Round 2 with Chavez and Roach
By: Brandon Bernica
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. caused a minor furor this past week when he (sort of) announced
he will be reuniting with former trainer Freddie Roach via Instagram photo. While rumors of this
move have circulated for years, Team Chavez has been reluctant to move back to the Wild Card
Gym, where their relationship with Roach soured after his fight with Sergio Martinez in 2012.
Since that time, his team tried out multiple high-profile replacements, such as Joe Goosen, Ricky
Funez, and Robert Garcia. Yet most hardcore fans ascertain that Chavez’s weight issues, lack of
discipline, and inconsistent training schedule anchor the real struggle hindering his performance. Recently, he is 3-2 with no memorable victories to cling to. Combined with his out-of-the-ring
shenanigans (failing a drug test for marijuana, turning down a career-high payday and a chance
to fight Gennady Golovkin, etc.) and you have a once highly-esteemed fighter turned daily
In this vein, I venture to ask a question most fans would dismiss immediately: could
Roach raise Jr.’s game to the level it was destined for a few years back?
Chavez may never reach that level again. But improvement? Not out of the question.
Evidence clearly points to Roach as being Chavez’s most successful cornerman. With Freddie, he
amassed solid victories against Andy Lee, Sebastian Zbik, and Marco Antonio Rubio. That
success was augmented by Roach’s offensive style of training fighters that clicked with Julio. At
his best, Chavez thrives in the trenches, dominating the intricacies of the inside game. He angles
potent body shots much like his legendary father, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. Carrying solid power in
close quarters and a strong chin able to withstand the most forceful shots, Chavez naturally holds
a skillset most contenders would trade for any day. Roach understands this and can cater training
towards revealing these tools, whereas other trainers working with Jr. for the first time may need
a couple fights to fully comprehend his tendencies. After all, Roach has inspired career
turnarounds for the likes of fighters such as Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto.
But as much as there is to enjoy on the surface of Chavez, there remains a lot more to feel
apprehensive about regarding his past. A buzz word fans often use to tag Chavez Jr. with is
“entitled”. Granted, this partially results from his every move being compared to his father. Yet
the moniker still holds truthful in many respects. Chavez has been criticized for arbitrarily
moving weight limits before fights, often resulting in unfair advantages in size inside the ropes.
Missing weight expresses a lack of professionalism that, sadly, Chavez has exhibited in other
areas as well. Leading up to his biggest title fight versus Martinez, Chavez was documented as
unmotivated, waking up late and even failing to show up to gym sessions. That same fight,
Chavez was outclassed for 11 rounds, failing to handle Martinez’s superior movement and
distance fighting. Though he almost mounted a late-round comeback knockout, his Argentinian
counterpart braved his way to the end, winning a lopsided decision. That bitter ending to the
initial Roach-Chavez stint leaves lingering questions about the efficiency of this teamwork in big
fights, mainly whether Jr.’s defense is adequate enough to win rounds against top notch fighters.
Afterwards, Chavez struggled to maintain the consistency needed to reach elite status in
the sport by jumping from trainer to trainer to search for the solution to his performance. Nothing
worked as well as it did with Roach. Outside of the ring, he left his long-time promoter Bob
Arum who had spent years selling the public on Jr.’s potential and talent. He joined advisor Al Haymon in an effort to reinvent his own brand. That wasn’t the remedy either; he was knocked
out by Andrezj Fonfara, forced to build from the ground up once again. Missing from this series
of events? Commitment. Chavez’s search for the cure to his career has rarely ended at a look
inside himself. Blame gets shifted to others. Social media posts from his accounts implore fans to
believe he’s changed, rather than attempting to prove it to the one person who counts: himself.
Maybe a switch back to Roach is the remedy he’s longed for. If that solution involves
becoming the fighter his dad was, his search may end in vain. That doesn’t make his chances to
salvage his career into one he can be proud of any less likely. First, he must acknowledge why
he’s fallen and fight with the hunger he once had. If he ends up with Roach, he must stay the
course, through victory and defeat. No excuses, just hard work and focus. Everything else will
fall into place.