seems that Chavez Jr. went all Foreigner and woke up hot-blooded with a fever of 103. Arum received an early morning call from Alex Ariza, the strength-and-nutrition guru who was assigned to watch over Chavez Jr. throughout the rest of the week, who informed the promoter of Chavez's ailment.
"When he got here to my house, he was running a little bit of a really low-grade fever," Ariza told Maxboxing on early Tuesday evening. "But again, I thought it may have been because he really tried to push it in training. He didn't have much of an appetite, went to bed early. I got up, went to go train Amir [Khan], came back, woke him up around seven- he was cooking."
Arum says that as he received the notification, "I said, 'Well, if that's the case, you gotta get him to the doctor and he can't fight.' They agreed. And if they knock out the fever, it can come back, the flu. I had it when I came back from the flu. It disappeared and came back for three weeks."
Chavez's health has gone through more ups and downs than the Dow Jones, it seems.
"He wanted to fight as of Monday and Tuesday morning, he woke up at 103. So there's no way he could be ready," said a weary sounding Arum.
Because of Chavez's checkered history of unreliability, there are more than a few cynics who believe that perhaps what he was really suffering from was the Fernando Beltran Flu (his lead promoter, who, like J. Wellington Wimpy, is best known for promising to you pay you next Tuesday for a fight today) and there is also a belief among more hardened observers of this sport that Chavez simply had problems making weight. His original fight was scheduled for a weight limit of 157 pounds and then curiously changed to 165 because of his illness. This, of course, gives new meaning to “feeding a fever.” Some believe Chavez was uneasy with the change of opponent.
But Roach says, "It was legit. We did have an opponent changed but I don't think that's the reason he got sick. So these things happen and everyone's disappointed and pissed off about it. But the thing is, he woke up this morning and he was real stiff and stuff. So Alex Ariza took him to the hospital to make sure he's OK. He really is sick." The trainer says pulling him out of this event was the prudent choice. "After seeing him yesterday after his workout where his legs stiffened up on him, he couldn't barely walk, yeah. Then waking up this morning with a real high fever. Yes, he shouldn't fight this fight."
But in the big picture, Chavez didn't just lose a fight. He lost an opportunity to face the likes of Miguel Cotto or any other blue-chip name in the first half of 2011.
"He's only fought one time in a year," pointed out Arum, while Roach conceded, "100-percent it's bad timing. I know Bob's not too happy about it. But y' know, it's a part of life. People do get sick and it's bad timing. The thing is, the flu's been going around and my guy got it. I'm sorry but that's the way it goes. In his best interest- which I have to look out for- I have to pull him outta the fight, at this point."
At this point, it's unclear what Chavez's 2011 will look like.
"It's too soon for that; we're going to wait until Fernando Beltran comes in tomorrow [Wednesday] and I'll sit down and talk with him tomorrow," said Arum, who is exasperated by the whole situation. "Obviously, there's something wrong here, where nobody is really taking care of him. This happens too frequently, the flu; this is the second time. So we gotta see what the hell can be done."
But this is about more than just the flu with Chavez. There is a continuing pattern- much of which has been enabled by Top Rank themselves- of situations that has turned Chavez into a promotional liability. To many insiders, he is a pampered heir to boxing royalty, this sport’s version of a trust-fund baby (Julio Cesar Hilton?) whose every whims and desires are placated.
Arum says, "Imagine putting him in with Cotto, spending millions of dollars on the promotion and uh..." “Issues' popping up?” “Yeah, right.”
To Top Rank's credit, this pay-per-view show will proceed, most likely at a heavy financial loss, without their headliner. "Absolutely, the show will go on. What am I going to do? Cancel the show and I got all these kids who've been working their ass off in the gym, looking forward to fight? I can't do that. So anybody who wants a refund can get a refund. The pay-per-view will announce, obviously, no Chavez and we'll do what we do and go on,” Arum said.
This move is necessitated by the fact that Donaire, who faces Wladimir Sidorenko, and the winner of the Soto-Antillon bout have upcoming bouts on HBO and Showtime, respectively in February.
For many fans, Chavez had become the walk-out bout with all these machinations, anyway.
"I think it's a pretty good event," said Arum. "There's a couple of good fights on that card."
As it related to who will face Manny Pacquiao next, Arum said on Monday afternoon, "Well, Lou DiBella called me today and he's going to give me their proposal [for Andre Berto] tomorrow. As far as [Golden Boy CEO] Richard Schaefer is concerned, we understand he's going to give us a proposal for [Juan Manuel] Marquez. And once I have everything, I will go visit Manny in the Philippines for his birthday and I'll have a discussion with him to see who he wants to fight because there are different financial parameters with everybody."
I get the sinking feeling that when it's all said and done, Shane Mosley will get the fight with the “Pac-Man”- if he hasn't already. Arum not only believes he has the biggest name and best pay-per-view history but- let's face it- Pacquiao-Mosley would be an in-house promotion and a shot across the bow at Golden Boy Promotions.
And let's call a spade a spade at this point; Pacquiao would be cherry-picking every bit as much as one Floyd Mayweather has in the past.
A source told me that Chavez asked for the weight limit to be raised from 165 to 168 on Monday before the eventual cancellation of the bout. Geez, what did he want to do, join the “Super Six”?...Did Arthur Abraham's own trainer call him a “coward”? Good to see nobody is throwing each other under the bus in the wake of their loss to Carl Froch...I'll say this about Andre Ward; he may not be exciting but he is effective. That being said, isn't part of being a star to put out entertaining affairs, at least once in awhile?...Speaking of the “Super Six,” I can't wait for Froch-Glen Johnson...Don't want to jinx it but is Jon Gruden really going to be the next head coach of the Miami Hurricanes? Just the thought of it gets me excited....