LOS ANGELES – Filmmaker Mel Brooks said it best in his 1981 comedy classic “History of the World, Part I:” It’s good to be the king.
In Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s case, it’s good to be the son of the king. Chavez inherited a name that brings a legion of loyal Mexican fans with it, and to his credit the 27-year-old star has made for the kind of fights that appease the children of those who once idolized his famous father.
To his discredit, Chavez is not anywhere near as dedicated to his sport and craft as his father was when he was 27.
Had Chavez trained harder for his last fight, a decision loss to middleweight champ Sergio Martinez last September, he might have pulled off an upset so monumental that it would have eclipsed his father’s dramatic final-round stoppage of Meldrick Taylor. Chavez had Martinez down and seriously hurt with a little over a minute left in the 12th round of their HBO Pay Per View event in Las Vegas. Had the younger, bigger, stronger man put in a real camp perhaps he could have applied the kind of pressure on the aging champ that would have resulted in a late-round stoppage.
Chavez wasn’t able to finish Martinez, which was forgivable. However, the fact that he had skipped training days and had smoked marijuana (which he was busted for after the fight and heavily fined and suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission) leading into the biggest bout of his career was not.
The question boxing fans asked going into Chavez’s first fight after his nine-month suspension, originally scheduled for Sept. 7 against middleweight contender Bryan Vera, was would he learn his lesson?
Evidently not. Chavez was supposed to face Vera in a non-title 12-round super middleweight bout, however it was revealed during a media conference call on Tuesday that “Junior” is nowhere close to the 168-pound limit. Chavez, who had extra time to drop weight thanks to a minor cut suffered in sparring that postponed the bout from Sept. 7 to this Saturday, remained non-committal about trying to honor the contract.
Bob Arum, Chavez’s promoter and the lead promoter of the show that will be televised on HBO from StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., told the media on Tuesday’s call that he would discuss changing the weight requirements of Saturday’s fight with Vera’s promoter, Artie Pelullo.
The hall-of-fame promoter reiterated that stance at Wednesday’s final press conference at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel when he told the assembled media to make sure to attend Friday’s weigh-in where “we will reveal the weight of the fight.”
Only in boxing would such an announcement elicit chuckles from the assembled media. It’s not that they don’t care; they just know how the business of the sport goes. Chavez is the “A-side” in this promotion, and he knows there’s no show without him.
Chavez, who parted ways with hall-of-fame trained Freddie Roach at the start of his camp for Vera, is “the boss” of his team and nobody is going to force him to make 168 pounds. Arum isn’t going to force the second biggest star of his stable (behind Manny Pacquiao) to do anything he doesn’t want to do. The network isn’t going to get involved because let’s face it, Junior equals ratings (his 12-round decision over Marco Antonio Rubio last February garnered HBO’s best boxing ratings for 2012). So that leaves the California Athletic Commission, which really can’t do much if Arum, Pellulo and Team Vera renegotiate the weight terms of their contract.
It shouldn’t have to come down to the commission’s involvement, though. Most fighters – including the stars of the sport – try like hell to make their contracted weight, and most are embarrassed when they aren’t able to so. At the very least, they offer up some kind of excuse, such as suffering a minor injury or illness that prevented them from doing roadwork or completing their entire training camps, when they can’t do it.
Chavez (46-1-1, 32 knockouts) doesn’t do that.
He admits he started camp heavy because he hadn’t fought since last September and says if there isn’t a super middleweight world title on the line, why should he have to kill himself to make weight?
“The weight should not be a problem or an issue for anybody,” said Chavez through Top Rank publicist Ricardo Jimenez after the press conference. “It’s not a championship fight. We’re not fighting for a title, so why do I have to come in at 168 pounds?”
Chavez says he could make 168 if he really wanted to, but since he knows that he doesn’t, he’s going to come in as close to super middleweight as he can without weakening himself.
He was rumored to weigh anywhere from 175 to 180 pounds on Tuesday. He will likely weigh in around 170 or 171 on Friday.
Despite his difficulty making the weight for Saturday’s fight, Chavez says that super middleweight is his new weight class.
“I feel stronger not having to get all the way down to 160 pounds,” he told RingTV.com in English. “I’ve had a good camp. I’ve trained three months for this fight. I’m going to look good on Saturday.”
Hardcore fight fans have no doubt about that, but they don’t believe that he will do so on a level playing field. Chavez routinely rehydrated to as much as 180 pounds after weighing in at 160. How heavy will he get after weighing in at 170, 171 or 172 pounds?
Too much for a fighter who is probably at his best at 160 pounds. Vera (23-6, 14 KOs) is on a four-bout win streak that includes a 12-round decision over former 154-pound beltholder Sergio Mora and a 10th-round stoppage of Sergei Dzinziruk (another former junior middleweight titleholder). All four bouts were middleweight bouts.
It’s clear that Vera, a hardnosed 32-year-old veteran from Lubbock, Texas, is going through with the fight no matter what weight Chavez comes in at. He hasn’t just worked hard for the past three months for Chavez, he’s toiled his entire pro career for an opportunity of this magnitude.
“This is the longest camp I’ve ever had,” Vera, who trains in Houston with respected trainer Ronnie Shields, said at the podium during Wednesday’s presser. “Mike Lee, the Charlo brothers (Jermell and Jermall) and Edwin Rodriguez gave me great sparring, so I’m not lying when I say I’m in the best shape of my life.”
Vera looked like he was in terrific condition at the press conference. But he also looked like a natural middleweight next to Chavez, who looked like a full-fledged light heavyweight.
And that’s probably what fans are going to get on Saturday (or more likely a super middleweight against a cruiserweight).
It begs the question: Why doesn’t Chavez just fight at light heavyweight? The same reason he won’t put in the extra work to make 168 pounds on Friday: he doesn’t have to.
“Maybe in the future, I’ll fight at light heavyweight,” Chavez told RingTV.com, again in perfect English, “but for now, I can make 168 just fine. I’m just not sure I’m going to do it this time.”
WAIT FOR THE WEIGHT
Friday’s official weigh-in will be streamed live from the Gold Room at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel (506 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles, Calif. 90071-2607), beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET / 3:00 p.m. PTvia www.toprank.tv.
STUBHUB CENTER UNDERCARD
Chavez-Vera will be supported by an eight-bout undercard that features three Olympians, one prospect and four fringe contenders.
Matt Korobov (20-0, 12 KOs), a 2008 Olympian from Russia, is joined by two 2012 Olympians – U.S. teammate Jose Ramirez (5-0, 4 KOs), of Avenal Calif., and Mexican squad member Oscar Valdez (6-0, 5 KOs), of Nogales, Mexico.
Korobov will face veteran Grady Brewer in an eight-round middleweight bout. Ramirez will face Colorado spoiler Daniel Calzada in a six-round junior welterweight swing bout. And Valdez will take on Denver’s Joe Morales in a six-round featherweight bout.
Recent 130-pound title challenger Diego Magdaleno (23-1, 9 KOs) will face Mexican journeyman Edgar Riovalle in his first bout since dropping a close split decision to WBO beltholder Roman Martinez earlier this year.
Unbeaten junior welterweight standout Karim Mayfield (17-0-1, 10 KOs) faces Utah journeyman Chris Fernandez in his Top Rank debut.
Two power-punching up-and-comers from Mexico – welterweight Daniel Sandoval (32-2, 30 KOs) and Jose Felix Jr. (24-0-1, 19 KOs) – will also be on the card, which starts at 3:45 p.m. PT.
Photos / Chris Farina-TOP RANK