Middleweight contender Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. isn't just another fighter. As the son of an all-time boxing great, Chavez Jr. is the focus of intense scrutiny and often is (unfairly) judged in light of his father's achievements. At times, the pressure seems to take its toll on the young prospect, and his response to criticism hasn't been as emphatic as hoped. His performances have been effective but barely satisfactory -- just enough to keep his detractors doubting and his fans hopeful. But after a recent epiphany following a suspension from the game, Chavez Jr. decided it was time to abandon the safe and comfortable plan of fighting tailor-made opponents in undercard fights, instead joining forces with respected and demanding trainer Freddie Roach and instructing his team to seek out a world title fight in order to prove his mettle.
Chavez Jr. will get his wish Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET) when he faces Germany's Sebastian Zbik for the WBC middleweight championship. ESPN Deportes caught up with Chavez Jr. during a break in his training to discuss the fight, his father and his future.
What can you tell us about your training for this fight?
Well, we have been training really hard for this fight. I've been in training for two months. I've sparred with a lot of different guys. One of them is Vanes [Martirosyan], who will also be appearing on the undercard. We've done a great training camp, and I believe I am ready to fight this Saturday.
What can you tell us about Sebastian Zbik? What do you expect from him as an opponent?
Zbik is a good fighter. He is an undefeated fighter, and he is the champion. But I've prepared really hard, and I am confident that, with the type of preparation that I've done and with all of what I've learned, I am going to win on June 4.
Your father will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame a few days after your first title shot. What sort of pressure does that entail?
I am really happy about that. This gives me extra motivation, just to see the recognition he is getting. But now I am very focused on my fight, and my mind is focused on June 4, on winning this fight. This is all I think about; I don't have any other distractions. I have to be well-prepared and continue getting ready and training hard for this fight.
What has Freddie Roach contributed to your style? Have you noticed any improvements?
I have improved in every aspect of my game. I have improved physically, I have improved my leg work, I am more mobile, and I can move away from punches more efficiently. I throw more punches than before. In every aspect, I believe it has helped me -- and especially in my physical conditioning, which was something I really needed from a long time ago.
You said the WBC title you'll fight for Saturday means more than the WBC junior middleweight belt earned by Saul Alvarez, but how do you feel about Zbik's title in light of his acquiring it at the expense of Sergio Martinez?
Martinez is different because he is a great champion. I believe he is the best fighter in the middleweight division right now. But I want to defeat Zbik first, because he was the interim champion for three years, and now that Martinez dropped to 154 pounds again, Zbik was named regular champion. [Editor's note: Zbik was upgraded to full titlist only after Martinez was elevated to "champion emeritus" status.] And I am focused on winning my title, because once I win the title, I will be ready for the big fights and to fight with the best champions out there.
How do you see the rest of the year unfolding in terms of potential opponents?
There has been a lot of talk about possible fights with Sergio Martinez or Miguel Cotto. Those are the two names I have heard for my next fight, if I win this Saturday. When I am not thinking about this fight [with Zbik], I am thinking of Sergio Martinez or Miguel Cotto. The most likely situation right now is a fight with Miguel Cotto because we belong to the same company, Top Rank, and we are very close and we are continuously talking about that fight. But if I win this title, I will be ready to fight anyone. The truth is that I am not fully aware of all the other middleweight champs out there. There's Martinez, there's Sebastian Sylvester, there's Zbik, but the other champs are not very well-known. I believe the most interesting fight would be against Sergio Martinez, who is the best at this weight.
It seems you have two well-defined sets of followers: those who love you unconditionally and those who continuously doubt you. How do you manage such extreme opposite reactions?
It's always hard to please everyone. I believe they will have to be convinced little by little, just as the people who support me now were convinced, and they'll have to wait and see how my career develops. I understand that people want to see big results, but that comes over time, and my time is coming.
I know you hate the question, but when do you plan to fight Saul Alvarez?
Well, they talk a lot about that fight, but nobody has come up to me to make any real offers for that fight. We are ready, but there's no offer yet, and I believe he will have to come out and ask for that fight to be done. I am willing to do it, but he will have to talk to his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, in order to make the fight.
How do you envision the fight with Zbik transpiring?
It will be a tough fight, a difficult fight, because Zbik is a strong fighter. He has the European style, with a great guard and good boxing skills. He has a good right hand and fights in a very difficult style. I am training hard, but it is a complicated fight. And I am confident that I will win.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.