Julio Cesar Chavez

Julio Cesar Chavez – The Style

by Fran on March 16, 2012

From 1984 through to 1987, Julio Cesar Chavez made 9 successful defences of his cherished WBC Super-Featherweight title, an achievement of which he was rightly proud. When he stepped up to lightweight to meet the reigning champion in Edwin Rosario, he wore 9 gold stars on his trunks to represent his successful defences, just as a fighter pilot chalks up kills on the fuselage of his plane.

Edwin Rosario was a seriously big hitter.  In fact, he has made it to #36 on Ring Magazine’s list of Heaviest Hitters of all time. At the time he met Chavez only 4 of his 31 victims had heard the final bell. In short, this man put people to sleep as effectively as a chloroform soaked handkerchief. So, Julio Cesar had his work cut out to say the least.  The pair met in Las Vegas on 21st November 1987.  I remember as a young boxer watching the fight the following week and being in absolute awe of what I witnessed.  Having never seen Chavez before he was from that day on a fighter that really inspired me to work harder and get better.

I’ve completed a video analysis of the fight but have taken a slightly different approach to others on the site. I usually embed a YouTube video in the article but on this occasion I’ve chosen to use the services of the magnificent SoSoBoxing.com website. I’ve provided a link directly to a great quality video of the fight. You can open the video up in a new browser window and read the analysis alongside. YouTube is great for short clips, for full fights SoSoBoxing is the way to go.

I really hope that you find this useful, there’s so much to learn from this fight and I certainly hope that it’s worth 30 minutes or so of your viewing time. As well as being a great learning experience, it’s an absolute slugfest. Enjoy!

Here’s the link to the fight:

Julio Cesar Chavez vs Edwin Rosario

Under Pressure…

Right from the start, Chavez takes the centre of the ring. Notice that his stance is quite wide, enough distance between front and back foot to provide a solid base to both launch attacks and absorb any incoming assault without backing off. If he does back off he will only take a single backward movement. This man is all about applying pressure, being in the opponent’s face and not giving them a rest.

The Chavez strategy is made absolutely clear from about 2.19. As the fighters meet in the centre, Chavez unleashes a wide long range right hook followed by a thumping left hook to the body. The next 10 seconds or so are a microcosm of the fight. Here’s the key things that I noticed about this particular Chavez attack:

  • Julio Cesar backs Rosario to the ropes, but he does so at low level, combining the duck with the move forward. This is a key Chavez tactic, coming in low under the opponent’s jab and using the lift out of the duck to generate additional power in the inevitable left hook.
  • Notice the little left forearm actions at around 2.27. A foul, but very useful for keeping Edwin’s head at just the right range for the high power short range shots (the left hook and right hook).

This is a repeating pattern throughout the fight. Julio Cesar has chosen to nullify Edwin’s crushing power by getting right up close and denying the Puerto Rican the leverage he craves to bring his power to bear on the Mexican. This strategy is further intended to drag Rosario into a battle of attrition, a battle that suits Chavez just fine!

You Using that Phone Buddy?

Both fighters show superb class up close. The short range uppercuts and hooks to body and head are an absolute master class. There’s an old saying in boxing, “Those guys could fight in a phone booth”, and this fight fits the bill perfectly. Check out the work on the ropes from around 5.50. Julio Cesar, even in the face of serious incoming bombs from Rosario, keeps firing highly disciplined short range shots whilst still building in his slips to present a difficult target. This is a systematic performance.

In these early rounds, the difference between the two is the upper body movement. Rosario is not as inclined to take his head off the center-line and as a result is taking far too many of the crushing short range uppercuts (both left uppercuts and right uppercuts). Check out the short range right uppercut at 6.51, case in point. Edwin’s only defence against this shot is to land first. Against a fighter with an iron chin this can only be a defence of last resort. In effect, Chavez could land those uppercuts whilst blindfolded; he just knows where Edwin’s head will be.

Julio Cesar on the other hand uses rolls and slips as well as ducking to pretty much constantly keep his head moving across the ‘strike zone’. This makes it very difficult to target him, especially if Edwin wants to use his long range shots. In fact, it’s only into the 3rd round that Edwin actually manages to put Julio Cesar on the back foot (9:25). What does Chavez do? Some neat little ducks, slips and rolls back himself to the ropes (for the first time), and hey presto the fight is at close range again.

