On Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, tough Texan Bryan Vera gets his second shot at the legend's son, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., as the two meet in a rematch of their fight last September, which Chavez won by controversial unanimous decision.
I consider that decision the second worst of 2013, trailing only Ricky Burns' draw with Raymundo Beltran. The once-extremely popular Chavez was booed loudly when the scores were announced.
For the veteran Vera, a win will provide vindication and should secure him a world title shot. Chavez will meanwhile be looking to win decisively and make a statement, to prove he's more than an overhyped fraud getting by on his old man's reputation.
|Per BoxRec||Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.||Bryan Vera|
|Record:||47-1-1, 32 KOs||23-7, 14 KOs|
|Weight:||168 lbs?||168 lbs|
|Hometown:||Culiacan, Sinaloa||Austin, Texas|
I've put a question mark next to the weight in Julio Cesar Chavez's column because until I see that he's weighed in at the contracted weight of 168 pounds, I consider it an open question. Before their last fight, Chavez ended up having to renegotiate the weight multiple times and was forced to give Bryan Vera a substantial payoff because of it.
Vera is the smaller man here, but not to the degree it appears on paper. Vera is a thickly built fighter with a head like a boulder. He proved last time that the slightly larger Chavez could not push him around.
Likewise, Chavez does not have the edge in experience that his record would seem to indicate. His win total is padded by club-level trial horses. If anything, Vera has more ring time against quality opponents.
When Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Bryan Vera was signed for last year, it was viewed as a warm-up fight for Chavez after his suspension for testing positive for marijuana after his fight with Sergio Martinez. The come-forward Vera was seen as a made-to-order opponent to get Chavez back on track before signing him to a high-profile fight with somebody like Andre Ward.
I actually picked Vera to win the fight and got more flak from my readers than I had for any prediction since choosing Juan Manuel Marquez over Manny Pacquiao before their third fight. But I was at an advantage. I'd seen Vera's two previous fights from ringside and spoken to him after both fights.
I knew he was a focused, experienced professional looking to make a serious run. Chavez, on the other hand, told the entire world how focused he was on this fight when he repeatedly had to renegotiate the weight.
And as far as I'm concerned, Vera won that fight. I had 96-94 for Vera and would have gone 97-93 before 95-95. I can accept 96-94 for Chavez as an honest card. A lot of rounds were close, and Chavez did land the heavier punches.
But judges Gwen Adair (98-92 for Chavez) and Marty Denkin (97-93 for Chavez) might as well have filled out their cards in the hotel room the night before—because they clearly didn't watch the fight.
The differences between Vera and Chavez could not be more stark. Vera is the classic, hard-nosed, blue-collar fighter. He's gotten the raw deal on more than one card in his career.
Chavez, by contrast, is a rich kid who has had a lot handed to him because of his name. He's a tough guy to be sure, but he's gotten the breaks every step of the way during his career.
He should have received his first two losses against Carlos Molina back in 2005 and 2006. He was lucky not to get a draw against Sebastian Zbik in 2011 when they fought for the vacant WBC middleweight belt.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fights like his father, even if he lacks the old man's greatness. Jr. has a very good chin and is a dangerous puncher. He has shown the ability to eat punches and lose rounds while steadily breaking his opponent down.
He was losing when he stopped Andy Lee in Round 7. Even against the great Sergio Martinez, Chavez lost round after round but hung on and nearly pulled off the shocking stoppage in the final frame.
Bryan Vera is a strong, powerful athlete. He's a former Texas high school football star, and you'd guess it to look at him. He's a rock of man who comes to fight in ideal condition.
Vera is no brilliant technician, but he's an experienced professional with a high ring IQ. He's trained by Ronnie Shields, one of the best in the business, and fights a smart fight, controlling the terrain.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is very often tactically unsound in his aggression. He's so confident in his chin and his own ability to end fights with his power that he shows a dangerous lack of respect for his opponents' power.
He largely got away with that at middleweight, where he was a giant. He shouldn't count on being so fortunate at super middleweight and light heavyweight.
Chavez Jr. has consistently seemed to lack discipline throughout his career. He was arrested for drunk driving weeks before his fight with Marco Antonio Rubio in February 2012, failed a post-fight test for marijuana after fighting Sergio Martinez and failed to make weight last September against Bryan Vera. That kind of lack of focus is an extreme danger against a hungry, experienced journeyman like Vera.
Bryan Vera gets hit way too much. He comes forward nonstop and is always in range to get punched. Even in fights where I've watched from press row as he won easily, his face has been a swollen mess at the post-fight press conference.
Vera is a volume puncher, and his blows land with a thud. But he lacks explosive, fight-ending power. Against a big puncher like Chavez, that will force Vera to fight hard in every round.
If Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. wants to win this fight, he better show up in far better physical condition than he did for the first tilt last September.
He got a gift in that fight, and he shouldn't count on the same thing this time around. Usually following a controversial decision, the judges tend to be circumspect in the opposite direction for the rematch.
In the last fight, Chavez fought at a slow, plodding pace, looking to land a single monster shot to end the fight. But Bryan Vera is not the sort of guy who is easy to drop with one punch. He's got a big head and a thick neck, and he knows how to position himself to see a punch coming and brace for it.
So if Chavez wants to legitimately win the rematch, he had better be in condition to maintain a decent punching volume and fight in every round.
He also needs to focus on fighting his opponent and not crying to the referee. If he thinks he is being fouled and the referee isn't responding, he needs to suck it up and retaliate when the opportunity presents itself.
He needs to leave the complaining to his corner between rounds and focus on defending himself and fighting his opponent for three full minutes of every round.
Bryan Vera needs to do what he did in the last fight. He needs to hustle against Chavez on the inside and throw more punches. He needs to rough the rich kid up and frustrate him.
Vera should look to pound at Chavez's body and not worry about straying below the belt line until he's received a warning. In fact, if I were Vera, I'd stray low a time or two when I knew the referee wouldn't see it, just to make Chavez upset. Vera is the far stronger fighter mentally, and he should look to play head games with the legend's son.
Vera should assume Chavez will be better conditioned this time out and will throw more punches. He might need to use angles and defense more than he traditionally does in this rematch, because make no mistake, Chavez is a legitimate puncher.
But Vera has a very solid chin and quick recovery. If he can avoid most of Chavez's big punches, he should be able to outwork him. If he can frustrate Chavez and entice him to become overly aggressive, he should be able to find the holes to light Jr. up.
I think the conventional wisdom here is that Chavez Jr. will come out in better condition this time around and earn the decisive victory so many fans expected him to collect last September. And I do expect Chavez to be in far better shape for this fight than he was for the last one.
But Vera is going to show up in his usual top-notch condition. He's going to be the same hard-nosed fighter who can take a barrage and smile through it.
And it's a mistake to think Vera and his trainer Ronnie Shields aren't going to be even better prepared for Chavez Jr. in a rematch. In my opinion, Chavez is the one who is more likely to take this rematch lightly.
His ego has likely convinced him that he actually deserved to win last September. I think he'll expect that simply being on weight will guarantee him an easy victory in the rematch.
But I don't think there is any such thing as an "easy" win against Bryan Vera. When the fight gets tough in the middle rounds, I think Vera's heart and ring IQ will make the difference.
But this time, I think the judges will make more of a point to evaluate the fight fairly. If anything, I expect Vera to get the benefit of the doubt this time around.
Chavez Jr. can take a pounding—there's no doubt about that. This fight will be a hard-fought, competitive war.
But this time, Vera will earn the big break he deserves. I'm picking him to win 115-113.