(Brian Vera, left, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., right; credit: Chris Farina, Top Rank)
This action-packed win Saturday on HBO by Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. over Brian Vera inspired very little of the disgust of the first meeting, when Chavez got a decision he didn't deserve, abetted by a weight scandal. This time, Chavez made weight. This time, Chavez deserved to win, which he did by unanimous decision. There were reasons for protest or offense, but they were relatively minor.
Chavez obviously has the bloodlines, he has the ridiculous size and strength. What he has lacked at times is the dedication to his craft, a respect for the sport itself. This time, Chavez made the agreed upon weight — 168 pounds — and fought like a man who had improved since his last outing against Vera. The best of Chavez trumped the best of Vera, then.
But oh, it was fun getting to that conclusion for a while. The two men traded enormous power punches throughout, but especially early, peaking in the 3rd. Vera's overhand right was brutal, and might even have briefly wobbled the unwobble-able Chavez. Chavez, meanwhile, massacred Vera's body with lead lefts and punished his head with left hooks and right crosses. Chavez was circling well, was even defending himself better than usual, was boxing well overall — but Vera was also boxing well, and let's face it, the best defense by Chavez and Vera is the boxing equivalent of facing the Philadelphia 76ers this year: Even the worst opposition is going to rack up big statisitics. Chavez connected on 62 percent of his power punches per CompuBox, which, ouch.
Slowly, Chavez's size and accuracy took over. And that occasion for protest and/or disgust? It emerged in the 7th, when referee Rafael Ramos, without any warning, deducted Vera a point for pushing down on the back of Chavez's head. Yes, yes, Texas would find a way to give Chavez an edge, despite Vera being from the state, because, well, his name is Chavez. And then, again, Chavez would find a way to offend, using the 12th to showboat and play keep-away, a decision booed by the fans. Even when he puts on a quality performance, he has to behave like a punk-ass.
This was a fight that went more or less like it should've the first time: Chavez won by a mysterious 114-113, then 117-110 times two. He's the better fighter when he's on point and, at least as importantly, Vera is a smallish middleweight who fought over his head both this time and last. With the kind of punishment Vera took in these two fights, and has taken over his career, one hopes he got big enough paychecks against Chavez to contemplate retiring soon. He makes as hard a living as anyone in the sport.
Chavez didn't pack San Antonio as he has packed venues in the past. He didn't pack Carson, Calif., either, although he still did big TV ratings. You'd like to think he has his head screwed on straight about being a professional and winning over fans, but he showed up at the Alamodome exceptionally late and the 12th round hot-dogging was fully out of touch. He called out middleweight champion Sergio Martinez afterward, but Martinez, should he beat Miguel Cotto, probably isn't going to move up to 168 for a Chavez rematch, maybe not for anyone. In perfect English — Chavez finds new ways to baffle constantly — he also said he'd be down for Gennady Golovkin. This would be an action fight and a half. Golovkin is a murderous puncher at 160, and a quality boxer. We don't know what he would have at 168, which is why folk are intrigued by a meeting with the division's champ, Andre Ward. The Chavez fight would be a serious test of how Golovkin might fare at 168, and despite the diminished fan base for Chavez due to his antics, it's a richer fight than Ward can generate. It might also give Chavez's considerable contingent of haters a chance to see him beaten all to hell. With Golovkin pulling out of his April date due to the death of his father (condolences, GGG), maybe that fight can happen quite soon.