Going Against the Grain

Something worth noting, at 10.09 Julio Cesar doubles up his left hook but does so from head to body rather than the more conventional body to head. This is very effective and is used more as the fight progresses.  It’s effective because when the head shot lands it causes the opponent to instinctively brings the arms up or forward, thereby leaving openings downstairs.  By half way through this round Rosario is already showing some signs and wear and tear around his face, and things only get worse from here on in despite all of his unquestionable bravery, or maybe more accurately because of his unquestionable bravery.

Check out 11.09 up until around 11:20. Ignore the shots that Julio Cesar is throwing and concentrate on his proactive ducking, slipping and rolling. Chavez is making Edwin miss so often that this adds to his overall strategy of wearing Rosario down.  Regularly throwing shots and missing really tires you out. Goes to show that even a fighting machine like Julio Cesar Chavez attaches great importance to his defensive skills.

In the 4th round Rosario puts up some fierce resistance to Chavez’s inexorable march forward. We begin to see now another Chavez capability, a jab that looks like it could break a human head in two. When he uses the jab though he likes to change the position of his head as he lands his shot, making him difficult to be countered with any significant success.  So, rather than just ‘jab’, it’s ‘jab/slip’ or ‘jab/duck’.  Simple but very effective as it makes it more difficult for Rosario to counter the jab with any success. The 5th round is basically a toe-to-toe smash-up. The heads are up close as they have been throughout and both boxers are hammering home some superb shots to both body and head. A real war.

Crank It Up!

Some real points of note in the 6th, not least of which is the explosion in intensity by Chavez that we’ll come onto in a moment. Watch the neat jab-slip out-straight right at 19.00. The jab lands solidly but the right falls just short. Brilliant piece of proactive counter punching though. Then, at 19.28, Julio Cesar really begins to open up on Edwin backing him into a corner and demonstrating a terrifying display of short range punching. Rosario fights back hard but Chavez is really beginning to turn the screw.

Right from the outset of the 7th Julio Cesar simply picks up where he left off. He doesn’t just rush in, he’s using the lay back and the usual single backward movement to out-manoeuvre Rosario. Edwin is pretty much spent, although because of his heart and belief he continues to fight. Just an amazing round after which Chavez jogs back to his corner, pretty demoralizing for Edwin I would imagine.

Not Long Now…

Into the 9th round (around 24.30) and Chavez stalks Edwin behind that jaw-breaking jab. His punching has done so much damage to the brave Puerto Rican, and Chavez wants to land more and more. It really is a masterful display by Chavez, a true lesson in systematic and destructive punching to both head and body. It’s well over as a match now, the only question is how much more of this Rosario can take. From about 29.40 we can begin to see the answer to that question.

For 80 seconds Julio Cesar simply crashes in uppercuts and hooks into Edwin’s head time after time. He is not making a single backward movement now and is combining his punching with upper body movement to massive effect. After throwing what must have been 80 to 90 punches in as many seconds what does he do? He jogs back to his corner. A war of attrition like this is as much about the mind as the punching rate, and Rosario and his corner can’t have felt good about the very obvious display of “I could do this all night long” from Julio Cesar.

I didn’t want Rosario to come out for the 11th. There was quite simply nothing left and as I said his bravery got him into terrible trouble. We have corner men and referees to protect fighters from their own bravery, but that clearly didn’t work this night.  Maybe it’s because Edwin continued to fire back, but he was taking 5 big shots for every one he was landing.  Those are not good odds.  Richard Steele halts the slaughter in this round and Julio Cesar Chavez has secured his position in the mind of the boxing public and more importantly to him his position as a God to the Mexican fight fans.

The Beginning of an Era

There’s so much to learn from Julio Cesar Chavez, especially in a fight like this. We can say what we like about his subsequent career, about controversial fights with Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and others, but this fight was a masterclass. For me, Julio Cesar Chavez put in one of the best lightweight championship performances ever in defeating so comprehensively a dangerous champion like Edwin Rosario. I don’t say this lightly, especially with such greats as Alexis Arguello, Roberto Duran and Henry Armstrong occupying the lightweight hall of fame. It was a performance that was as terrifying as it was beautiful.

