If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That’s what Bryan Vera believes, and he’ll put the maxim to the test Saturday night in a rematch against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, with HBO airing the fight at 9:45 p.m. ET/PT.
“My mindset is just to do the same thing,” Vera told Bleacher Report. “I’m going to put a lot of pressure on him.”
That’s exactly what Vera did the first time, and it worked—sort of.
On Sept. 28, 2013, and at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., Vera threw and landed more punches than Chavez over 10 rounds and appeared to nab the best win of his career, only to see judges Gwen Adair, Carla Caiz and Marty Denkin inexplicably award the bout to Chavez.
Adair and Denkin’s scores were egregiously bad, 98-92 and 97-93, for the fighter who clearly lost, Chavez. Meanwhile, Caiz at least had it close, 96-94, for Chavez, son of legendary champion Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
Vera, 32, hopes for better treatment in San Antonio, just 80 miles south of his hometown of Austin.
“We’re just going to do everything a little bit better than we did the first time,” said Vera.
Vera trains in Houston, Texas, with Ronnie Shields at Plex. Shields has trained Vera for over two years now, and Vera says he’s learned much under the famed trainer’s tutelage.
Moreover, like most of Shields’ other fighters, Vera is now guided by strength and conditioning guru Danny Arnold, who owns and operates Plex, a place where notable sports stars from around the globe come to get in shape.
“It’s been an all-around learning experience the last two years with Ronnie,” said Vera. “And a year ago, I started working with Danny Arnold, and it’s made me even better.”
Plex isn’t your normal boxing gym. In fact, the boxing-gym portion of the facility is really only one corner of the place. The rest of the area is full of the latest and greatest fitness contraptions known to man.
There, when not working traditional boxing drills with Shields, fighters hone their overall athleticism alongside other sports professionals from the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc.
Vera is probably the greatest testament to what Plex has to offer, at least in the boxing world.
While he always appeared to be in shape before, there’s no denying his body has looked leaner and meaner since he started training at Plex.
Arnold told me it’s allowed Shields the opportunity to teach Vera more of the sweet science than he ever could before, something Vera reiterated during our talk:
“I was always able to make weight and fight hard, but never in the kind of shape where I could use my abilities, boxing skills and things like that. I was in good enough shape to be strong and come right at you, but now we can work on things I can utilize in the ring, things that Ronnie is able to see now that he didn’t know I was capable of doing before.”
Chavez found out about it the hard way last September. The new Vera isn’t just a stationary brawler. Rather, he uses lateral movement and impeccable fitness to outwork his opponents each and every round.
According to CompuBox, Vera landed 176 of 734 total punches in the last bout. Chavez landed just 125 of 328. Moreover, Vera landed more jabs (67 to 27) and power punches (109 to 98) than Chavez, and it was he who was moving forward and applying pressure the whole fight.
In fact, Vera landed more punches in eight of 10 rounds that night, and he threw more than twice as many.
Even the two rounds Chavez out-landed Vera were not conclusively rounds for Chavez. In Round 1, each man landed eight punches, and in the only round Chavez out-landed Vera, 20 to 17 in Round 6, Vera threw over twice as many punches as his opponent.
Statistically speaking, Vera dominated the fight, and he expects more of the same on Saturday. He said that his training camp went exactly as planned and that he’s fit and ready to fight.
“It’s been perfect. I got in about 100 rounds of sparring. I feel sharp. I feel strong. Everything is on point.”
I wanted to get his trainer’s perspective, so I asked Shields what Vera would have to do different this time around.
“I guess we’ll have to knock him out,” said Shields. “Chavez Jr. is a really good fighter. I can’t take that away from him...but we had a perfect game plan in the last fight, and of course we thought we won the fight, but the judges didn’t see it that way.”
Regardless, Shields said he believes the same strategy will work on Chavez the second time around, too.
“We’re basically going to do what we did last time. We just added a few things.”
Neither Vera nor Shields would comment on what new things we might see, but Vera said he expects a different version of Chavez Jr. on Saturday. This time, he expects Chavez to be in shape.
The first bout was originally signed at a 162-pound catchweight. The bout was moved up to 168 before suddenly being upped ever higher to accommodate Chavez’s problems making weight.
The bout was shortened from 12 to 10 rounds as part of the last-minute negotiations, and the weight limit was finally set at 173 pounds.
But Vera doesn’t expect any shenanigans this time around.
“I expect him to be in a little bit better shape. He kind of fights the way he fights. He likes to put pressure, which he didn’t really do last time, so I do expect him to put a little more pressure on me.”
Vera said that will play right into his hands:
“I expect him to be more of a pressure fighter than last time, so I can make him miss and do some things myself. We worked on different things...counters...pressure...we changed it up to look for different things.”
Vera said he’ll counter a more aggressive Chavez with an even more blistering output of his own. He said he’s in better shape this time around, too, and will be even more aggressive in his rematch than he was the first time around.
And his prediction for the fight? Vera wouldn’t make any bold claims about when or how he’d win on Saturday—only that this time around, he’d be the victor.
“I just know they’re going to raise my hand, man. I plan on putting a lot of pressure on him and breaking him down.”
Kelsey McCarson is a boxing writer for The Sweet Science and Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.