Mark E. Ortega

Chavez-Vera and the question of fighter safety

It is still expected that a boxing match will take place between former WBC middleweight titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and middleweight contender Bryan Vera on Saturday at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Despite their current standings as 160 pounders, the fight was due to take place at the super middleweight limit of 168 pounds after being delayed and moved from earlier contract weights in the mid-160s.

Early in fight week, it became clear that Chavez Jr. was not going to make the contracted 168 pound limit. Though a serious infraction, promoter Bob Arum made a joke of it at Wednesday’s press conference, saying it would be the first time a fight’s weight wasn’t decided until the fighters weighed in.

The fight has since been negotiated to a new weight of 173 pounds. Neither fighter has previously fought at the weight. Vera has fought at 168 pounds in the past, most notably during season two of The Contender. Vera was stopped in two rounds by Jaidon Codrington as part of the tournament.

Though the fight has been renegotiated and Vera has no doubt been financially compensated, there are still concerns among his camp.

“My first concern is Brian’s safety,” said Vera’s manager Dave Watson after Wednesday’s press conference.

However, Watson believes that Chavez’s lack of professionalism is beneficial to his own fighter.

“The best position we could be in is for him to be overlooking us,” said Watson.

“Chavez is the favorite, [he’s] already talking about fighting [Andre] Ward. Brian operates better when he is the underdog and has something to prove. This is gonna be the upset of the year.”

Ronnie Shields, who trains Vera, confirmed to Boxingscene’s Rick Reeno yesterday that the fight was renegotiated at 173 pounds.

When Shields spoke to after Wednesday’s press conference, he expressed concern about the situation.

“It changes things a lot,” said Shields. “You’re talking about a kid’s health. It’s different fighting a guy that’s supposed to be 168 pounds who could end up being 200 pounds.”

It has been reported that there is no maximum weight stipulation on the day of the fight for Chavez Jr. When contacted by on Thursday afternoon, Vera’s promoter Artie Pelullo wouldn’t confirm.

“I can’t share any of those details at the present time, you’ll know at the weigh-in,” Pelullo told

If there is no maximum weight stipulation, the fight becomes even more dangerous. Vera could be outweighed by close to 30 pounds on Saturday night.

The circus surrounding Chavez’s weight has a few similarities to the WBO junior lightweight title bout between Adrien Broner and Vicente Escobedo last July.

Broner missed the 130-pound limit at the weigh-in and was supposed to weigh no more than 10 pounds above that weight the day of the fight. He missed that target as well and the fight was in peril up until a few hours prior to the fight.

Escobedo took the fight after receiving an additional $300,000, more money than Escobedo had ever previously earned. The result was a foregone conclusion, Escobedo was mauled in an early stoppage. The emotional release from Escobedo in his post-fight interview that night showed a fighter that wasn’t mentally prepared for a fight that night due to all the mess that came before it.

On Thursday afternoon, caught up with Escobedo’s manager Rolando Arellano to talk about that situation last July.

When asked if he would go through with the fight if he could do it all over, Arellano said, “Absolutely.”

“We got him more money than he was ever paid before and we saved face politically with all of the people involved,” Arellano said.

Since the defeat to Broner, Escobedo has fought twice in 2013. Against former title challenger Edner Cherry as well as unheralded Fernando Carcamo, Escobedo was stopped.

“Chente has been on a decline ever since but I don’t think it is a direct result from the Broner fight,” Arellano said.

Though Escobedo was paid handsomely to serve as a sacrificial lamb last July, how much did it potentially cost him after the fact?

Like Vera, Escobedo was ranked No. 1 in the WBO before facing Broner. Once Broner moved up, Escobedo would have been in line to fight for the vacant title. Though there was no bigger payday available than what he got against Broner, the 130 pound division was thin at the time and Escobedo could have potentially won a belt and gotten a few defenses, extending his career. Now, it looks as though that career is nearing an end.

These are the kinds of questions Vera and his team must keep in mind as he prepares to go into the ring on Saturday. Surely, the deep pockets of Chavez Jr.’s handlers have rewarded him for the physical risks he will endure.

Vera’s style of fighting has him absorb his opponent’s best shots as he tries to wear them down. Trainer Shields told that they’ve focused on his defense and head movement for this fight, but it’s hard for an old dog to learn new tricks at this stage.

Vera and his team have all said this is clearly the best camp he has ever had in preparing for a fight. One can only hope that it isn’t all for nothing and that we avoid seeing a sad result on Saturday.



Photos / Chris Farina-Top Rank, Al Bello-Golden Boy

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