The son of the legend, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., returns to action this Saturday in Carson, Calif., when he faces experienced journeyman Brian Vera.
Chavez Jr. has been cultivated from stardom since the early days of his career. He has his famous father's name and enough of dad's thrilling style to make a lot of current fans want to believe in him.
Vera has been around the sport a long time. He starred on The Contender in 2007 and has appeared frequently on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.
This match will have an immediate impact on the scene at both middleweight and super middleweight. Beyond that, it should be an action-filled fight.
|Per Boxrec||Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.||Brian Vera|
|Records:||46-1-1 (32 KOs)||23-6 (14 KOs)|
|Hometown:||Culiacan, Sinaloa||Austin, Texas|
The listed difference in height here is only an inch, but I think it's actually a bit more. It's hard to tell in this video, too, because Chavez tends to slouch and Vera stands up straight like a soldier on review.
But this much is clear: Chavez isn't climbing into the ring with a much smaller guy this time out.
Both Vera and Chavez have traditionally campaigned at middleweight but that's never been an easy target for Chavez to reach, and he's likely outgrown it. This fight is being fought at 168, with Chavez eyeing a potential showdown with pound-for-pound star Andre Ward.
Chavez has fought a lot more fights than Vera has, and he's been in the ring with a major star in Sergio Martinez. But Vera's overall quality of competition is actually a solid notch above what Chavez has usually faced.
In the last 30 years or so, there have been few names in boxing bigger than Julio Cesar Chavez. In boxing in Mexico, there have been no names bigger, or even very close.
So a daunting shadow hangs over JC Jr. There's no question he's had professional advantages due to his famous name. But at this point he's accomplished enough in the sport to be considered on his own merits.
Chavez was very lucky to escape with a majority decision and the vacant WBC middleweight title in June of 2011 against Sebastian Zbik. But in February 2012, he won a decisive unanimous decision over Marco Antonio Rubio and in June 2012, he stopped Andy Lee in seven, after falling behind on the cards.
Rubio and Lee are legitimate contenders at middle weight, and these were respectable wins for Chavez.
In September of last year, Chavez made his pay-per-view debut opposite Sergio Martinez. Martinez tooled Chavez for most of the fight, but Chavez stayed tough and made the final round an all-time thriller, dropping Martinez and nearly stopping him.
Brian Vera has been through some struggles in his career. After his national exposure on The Contender, he went into a slump. Between March 2007 and February 2011, he went 3-5.
In the past two years, he's appeared to start hitting his stride. He beat Sergio Mora in two close fights in 2011 and 2012. So far this year, he's fought twice at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York. In January, he beat former world champion Serhiy Dzinziruk by Round 10 TKO and in March stopped Donatas Bondorovas on cuts after Round 7.
I covered both fights live and at the post-fight press conference after Bondorovas, Vera talked about the potential of fighting Chavez. He noted that they had sparred in the past, saying "I felt like I did alright against him," but adding "I was at the very end of my camp and he was just starting his, so I don't want to take anything away from him."
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fights like a chip off the old block. He comes forward and walks his opponents down. He punishes them with hooks to the body, to sap their energy and draw their hands downward and leave them vulnerable to the attack upstairs.
Chavez is extremely durable and can take a punch. He fights with emotion and is a tough man to outlast, without elite boxing talent. And even then, as he proved against Sergio Martinez last year, he still might have enough fire power left to pull it out at the very end.
Brian Vera is a physically powerful middleweight. He looks as much like a guy who played high school football in Texas as he does like a professional boxer.
Vera is no master technician, but he's an extremely experienced veteran who is used to the spotlight. He knows his way around a boxing ring. He's got good footwork and the power to muscle himself into position when necessary.
He's trained by Ronnie Shield, a great boxing brain, who will help him cultivate his journeyman's guile.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. can be very impatient and ineffective with his aggression. I had his fight with Sebastian Zbik a draw and a couple of weeks ago I watched his six-round, 2005 draw against Carlos Molina and thought Molina clearly won.
In both cases, Zbik and Molina were able to use smart movement and their own busy-punch rate to disrupt Chavez's aggressive offense.
Chavez was arrested for drunk driving shortly before his fight with Rubio in 2012, and he tested positive for THC after his fight with Martinez last year. In both cases, he came to the ring and performed as well as could have been expected anyway.
But it shows a certain lack of judgement for a young man trying to become a boxing superstar.
Brian Vera beat Serhiy Dzinziruk by Round 10 TKO last January, but at the press conference afterwards, his face showed the signs of a fight. He greeted those us of representing the press with a wry smile and said, "Man, I need to stop getting hit so much."
Vera puts himself into good position to hit his opponents, but often that means being in position to get hit back.
Vera is a volume puncher with good accuracy, but his power is mediocre for a world class middleweight. Make no mistake, his punches are thudding, scoring shots. But he will be in trouble in a pure give-and-take war of attrition with Chavez.
Chavez should come out with guns blazing and try to touch Vera up early. He needs to show him that he's not swapping punches with Andy Lee and Sergio Mora anymore.
Vera has lost some fights in his career, but he's continued to work hard and plug away at his career and he's won some big fights to come back up. He believes in himself, and Chavez needs to pound away at that self-confidence from the opening round, even as he's looking to score on his body and bruise up his face.
Chavez can probably win this fight simply by fighting like he has in the past. He's going to look to pressure Vera and trade punches with him.
That's a fight Vera's comfortable fighting, but Chavez does appear to have more punching power, so he should be able to win a war of attrition.
A lot of Chavez's game plan is going to depend upon his training camp. This fight has been pushed back already, officially on cuts, though Vera was outspoken in saying that he thought Chavez's trouble making weight last August was the real issue.
Today I've seen rumors on message boards about an ESPN Deportes story about the Chavez camp trying to maneuver at the last minute for a new weight of 173.
If this is an indication that Chavez has been slack in his training, it's a bad sign. Chavez does not want to fight Brian Vera if he is out of shape.
Brian Vera needs to use a combination of movement and aggressive counter-attacking to bang away at Chavez and pile up rounds in the bank.
Vera is no defensive wizard, but he has the technical ability to take away a little bit of Chavez's offense and pile up more of his own. This will be Vera's third fight this year, and he was ready to fight six weeks ago.
He's going to be in shape, and he'll expose Chavez, if Chavez isn't.
Vera will hustle to win rounds. He'll throw punches back the very instant Chavez lands a nice two-piece.
If Vera can use movement enough to evade Chavez and counter-attack him from tricky angles, he'll be able to win the fight. If Chavez is very bloated and out of shape, Vera has a much better chance of accomplishing this.
This is a major opportunity for Brian Vera, and he's been far enough down in his career to truly appreciate it coming to him now. He'll come into this fight with Chavez in top physical condition and with an intelligent game plan.
Chavez and Top Rank no doubt have their eyes down the road on a big money pay day with Andre Ward.
But Brian Vera isn't the kind of fighter Chavez can afford to take lightly. And if the rumors are true and he's trying to negotiate for five more pounds now so he can make weight Friday, that suggests his training might have been less than zealous.
This is the kind of fight that has upset written all over it. I don't think Vera has the power to knock Chavez out, and Vera's face is slightly prone to swelling, so there's a chance Chavez could open up a bad cut.
But I think Vera will be able to out hustle Chavez and pull off the upset. It will put him in a position for a big fight back down at 160 early next year.
Vera by decision, 115-113.