To put it plainly, Bryan Vera (23-7, 14 KOs) was robbed in his first meeting with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (47-1-1, 32 KOs). Despite outworking the more popular and overweight Chavez, Vera didn't get the nod from the judges.
Vera didn't just lose the fight on the scorecards; it was a unanimous decision, and two of the judges had him losing by a fairly wide margin.
Because of his solid showing and the controversial ending to the fight, Vera has been granted a rematch. Vera-Chavez Jr. II will take place Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. It's the main event of a card that also features an epic clash in the featherweight division.
Orlando Salido will defend his WBO title against Vasyl Lomachenko. It should be an excellent night of boxing on HBO, here's how you can watch the broadcast.
When: Saturday, March 1, at 9:45 p.m. EST
Where: The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas
The Book on Chavez Jr.
JC Jr.'s last two fights haven't been the bright spots of his otherwise successful career. Prior to getting the benefit of the doubt against Vera in September 2013, Chavez Jr. lost his first professional bout and his WBC middleweight title to Sergio Martinez in September 2012.
Perhaps fighting in a different month will help.
The best, most effective practice for the former champion would be to come into the bout in shape and motivated. He was neither in his first meeting with Vera.
HBO.com's Nat Gottlieb says a "fire in the belly" is the key to an improved performance from Chavez Jr. Gottlieb writes:
There isn't much doubt as to which of these two fighters is the more skilled boxer. Chavez has that edge by a generous margin. But the real edge he will need to beat Vera for the second straight time is something that eluded him in their first fight: fire in the belly.
Perhaps Chavez Jr. had a problem getting up for his first bout with Vera. The latter didn't come in highly regarded, and most expected the fight to be a one-sided win for Chavez Jr.
Now that Vera has his attention, Chavez Jr. vows to show his new rival his best. Per Lem Satterfield of The Ring Magazine, Chavez Jr. said:
Vera has not seen the best Julio. I had my best training camp since I fought Andy Lee. I am ready to fight. Vera is a true warrior. I have had much success in Texas, especially in San Antonio and am looking for giving the fans something they can remember—hopefully the Fight of the Year.
In the first fight, Chavez Jr. weighed in at a hefty 172 pounds. The fight was originally supposed to be fought at 163, but Chavez Jr.'s inability to make the weight limit prompted officials to raise it. Ultimately, a weight limit was completely disregarded, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports.
Vera could have opted not to fight, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity or the payday.
Will Chavez Jr.'s weight and conditioning be on point Saturday?
Vera doesn't think so, but he also stands to fatten his pockets if Chavez Jr. doesn't make 168 pounds. Similar to what happened in their first fight, Vera told Steve Kim of Max Boxing that if Chavez Jr. is overweight, he must pay him $250,000:
This time, being overweight might cost Chavez Jr. in more ways than one.
The Book on Vera
Unless you're a big-time Chavez Jr. fan, Vera is the type of fighter most boxing fans root for. He's not the most skilled, but he works hard, and he has a massive heart.
Aside from his first bout with Chavez Jr., Vera has had other memorable wars in the ring. His clash with Serhiy Dzinziruk in January 2013 was one of the best fights of the year.
Despite his all-action style, and the fact that he's actually from Texas, Vera probably won't be enjoying any home-field advantage at the Alamodome. As Iole puts it, Texas is "Chavez country":
Given that Vera is a native Texan, he should—at least theoretically—have the home-court advantage. Texas, though, is Chavez country, and this bout couldn't be more of a home game for Chavez if it were held in his backyard. Texas judging has been notoriously biased over the years. The refereeing is frequently similar. Texas is anything but a level playing field when a Chavez is in the ring. One can almost be guaranteed that if there is some sort of controversy, it's going to favor Chavez.
It would seem that dynamic would worry Vera. He officially lost the first fight, despite the fact that 53 of 59 writers polled scored the bout for him, and the other six called it a draw, per Boxing News Online.
Vera knows the odds but says he cannot worry about being robbed again. Per Gottlieb, Vera said:
Am I worried about getting robbed again? I try not to think about that for this fight. I don't think it will happen this time. The last time, everybody, including the judges, came in with this expectation that Chavez was going to walk through me. Now, because of what happened before, there'll be more eyes on me, a more equal judging.
Some might suggest he needs a knockout to win. That may be the case, but it is highly unlikely. Chavez Jr. has an excellent chin, and Vera isn't known for his punching power. Only 14 of his 23 wins have come by KO. Thus, he's likely resigned to try to outbox Chavez Jr.—again.
As good as Vera was in his first fight, he realizes he needs to be even better. With the fight taking place in Texas and with more attention than the last, he has stepped things up in training. He told Satterfield he's been sparring with heavyweights as preparation.
"I did all of my training times two. This has been the longest camp of my career," Vera said.
Will that be enough to score a stoppage win or to sway the judges his way?
Call me naive, but despite how unprofessional Chavez Jr. has been in the past, I find it hard to believe that he will be overweight again for this bout. His reputation is largely on the line, and I think he will make weight.
Stylistically, Vera is the kind of fighter Chavez Jr. should wear down with body punches and stop in the latter rounds. That's what should have happened in the first fight, but Chavez Jr. lacked the initiative and the conditioning to get the job done.
This time, he'll be motivated and in better shape. He'll beat a game and competitive Vera the way he should have in their first meeting.
Look for Chavez Jr. to win by ninth-round TKO.
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