SAN ANTONIO – In their first match, a controversial decision victory for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in California five months ago, the “Son of the Mexican Legend” and Bryan Vera were a study in contrasts. Chavez, unserious about making weight beforehand and lethargic through all 10 rounds, relied on potshotting Vera – while the Texan achieved a career high in seriousness, effectiveness and activity.
Aficionados worried what might transpire if a motivated Chavez showed up at the Alamodome on March 1. Friday found Chavez both motivated and on-weight, coming in a 167½ pounds, a half-pound below the contracted weight for the rematch, with Vera weighing the same. What transpired Saturday was not troubling as feared, but it was lopsided nevertheless, with Chavez winning a brutal unanimous decision by scores of 117-110, 117-110 and 114-113.
THE RING’s scorecard concurred, marking 117-111 for the Mexican.
“The real difference in this fight was that I was on weight,” he said.
Chavez began the fight circling, jabbing and looking uncharacteristically spry. He also established quite early on the one thing he did effectively in their first match: a left-hook lead thrown repeatedly over Vera’s lazy guard, one that snapped the Texan’s head leftwards.
“We wanted a slugfest, and we got a slugfest,” said Vera’s trainer, Ronnie Shields. “That was exactly the kind of fight we wanted.”
“I thought the fight was really close,” said Vera. “A lot closer than it was scored.”
As an underdog once more on Saturday, Vera was live if not quite so lively as his first time across from Chavez, who’d struggled and failed several times to make their first match’s agreed-upon weight. But Chavez retained the massive size advantage he brought in their first fight, this time legally earned, and would use his width and heft to shoulder and shove Vera, taking the Texan’s power and legs – though never touching his spirit.
“Vera saw a better Julio this time,” said Chavez.
Every time in the fight’s opening half Chavez threw a left hook, he threw it with the harshest of intentions, digging it to the body and winging it to the head. Vera remained busier, though what clean punches the Texan landed, which were plenty, seemed to have no effect whatever on the much larger Mexican. Vera was not strong enough to push Chavez away, not fast enough to evade him, not powerful enough to hurt him, but just smart enough to take Chavez’s leverage at close quarters and spare himself the worst of Chavez’s ferocity, despite having to abandon his jab early.
“I hurt my (left) hand in the fourth round and got away from the jab,” said Vera. “I’m a fighter, and I always give people great fights.
“But I’m too hard-headed. I need to work on things to become a smarter fighter.”
In round eight, referee Rafael Ramos deducted a point from Vera’s tally for alternately holding and draping himself across Chavez’s back, marking what would be merely an academic detail, as Vera was not near enough Chavez to make scorecards close.
Round 11 saw the Chavez assault crescendo, with the Mexican smashing teed-up right hands off Vera’s head. Vera fought on unfazed, likely to his long-term detriment.
“I hurt my (right) hand at the beginning of the last round,” said Chavez.
Mercifully, the Mexican then spent the 12th evading Vera by ducking and jogging and clowning, giving the Texan his first unanimously won round of the match since its second.
At ringside afterwards, Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels confirmed Chavez has been offered a fight with Kazakhstani middleweight titleholder Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, a match Chavez is interested in doing.
“I like the fight because Gennady Golovkin is a great fighter, a strong fighter, undefeated, and one of the best in the middleweight division,” Chavez said of the match offered to him by promoter Bob Arum earlier in the day. “I would really like that fight.”
A weight for the match, though, is yet to be determined.
SALIDO SCHOOLS LOMACHENKO
At Friday’s weigh-in, Orlando “Siri” Salido missed the contracted weight for Saturday’s co-main event by 2½ pounds – coming in at 128½ – and widely enough to make no further effort to retain his WBO featherweight title. Meanwhile, two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, a Ukrainian southpaw attempting to win a world title in what was billed as only his second professional match, appeared set to stroll through the formalities of beating-down a worn-out veteran and making “history.”
Lomachenko began Saturday night with everything to gain, while Salido (41-12-2, 28 KOs) had little left to lose. Thirty-six minutes of sinking his knuckles in the Ukrainian, though, cured Salido of his indifference, and when the official judges’ split cards went his way – 113-115, 116-112 and 115-113 – Salido appeared a fully vindicated man. THE RING’s scorecard, too, had the Mexican winning, 115-113.
“I tried to land all the punches I threw,” Salido said of his strategy. “In my opinion, my experience was the difference.”
Lomachenko (7-1, 1 KO), whose official record on Fight Fax showed as 7-0 before Saturday, counting the six World Series of Boxing matches for which Lomachenko received payment, had little to offer in his own behalf.
“I did my best,” Lomachenko said. “It didn’t work out.”
After a first round in which nearly nothing transpired, the second saw Salido land the more effective blows, including a pair to the Ukrainian’s protective cup that went undetected by referee Laurence Cole, in what quickly became a recurring theme.
“It’s boxing,” shrugged Lomachenko, when asked about the numerous apparent fouls Salido struck him with.
The low and late punching continued in rounds three and four, as Salido, while probably splitting the rounds, was much more of a fighter than Lomachenko, who appeared content to play the role of boxer-athlete. As the fight progressed, its narrative became a matter of Lomachenko not-knowing what to do when treated like a prizefighter, not a boxer.
“He’s very smart, he has good movement,” Salido said of the Ukrainian. “I knew I had to keep throwing punches.”
When Salido put gloves on Lomachenko’s body, the Ukrainian bent in half, leaped backwards or tried to grab hold of Salido, almost as if Lomachenko had not been treated to body punching even in sparring. Though Lomachenko moved more fluidly than Salido, he did not have the experience, or toughness, to dissuade the Mexican – already considered one of boxing’s most stubborn forces.
By round nine, Salido had abandoned any pretense of respect for Lomachenko’s infighting, alternately launching looping blows from long range and fouling out of breaks. Lomachenko had no ideas for how to stall Salido’s aggression, and the later the fight went, the more comfortable Salido became.
“‘I’m with you 200-percent,’” Salido said, quoting his former rival Puerto Rican Juan Manuel Lopez, who placed a surprise call to Salido in his dressing room before Saturday’s match. “‘Go win the fight!’”
To his credit, Lomachenko fought the championship rounds like a man more accustomed to them than he was, though it was not quite enough. Lomachenko finally used Salido’s aggression against him, in round 12, running the relentless Mexican into a left cross with force enough to make the Mexican relent.
Salido needed every one of his many veteran wiles to complete the fight, and did, though only barely.
“In the 12th round,” Salido said, “it was a matter of survival.”
Announced attendance at ringside was 7,323.
Photos / Chris Farina-TOP RANK