CARSON, Calif. – Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has a famous boxing last name that gave him a strong fan following and high TV ratings.
That star power not only gave him the privilege of weighing as heavy as he liked for his comeback fight against Bryan Vera on Saturday, but it evidently also gave him the right to win a fight he should have lost.
Chavez, who weighed in at 172.4 pounds on Friday – almost 10 pounds over the original contracted weight for his first bout since his losing to Sergio Martinez last September, won a unanimous 10-round decision at the StubHub Center, but even his biggest fans thought Vera deserved the nod.
After the post-fight controversy of his poor camp and positive marijuana test following the Martinez fight, the fight-week weight drama leading to the Vera bout and the poor decision in his favor, Chavez may not have many diehard fans. Most of the fans at StubHub who chanted “Chavez” at the start of the fight, cheered for Vera by the end of it.
It was hard not to cheer for the 31-year-old underdog.
Vera, who agreed to increase the contracted weight from 163 pounds to 168 after Chavez suffered a cut in training that pushed the fight date from Sept. 7 to Sept. 24, and then agreed to a 173-pound catchweight the week of the fight, outworked the son of the Mexican boxing legend in every round of the fight.
However, the California judges somehow had it for Chavez. Carla Caiz had the most reasonable tally of 96-94. Longtime official Marty Denkin had it 97-93, while veteran Gwen Adair turned in an awful 98-92 score for Chavez.
“It makes me sick to my stomach,” Vera (23-7, 14 knockouts) said of the unfairness and politics of the sport during his post-fight interview with HBO’s Jim Lampley, “but I will bounce back as I have done so many times.
“I thought I won the fight. He was supposed to push me around, but I pushed him back. I outworked him.”
Vera, who had never fought over 168 pounds until this bout, was not only the busier fighter; he was the aggressor for most of the fight. What was expected to be a showdown between two aggressive bulls turned out to be a bull-vs.-matador matchup. However, the guy who had rehydrated to the size of a bull was playing the role of the matador – and it didn’t suit him, at least in the early rounds.
Vera walked down Chavez, who appeared to be a solid 190 pounds, with a pumping jab and crisp right hands in the first three rounds, adding combinations and body shots in the fourth. Chavez (47-1-1, 32 KOs) moved around the ring surprisingly well considering his bulk, but he only landed hard single shots. Those lead hooks and right hands, however, began to take effect in the middle rounds of the bout. Chavez hurt Vera at the end of the seventh round and continued to stun the game Texan in the eighth and ninth rounds, though Vera continued to outwork the bigger man. He showed absolutely no respect to the “A-side” whenever Chavez complained to referee Lou Moret about low blows.
But one thing was clear over the second half of the fight: size matters in boxing if the skill and talent of the fighters are equal. Vera is an honest, hard-working veteran with solid technique, but he didn’t have the power to hurt Chavez, the speed to befuddle him or the strength to wear him down, despite the fact that the Culiacan native appeared gassed down the stretch.
Chavez, who sported a badly swollen right hand after the fight, was content with his performance.
“I don’t think Vera won the fight,” he said. “I hurt him throughout. He was done in the 10th round.”
Chavez, who claims he would have put his punches together more had he not hurt his right hand in the third round, says he’ll look sharper for his next fight. He says he can make 168 pounds and that he’ll pursue a world title in the super middleweight division.
Maybe he will. But will his fans continue to support him? The turnout at the StubHub, which was barely half filled, was disappointing by his usual standards.
Maybe his fans are getting sick of his lack of dedication and disrespectful attitude toward the sport that has made him a lot of money. Maybe they know that even judges as bad as Adair and Denkin won’t be able to “gift” him a victory against the likes of Andre Ward and Carl Froch.
A number of Top Rank-promoted contenders, fringe contenders and prospects fought on the Chavez-Vera undercard.
Jose Ramirez and Oscar Valdez, both of whom competed in the 2012 Olympic Games, scored victories.
Ramirez (6-0, 4 KOs), of Avenal, Calif., outworked tough and game Daniel Calzada (8-9-2, 1 KO), of Denver, en route to a unanimous four-round decision. Valdez (7-0, 5 KOs), of Nogales, Mexico, knocked out another tough Denver journeyman in Jose Morales (7-5, 1 KO) at 1:57 of the third round.
Unbeaten lightweight prospect Jose Felix Jr. (25-0-1, 20 KOs), of Los Mochis, Mexico, stopped Ghanaian journeyman Joseph Laryea (11-9, 10 KOs) in the first round of their scheduled eight-round bout.
Junior middleweight fringe contender Daniel Sandoval (33-2, 30 KOs), of Guadalajara, Mexico, outworked Colombian veteran Richard Gutierrez (26-12-1, 16 KOs) over eight rounds, earning an unanimous decision.
Unbeaten junior welterweight contender Karim Mayfield made his Top Rank debut with a hard-earned eighth-round stoppage of rugged Utah journeyman Chris Fernandez. Mayfield (18-0-1, 11 KOs), a San Francisco native who brought a boisterous group of fans down from the Bay Area to cheer him on, dropped Fernandez (21-16-1, 12 KOs) twice in the fourth round before putting the proud pug down for the count at 2:59 of the eighth with a left to the body.
Unbeaten featherweight prospect Gabino Saenz (11-0-1, 8 KOs), of Indio, Calif., dropped normally durable Southern California club fighter Dominic Coca (8-5, 2 KOs) twice en route to a first-round stoppage in a scheduled six-round bout.
Junior lightweight contender Diego Magdaleno, of Las Vegas, scored a unanimous shutout victory over veteran journeyman Edgar Rovalle in a 10-round lightweight bout. It was the first bout for Magdaleno (24-1, 9 KOs) since he dropped a close split decision to WBO 130-pound beltholder Roman Martinez earlier this year.
Matt Korobov (21-0, 12 KOs), a 2008 Olympian from Russia, scored a unanimous eight-round decision over veteran journeyman Grady Brewer (30-17, 16 KOs).
Photos by Naoki Fukuda