The time of Chavez had come.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Ted January 29, 2014 at 5:28 am

Nice analysis. And thanks for the reference re: SoSo Boxing. I always like to hear the British commentary as opposed to HBO or Showtime here in the States. This was a terrific fight and one of the great performances by Chavez. He would’ve been tough against anyone ever in the 135lbs division in this fight.


Fran February 2, 2014 at 9:05 pm

He was indeed an amazing fighter, true ‘shock and awe’. Thanks for the comment Ted.


paul stevnson October 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm

i effing love u fran. Chavez is my idol and i love this fight. how do i stand right in front of a k.o artist for 11 rounds and smash him up without getting hit? julio has all the answers.
like the way you picked up on chavez’ defensive skills fran, theyre what elevated him to the top of the world for 10 years. one of the greatest who lived hes in my top 5 of all time.
recently watched chavez – taylor again with some of our fighters, we all scored it. we all had it very close going into the last round (despite hbo’s most biased commentary in the history of boxing). ‘whos been beating taylor up?’ i had chavez a 2 points winner if the last round was scored. some of the lads had taylor by a point or 2 but it was a much closer fight than i remembered .
same with the whittaker fight. i scored it to chavez by 1. chavez was winning close rounds whereas whittaker tended to dominate the rounds he won so the overall impression left is that whittaker was robbed but if you add up the rounds id have to say whittaker was the lucky one.


Fran October 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Hey there my old friend

Hope you and Mick are doing OK.

You certainly know how to educate those boxers of yours. Watching Chavez at his best is a great way for the lads to develop their boxing brains. Funny that Taylor one isn’t it. Looked like he’d been in a car crash at the end but most people at the time thought him way ahead. The final shots from Chavez were killers though. And against Rosario, just one of the best performances I’ve seen by any fighter, ever. Watched it on a Saturday afternoon in Wallsend Boys Club during the NABC Quarter Finals (the year before we found our way to London). Wanted to be Chavez from that day forward. If only eh mate…

See you soon Paul. By the way, thought Kev’s performance against Paul Edwards was absolute class. Really clever approach and execution. Look forward to seeing you and the lads gracing our TV screens more often in the coming years. 😉


paul stevnson October 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm

i seem to remember you doing a very fair chavez impression on my ribs a few times fran back when we used to punch each other for fun 🙂
thanks for the kind words mate means a lot.
this is my favourite site on the internet.


Fran October 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Thanks Pal., means more to me that you and the lads like the site. Happy days!


