CANASTOTA, N.Y. - Mexican icon Julio Cesar Chavez was one proud papa when the older of the two sons following in his pugilistic footsteps, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., won his first world championship last weekend by dethroning WBC middleweight titlist Sebastian Zbik on a hard-fought majority decision at Los Angeles' Staples Center.
The baby-faced Chavez Jr., trailing on two of the judges' scorecards, had to win the last three rounds to get the nod, and did.
As they embraced in the center of the ring after the decision had been announced, the six-time world champ, in three weight classes, whispered something in his son's ear, whereupon both broke into wide smiles.
So what had El Gran Campeon said to have elicited such a response?
"He said, 'Congratulations, I love you,' " Chavez Jr. told inquisitive reporters.
Sunday afternoon, in the pastoral setting of Canastota, N.Y., it will be the younger Chavez' turn to congratulate his dad, and to tell him how much he loves him for passing along such exemplary fighting genes. The patriarch of a budding dynasty - Julio Cesar Jr., 25, is 43-0-1, with 30 knockouts, while Omar, 21, is a welterweight with a 26-0-1 mark, including 19 KOs - will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He will be part of a stellar 22nd annual list of honorees that includes former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and actor/screenwriter Sylvester Stallone, creator and star of the "Rocky" movies.
But while Julio Cesar Jr. is a bigger man than his father in a literal sense - he entered the ring against Zbik at 180 pounds, having added 20 pounds in the day-and-a-half since the official weigh-in - he and Omar will have to be really good for a really long time if they hope to make induction into the IBHOF a family affair.
Because their pop was that superb inside the ropes, a skilled boxer whose punching power, particularly when he went to the body, was a wonder to behold.
The elder Chavez, who turned pro at 17, fought for 25 years and compiled a 107-6-2 record with 89 KOs, becoming a national hero in his homeland and the greatest Mexican fighter ever, ranked No. 1 by both Bert Randolph Sugar and Teddy Atlas in their 2010 collaboration, "The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists."
Tales of what Chavez did, or was capable of doing, grew so tall south of the border that they took on a mythical quality, something akin to the legend of towering woodsman Paul Bunyan in the upper Midwest. And the thing is, most of those stories were true, or mostly so.
Take the time Chavez tracked down a constantly retreating opponent, John Duplessis, who had the temerity to trash-talk the WBC/IBF junior welterweight champion in the weeks leading up to their March 1991 fight before dispatching him in the fourth round with a vicious left hook to the rib cage.
The following week, Duplessis was pulled over for speeding in his native New Orleans by a police officer who had seen the fight.
"Don't you know who I am? I'm John 'Super D' Duplessis," the boxer told the cop, hoping he'd get off with a warning because of his quasicelebrity status.
"Yeah, I know who you are," said the man writing up the ticket. "As fast as you were going, you must have thought that Mexican was still chasing you."
Chavez loves that story.
Or what about his bout with Greg Haugen on Feb. 20, 1993, which had an attendance of 132,274 in Mexico City's Estadio Azteca? Haugen had dismissed Chavez as nothing special beforehand - despite his 87-0 record - saying most of those victories had come against "Tijuana taxi drivers my mother could have knocked out."
Beaten bloody in losing on a fifth-round stoppage, a chastened Haugen said, "They must have been tough taxi drivers."
Not every Chavez fight was a demonstration of his superiority.
He needed a miracle in his 140-pound unification showdown with North Philadelphia's Meldrick Taylor and got it on March 17, 1990. Well behind on two of the three judges' scorecards entering the 12th and final round, he was awarded a highly controversial technical-knockout victory when referee Richard Steele, to Taylor's amazement and dismay, stopped the contest with just 2 seconds remaining.
Arguments about the way that fight ended still rage, but there can be no disputing how great a two-way display of skill and courage it was: The Ring magazine named it 1990's Fight of the Year, even though Buster Douglas' monumental upset of Mike Tyson had come 5 weeks earlier, and named it the Fight of the Decade for the 1990s.