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Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. sees Canelo Alvarez fight as an image changer

Canelo Alvarez, left, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. face off during a news conference Monday in Mexico City.
(Marco Ugarte / Associated Press)

For Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., facing Canelo Alvarez with all of Mexico’s attention is an opportunity to cleanse his reputation as a malingerer.

“Winning takes away a lot of that criticism,” Chavez told The Times through an interpreter Friday before his appearance with Alvarez in front of an estimated 5,000 at Plaza Mexico in Lynwood to hype their May 6 pay-per-view bout in Las Vegas.

“However, I also feel they’ve over-criticized me.”

The 31-year-old former middleweight world champion has been previously disciplined by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for smoking marijuana and taking a banned diuretic, and he’s taken severe public heat for not meeting standards set by his legendary fighter father.

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Chavez (50-2-1, 32 knockouts), who has battled to make weight in recent years, was unceremoniously knocked down and stopped after nine rounds by Andrzej Fonfara less than two years ago. He has won two fights in a row by unanimous decision since then, over Marcos Reyes in 2015 and Dominik Britsch in 2016, making 167 1/2 pounds in the December victory.

The HBO-fight at T-Mobile Arena against Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 knockouts), who won the 154-pound title in September by knocking out Liam Smith, will be fought at a catch-weight of 164 pounds.

Alvarez, 26, vows to quiet Chavez and prove he’s ready for a September date against unbeaten three-belt middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.

“I’ve always made weight when it’s for a world title … the big fights,” Chavez said. “I get the criticism just because I am Senior’s son. For all the good I do, I feel it counts for half. And any of the bad is doubled because of the limelight that’s on me.”

The father’s shadow that looms from a career that included three division titles and a 90-fight unbeaten streak weighs heavily in this bout, and those near Chavez Jr. praise the commitment he’s shown in training.

Ricardo Jimenez, the former longtime La Opinion boxing writer and veteran publicist, recalled a defining story once when Chavez Sr. repeatedly continued to try to teach his son a defensive move without success.

“Why can’t you do it?” a frustrated Chavez Sr. asked.

A sparring partner in the ring spoke up to the son’s defense, Jimenez recalled.

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“No one can do that other than you!”

The son promises to make this his statement fight in a bout that has seemed to divide loyalties during a four-stop press tour this week that included New York, Houston and Mexico City.

“The Mexican people are very excited and very indecisive … this same thing used to happen with Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez in their prime — who’s the favorite?” Chavez Jr. said. “It feels like they’re just waiting to see who wins to decide who they’ll follow.”

Chavez said he believes he could weigh around 180 pounds on fight night, insisting he doesn’t want to be burdened by the sluggishness of excess water weight.

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But with that edge added to three-inch reach and four-inch height advantages, he plans to bully Alvarez and impose his will as he’s done in his best showings.

“This fight is to show Canelo that he’s in the wrong territory, that he needs to stay in his weight class … and it means I’m better than Canelo,” Chavez said. “Canelo thinks he’s one of the greatest, but, no, I am. The weight at the end of the night won’t matter as much as it will for me to show I have the skill and the tactics inside the ring to win.”

While Chavez says he feels targeted by those heavy expectations, there’s also a sentiment in his camp that Alvarez’s popularity is the by-product of his glamour after capturing his country’s attention in a series of fights on Televisa.

“The favoritism like the kind that he’s received usually gets resolved in the ring,” Chavez said. “Artists are artists. Boxers are boxers.”

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

@latimespugmire

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