Y.W.L.I.Y.B September 26, 2012 at 11:21 pm


I agree that the Rosario fight was a masterclass. What is your opinion of his epic fight, a war, with World Champion Meldrick Taylor? Many think,even Chavez fans, that Chavez was behind on points before the dramatic finish and KO,due to Steele’s stoppage based on Taylor’s FUBAR condition and not being able to stay focused on Steele’s eyes during questioning,allowing himself to be distracted. I feel those people are dead wrong, along with the two judges that had Taylor way ahead. Chuck Giampa did have Chavez ahead on his score card, but only by a point. I feel, even that, was being generous to Taylor. To the contrary of most, I feel that CHAVEZ gave Taylor the boxing lesson, and not the other way around. Boxing is generally judged on 4 criteria: 1.)Clean Punching 2.)Effective Aggressiveness 3.)Ring Generalship 4.)Defense. When people watch this fight they are without question, I believe, influenced by the ridiculously biased pro-Taylor HBO commentary. The commentators only call the Taylor action, and mis-lead the viewing audience at that. Alot of the time, the commentary isn’t even accurate. Also, after each and every round, the HBO camera crew, shows, for the most part, only Taylor highlights. Where are Chavez’ highlights of the rounds? There is a difference between a combination and a flurry and for the most part Taylor was throwing flurries. Flurries look neat, but they have nothing on them. Many of those flurries were parried,bob&weaved,slipped or blocked by Chavez. Chavez’ underrated defense was VERY underrated in this fight. Chavez, on the other hand, was landing clean punches that were hard and effective as he typically did. There’s no coincedense that at fights end,Taylor was mistaken for a car crash victim, while Chavez looked as if he hadnt even been in a fight. Advantage Chavez for clean punching and defense. Taylor was agressive, no doubt,but, was it truely effective? Effective only in receiving a beating, as his aggression did not get Chavez’ respect during the bout, as it didnt slow JC down or discourage him from attacking, nor did it damage Chavez. On the contrary, just one look at Taylor and you know who’s agression was the more effective. Advantage Chavez for effective aggression. Lastly, Ring Generalship. Though Taylor fought in the center of the ring and away from the ropes for most of the bout, the fact of the matter is that he fought in the pocket with Chavez for nearly the whole bout. This is clearly Chavez country and an advantage to Chavez. Taylor,initially, set out to box from the outside, get in and get out. A Chavez right hand in round two that broke Taylor’s eye socket, causing him to suffer from triple vision (verified in Taylor’s book “2 seconds from glory”) from the third round on, forced Taylor to abandon this strategy. Benton told him to settle in with Chavez,dig in, and stay close to Chavez to prevent Chavez from throwing the right hand with distance,leverage and timing. As suicidal as it sounds to fight Chavez in the trenches, it beat the alternative due to the circumstance. Chavez had Taylor right where he wanted him, in the pocket, where he defended better than any fighter in the sport, and could work the body and throw those notorious short uppercuts. Ring generalship advantage Chavez. To me, based on this short description of what I saw, how could anybody in their right mind, say Taylor outboxed Chavez? Do people not understand what The Sweet Science is? Yes, Taylor threw alot of punches and showed heart but boxing isnt about who throws the most punches or even lands the most, at times, and as my trainer once told me many years ago,”Show me a fighter who’s all heart, and I’ll show you a man who’s ripe for a beaten”. Your thoughts Fran?


Fran September 28, 2012 at 8:46 pm


What a brilliantly put together comment, great stuff. You know, I watched the fight as it happened. In terms of answering fully your comment, I think that I need to watch the fight again to clear away the haze of the many years since I watched first hand. Going from memory, I felt that Taylor may well have been ahead. Putting that to one side for a moment, or longer for that matter, the fact that Taylor was or was not ahead is a moot point. Richard Steele was 100% right to stop the fight. Chavez’s punching had rendered Taylor a physical wreck, and as you rightly point out this is the result of an accumulation of crunching blows. The referee is not a time keeper and Meldrick was hurt and exhausted, that’s a deadly combination. It’s interesting that you mention George Benton, another great trainer Eddie Futch justified his retirement of Joe Frazier in Manilla because he had seen 7 fighters die in the ring and he knew the signs. In the corner with Joe he did not like what he was seeing. What if Taylor had taken another right hand of the force that dropped him? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Your comment is simply a joy to read, packed with great analysis and wonderful insights. I’m going to be revisiting Chavez vs Taylor real soon. Thank you very much.


Peter August 23, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Wonderful analysis. Chavez seems to be one amazing example of unparalleled grit. Perhaps it’s too soon to tell and I really hope it’s not the case, but he doesn’t seem to be suffering from any long term brain damage despite being in so many wars. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t seem like most of the great Mexican fighters do. I may just be wrong, I hope I am, but is this a coincidence?


Fran August 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

I suppose Peter that Chavez was like Duran in many ways, that is his defensive capability was under-rated and therefore he didn’t take as many shots as some people might think. Even when he did take shots they had no effect at all. Fingers crossed he will keep all of his faculties and live to a ripe old age.


Y.W.L.I.Y.B July 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Great analysis Fran. Good to see an actual fighter critique a fight for a change, opposed to a fanboy who’s never stepped foot in the squared circle,that enchanted canvas,in a professional prize fight. I’m a fighter. Had an amateur career of 103-4. I fought professionally 33 times but then my career was cut short due to decisions I made out of honor and integrity for my country. I then went to school. I’ve studied every great fighter that’s ever been recorded. I’ve studied many great fighters in person. That being said, JC Chavez is in a class where very FEW reside. In his prime, he is without question, the most complete fighter of the last 60 yrs. His skill set was immense, but what really is a thing of mystery and awe is the man’s mentality in those days. It was as beautiful as it was frightening. He was operating from a different place. As a fighter, you know what I mean.


