Ranking the Best Options for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s Next Fight

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2014

Ranking the Best Options for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s Next Fight

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    Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

    Much-maligned Mexican super middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. worked his way back into the boxing public's good graces on Saturday night in San Antonio, where he pounded out a unanimous 12-round decision over Bryan Vera in their second meeting in five months.

    When the two met in September, Chavez appeared to have been outworked by the lighter, busier Vera, but he was awarded a unanimous decision that was deemed one of the worst verdicts of the year by many of the sport's top publications and websites—including BoxingScene.com.

    This time around, he was deemed a winner by scores of 117-110, 117-110 and 114-113.

    The commentary team for cable giant HBO, which has broadcast several of Chavez's previous fights, was back on the Hall of Fame progeny's bandwagon by the end of the night. Blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley opined that Chavez's effort "should awaken some of those dormant fans who loved him so much in the past, but haven’t loved him so much in the last year."

    Analyst Max Kellerman joined the parade as well, suggesting that the "terrific one-sided fight" allowed the winner to "demonstrate that when he's in shape, properly conditioned and makes weight, that he's got a lot of skills."

    Kellerman also did the post-fight interview with Chavez and predictably asked the 28-year-old about his preferred ring targets for the short- and long-term future. Using that as a catalyst, we've put together a short list of selections for where he could go next, whether it's at 160 or 168 pounds.

    Click through to see our choices and feel free to chime in with your own in the comments section.  

5. Bryan Vera

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    Reed Saxon/Associated Press

    Why it could be him: If it were Hollywood, script-writers would already be at work on the third incarnation of Chavez's budding rivalry with Bryan Vera, who warranted a win in the first fight and took his beating like a man in the rematch.

    And while Chavez's legitimate triumph Saturday was far more decisive than Vera's deserved victory in 2013, the second fight's loser was certainly entertaining enough for people to give him another look.

    Additionally, if his claim of having injured a hand in the fourth round Saturday is legit, it might provoke a groundswell of support for his Gatti-like style to get at least one more shot at the big time before Chavez graduates to bigger prey.

    Odds it will be him: 25-1

4. Carl Froch

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Why it could be him: No high-end fighter at 168 pounds is a better combination of championship stature and highlight-reel performance than Carl Froch. Not to mention his rabid hometown following and a track record of having appeared on HBO's air.

    If Froch is successful in getting past second-fight thorn George Groves when the two of them meet again in May, he's at least a dark horse in the race to score a lucrative TV date with Chavez, a prospect he told SkySports was more motivating than the thought of facing Groves again.  

    If Chavez stays at 168 pounds rather than climbing up or slimming down, Froch's chances grow.

    Odds it will be him: 15-1

3. Andre Ward

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    Reed Saxon/Associated Press

    Why it could be him: Given his past struggles with weight, it would seem Chavez's future is at 168 pounds. And if he's interested in pursuing the best fighter in the weight class, the road leads to Andre Ward.

    A former Olympic gold medalist who's now unbeaten in 27 pro fights, Ward is considered a top-three pound-for-pound commodity by most observers and he's a fixture on HBO as an analyst when he's not plying his trade in the ring.

    The fanfare and TV zeal hasn't followed, though, and he's probably not the destination if the aim is for the most exciting fight, rather than the top super middleweight street cred. Ward called Chavez's name out last year as a potentially tough proposition, but the reality is, title aside, that Ward needs Chavez more than Chavez needs Ward.

    Odds it will be him: 10-1

2. Sergio Martinez

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Why it could be him: It didn't seem like a rematch with Sergio Martinez was a likely occurrence since Chavez had fought at 173 and 168 pounds since their first middleweight title dance in 2012, but it came back into play Saturday when Chavez mentioned him by name in the post-fight HBO interview.

    Martinez has a sturdy date in the form of Miguel Cotto on tap for early June, but the late dramatics of the first fight with Chavez—Martinez was knocked down, and nearly out in the final round—would make it appealing as a re-do, and the older man's fade over the last two years could make it a closer call.

    If Chavez can make the weight, chances are that many parties would be interested in making the fight.

    Odds it will be him: 5-1

1. Gennady Golovkin

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Why it could be him: It's the perfect storm of opportunity for HBO.

    Gennady Golovkin is an unbeaten middleweight titleholder who has fans, media and a cable network foaming at the mouth for his next appearance in the ring.

    Then, when asked directly by Kellerman, Chavez provided the other side of the marquee when he jumped from Spanish to English to insist to Kellerman that "I would like to fight Gennady Golovkin next."

    The matchup delivers everything to all parties. Golovkin gets a chance to add a truly accomplished name to a record full of largely anonymous victims. Chavez gets a chance to stack himself up against one of the hottest names in the sport. And HBO gets to cash in on both Golovkin's emerging hype and the enthusiasm of a hardcore Mexican base that's likely to return to the Chavez camp.

    At 160 or 168, it's a match made in premium cable heaven.

    Odds it will be him: 2-1