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Changing Man: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. TKO5 Peter Manfredo Jr.

****

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. pulled the old switcheroo on Peter Manfredo last night, scoring a 5th-round TKO over the former Contender reality star at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas. The official time of the stoppage was 1:52.

Chavez, 159 3/4, surprisingly came out boxing, slinking his 6-foot frame around the perimeter of the ring and counterpunching effectively. In fact, Chavez abandoned his pressure tactics entirely. He doubled his jab, threw the occasional check hook, and scored consistently—and uncharacteristically—with straight rights.

Manfredo, 30, seemed perplexed at times by Chavez, and he returned to the corner after the second round shaking his head. A foreshadowing of the end came with time running out in the second. Chavez landed a short counter right off the ropes that shook Manfredo, and “The Pride of Providence” probably thought he had been born in Red Devil, Alaska.

Only a minute into the third round, Chavez had already jarred Manfredo, 159 1/2, with three solid rights, and it became obvious that the Chavez money punch—a knifing left hook to the body—had been exchanged for new currency since his brawl with Sebastian Zbik last June. Both fighters landed clean rights during an exchange punctuated by a shoeshine to the body from Manfredo.

Chavez, 25, continued playing “Footloose” in the fourth, but Manfredo easily won the round by working the body and crashing home a crackerjack left with Chavez against the ropes. A big right from Manfredo shook Chavez, and by the end of the round, Chavez was bleeding from his nose.

Early in the fifth, Manfredo, still aggressive, began zeroing in again with his right. He trapped Chavez against the ropes for a moment, and when the two men re-set on the other side of the ring, Chavez lashed out with a straight right that sent Manfredo reeling. Chavez, Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, stormed after a retreating Manfredo and began whipsawing with both hands. Manfredo was hurt, but some of his strange gyrations—played out with his back to the ropes—seemed like defensive moves. Still, Chavez landed a few hard shots, threw plenty more, and Manfredo was not returning fire. Referee Laurence Cole intervened just when Manfredo got Chavez into a desperate clinch. Manfredo, realizing his last chance was lost, draped himself over the top rope and tilted his head back with a look of anguish on his face. Then he hugged Cole as if he needed immediate condolences for the end of his championship dreams.

Manfredo looked out of sorts in the first three rounds, but it seemed like he was beginning to adjust when Chavez brought down the curtains. In addition to looking slower than he has in the past, Manfredo also underpinned his solid but unexceptional talent with an obvious defensive flaw: Every time Manfredo doubled up his jab, he would drop his left to his waist. Chavez honed in on this mistake—and on Manfredo’s chin—as if there were crosshairs marking it.

With the win, Chavez, now 44-0-1-1, can look forward to watching Top Rank scramble for “suitable” opponents on his behalf. Chavez showed a new look last night, but he also showed some real defensive liabilities in the ring. “I’ve been working hard on [my boxing],” he told Max Kellerman in the post-fight interview. “It took a lot of work because it’s something new for me. But I think I did well considering it’s my first time.” Who knows? Maybe the next time we see Chavez in the ring, he’ll look like Miguel Canto or answer the opening bell in a Trojan Horse costume. Then again, maybe not.

****

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Tags: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Peter Manfredo Jr.

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