Fran July 30, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Firstly, thank you for your compliment. It is always great to receive positive feedback, it’s very special when it comes from someone who truly knows and understands the sport by paying the dues over years which you obviously have, so thank you.

I fully agree on Chavez. He was unique even then in that he had warm up fights to help him tick over even as champ. He brought so much intensity but he also used an array of boxing skills worthy of any era. He was quite simply unbeatable on this night against Rosario, and I think that his mental approach played a major part in that. He was always assured and always knew that his implacable will (and chin) would win out in the end.

Thanks again, that’s a wonderful short description of the Great Man.


Sly April 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm

One of the best analysis of a Chavez fight I have ever see my friend. I judge JC Chavez from this fight. For me, THAT was JCC. In his very prime. And from that performance is where I dare to say that he is one of the 10 or 15 greatest boxers of all time. The guy was tireless, you can see how he returns to his corner almost running. Physically he was a top athlete. Mentally too. I remember some of his fights of that era, he didn’t even sat in his corner in the end of the rounds!. Watch the second fight against Mayweather, it was similar to this one. I understand why Whitaker waited until 1993 to fight this guy. It was the only way to defeat him. To wait.


Fran April 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Thanks Sly

It’s a pleasure doing stuff around Chavez, he was pretty much indestructible and it was as you say only Father Time that worked against him.

Believe it or not, a friend of mine, Andy Holligan, boxed him in Mexico City. Andy said that he had never been hit like it, and Andy’s as tough as they come. He said that even when the shots landed on his arms they were knocking the wind out of him.

Outstanding fighter. I think I’ll take another look at that Mayweather fight.

Cheers Sly, thanks for the comment.


Elie April 29, 2012 at 9:52 am

Hi Fran
i hadn’t seen Chavez fight before, and I was left in awe of the performance. He’s fighting with a controlled ferocity that you very rarely get to see in the ring.
I’m not a good enough boxer to comment on the style, but the mentality alone is terrifying. This man isn’t a fighter, he’s not looking to win by points, or knock out his opponent cleanly. He’s a predator, and he stalks Rosario all throughout the match, wearing him down physically and mentally. Aside from the superb training it takes to execute such a plan, Chavez shows two things that really impressed me:
– The roughhousing itself is admirable. I’m a mixed martial artist, so perhaps I don’t share your purist’s dislike for such tactics, but Chavez uses them very effectively. He doesn’t cheat to even out the playing field, nor does he do it out of desperation. This is a calculated assault, and he keeps the pressure on Rosario with every weapon available.
– Secondly, the fighting style itself. This looks more like a pack of wolves tiring out a moose, hamstringing it, and bringing it down from sheer exhaustion and bloodloss than an actual fight.

All in all, I am truly in awe of the performance Chavez put on.


Fran April 29, 2012 at 11:58 am

All very true Elie. On the ‘rough housing’, it’s not really the purist in me that has a problem. In fact quite the contrary, I greatly admire this trait in the best pro fighters. It’s a more practical problem. If I coach amateurs to box using these tactics then they’ll spend lots of time getting disqualified. The amateur ring is a much more strict place to operate than the pro ring.

Thanks Elie, great comment.


Fran March 18, 2012 at 9:24 pm

You’re welcome Scott, glad that it helped.


Ivan March 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Very entertaining fight, your highlights add an insight to the technical side. Chavez’s agility and punches from awkward, unexpected angles sort of hypnotized Rosario. The use of the forearm (elbow) from Chavez seemed more than a range-finder, it was a defensive move, pressing against Rosario’s strong right hand. While the elbow kept the right hand at bay, the left shoulder of Chavez constantly poked the nose or the chin of Rosario, following through with the left hand. In fact Chavez used the left shoulder more often than the jab especially in the last three rounds. Few jabs were thrown anyway, the fight was at close range. All the antics would have been useless without the outstanding boxing skills of Chavez, he really delivered a great performance.


Fran March 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Well said Ivan. And yes, some of the Chavez tactics were very rough house. Not an approach that would get an amateur boxer anything but disqualified.


The Tank March 17, 2012 at 9:32 am

Great analysis, i picked up some really good pointers. cheers Fran. Good job.


Fran March 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Thanks Tank, glad it helps.


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