Julio César Chávez, the beloved boxing legend from Mexico known by his fans as “The Lion of Culiacan,” plans a namesake entertainment and restaurant venue in Mesa.
Julio César Chávez Campeones — or Champions in English — whose slogan is “Family Food, Fun, Music and Entertainment,” could open as early as May or June, according to restaurant and Mesa officials. It is expected to be among the first of several Campeones across the U.S. that will feature his name.
The group planning the restaurant on the southwest corner of Country Club Drive and Southern Avenue includes Brian Weymouth, a managing partner of the popular Alice Cooperstown in downtown Phoenix, and Brian Day O’Conner, the son of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner.
“It’s going to be like Dave & Buster’s meets ESPN Zone meets Planet Hollywood,” Weymouth said.
Dennis Kavanaugh, the Mesa councilman who represents the area, said the city was one of several potential locations in play for a Campeones, including Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and a site in Los Angeles.
Weymouth, president of Julio César Chávez Entertainment, the umbrella company for the 46-year-old pugilist’s business interests, wouldn’t confirm talks with Harrah’s officials about a restaurant at the hotel and casino on the popular Las Vegas Boulevard.
He said the group chose Mesa over Phoenix for its large Hispanic demographic.
“We’re definitely going to open there,” he said. “(It’s) depending on how we feel about doing Mesa first or Vegas first. We’re still working through Mesa. We found them to be very cooperative and really excited about the concept.”
Kavanaugh said the restaurant is a major score for the city, boosting the area’s profile.
“It could be a major tourist draw, I think, both regional and statewide,” he said.
Julio César Chávez is a national hero in Mexico. During his career, Chávez won several national titles in several weight divisions and ended his career with 108 wins, 6 losses, 2 draws and 87 knock outs.
Even outside of Mexico, Chávez is considered by enthusiast as one of boxing’s best fighters.
In 2007, ESPN ranked him boxing’s 24th best fighter. In 2003, Ring Magazine ranked him No. 18 out of the top 80 boxers from the last 80 years.
Hector Chávez (no relation), a Mesa resident shopping Friday at Murrieta’s Carniceria at Dobson and Broadway roads, said he thinks Campeones will be a huge draw among Arizona’s nearly 2 million Hispanics.
“Man, that’s for sure,” he said. “That thing is going to be big.”
The nearly 30,000-square-foot restaurant will feature a boxing theme, a 1,500-person concert hall, a retail store selling boxing-related merchandise, a gallery or museum featuring memorabilia from Chávez’s career and big screen televisions broadcasting boxing matches and major sporting events, according to Mesa officials and Chávez’s official Web site, juliocesarchavez.net.
Weymouth said the venue may also host live fights.
“It could be a lot of different things,” he said. “It’s 30,000 square-feet total.”
The site where the restaurant will go was once a Home Depot and several other businesses before becoming vacant.
City officials likened Campeones to other destination restaurant and entertainment venues such as the planned Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill.
Toby Keith’s, which will feature live music, dancing and food, is underway next to Bass Pro outdoor sporting goods store at Mesa Riverview.
“It’s going to be very much (similar) to that same scale of that entertainment franchise, and if you know anything about Julio César Chávez, he’s very huge,” said Cathy Ji, a city economic development specialist.
Maggie Baca, a manager at Botas Juarez Western Wear next door to Campeones, already knows that.
“He is a big deal,” she said. “And most Hispanic people — Latinos — know him.”