By David P. Greisman
This time, there was no controversy. Not before the fight. Not after.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. made the super-middleweight limit for his rematch with Bryan Vera, and then proceeded to unleash a beating upon his game opponent.
Chavez-Vera 2, like Chavez-Vera 1, ended in a unanimous decision win for the namesake son of the legendary Mexican champion. But this time, it was a result that nearly everyone could agree on.
Judges Ruben Carrion and Max DeLuca scored the bout 117-110 for Chavez, giving nine rounds to Chavez and three to Vera. David Sutherland somehow saw the bout much closer, scoring it 114-113 — six rounds apiece, with Vera’s score one point lower due to a deduction that referee Rafael Ramos imposed for some reason in the eighth round.
When Chavez and Vera first fought in September, it was on a date three weeks later than initially scheduled. The bout had been postponed due to a cut over Chavez’s eyebrow that some questioned, particularly due to a photo of Chavez that had made the rounds in the months beforehand showing him looking quite heavy. Chavez later admitted that he had come down from 205 pounds for the Vera fight.
That first fight had initially been agreed upon for a weight closer to the middleweight limit, but the limit kept getting pushed higher and higher. Vera didn’t have much in the way of negotiating leverage; he was not the star, and he needed the payday that would come with facing Chavez and the potential opportunity he could receive by beating him.
After it came out that Chavez wouldn’t even be able to make the super middleweight limit in September, his camp paid Vera a sum, and Chavez came in at about 172 pounds on the scales, and even heavier in the ring. Vera, a natural middleweight, still sought to win the fight with volume.
Chavez threw fewer punches, but punches that appeared to have more force behind them. Those unofficial observers watching on television or from ringside saw a close bout, one that some felt could have gone either way, while others believed that Vera should have won. But the three judges gave the fight to Chavez, two of them by wider margins: 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94.
In this rematch, both men stepped on the scales at 167.5. Chavez was still the bigger man in the ring on fight night. Again, Vera threw more punches. This time, Chavez landed more — most of which were hard, flush shots to Vera’s body and head.
Vera’s trainer, Ronnie Shields, said this was exactly the kind of fight their team was hoping for. “We wanted a slugfest and we got a slugfest,” Shields said. Vera got the worst of it, though.
Chavez hit him with 256 of 523 punches, a staggering 49 percent connect rate, according to CompuBox. Even higher was the connect rate for power shots: Chavez was 192 of 312, landing 62 percent of what he threw.
Chavez’s left hook lead seemed as if it couldn’t miss. His body shots at times appeared to double Vera over. Chavez said afterward that he hurt his right hand in either the end of the 11th round or early in the 12th, seeking to explain his moving and taunting for much of the final three minutes.
For the first 11 rounds, Vera wasn’t making Chavez miss, nor was he denting Chavez’s solid chin with what landed.
Vera was credited with landing 205 of 961 total punches, or 21 percent. In terms of power punches, he was 123 of 527, or 23 percent.
Vera was only awarded rounds 1, 2 and 12 on Carrion’s card; he got rounds 2, 9 and 12 on DeLuca’s card; and he got rounds 2, 3, 5, 9, 11 and 12 on Sutherland’s card.
“I thought the fight should’ve been scored closer,” Vera said afterward. “We came in and put on pressure. He was the same fighter as before.”
He said he didn’t want to make excuses, though he noted that he had hurt his left hand in the fourth round, and that he also had only found out days before the bout that the fight was scheduled for 12 rounds and not 10, which was the distance of the first fight. (Advertising and marketing materials for Chavez-Vera 2 long noted beforehand that the bout was scheduled for 12 rounds.)
“I’m a fighter, and I always give people great fights,” Vera was quoted as saying afterward. “I’ve got a tough chin. We grew up rough. My mom and dad raised us to be tough kids. I’m too hardheaded, and I need to work on things to become a better, smarter fighter to get what I want to get. I’ll go back to the drawing board with [trainer] Ronnie Shields and see what he wants to do.”
Vera, a 32-year-old Texan, falls to 23-8 with 14 KOs.
Chavez, meanwhile, improves to 48-1-1 with 32 KOs and 1 no contest. The lone loss came to middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. A win over Troy Rowland in 2009 that was overturned when Chavez tested positive for a banned diuretic.
Chavez’s promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, said he’s now seeking another fight for Chavez on HBO before going into a pay-per-view fight with Gennady Golovkin, the winner of the upcoming Carl Froch-George Groves rematch, or Jean Pascal.
“I like the [Golovkin] fight because Gennady Golovkin is a great fighter, a strong fighter, undefeated and one of the best in the middleweight division,” Chavez said afterward. “I would really like that fight.”
IN THE CO-FEATURE
It wasn’t merely a case of too much, too soon for Vasyl Lomachenko, who in just his eighth pro fight was challenging experienced featherweight titleholder Orlando Salido.
That mattered. But so did Salido’s tremendous size advantage brought on by his coming in overweight and rehydrating by nearly 20 pounds for fight night. And so did Salido’s tactics, which included a dedicated body attack that often veered low. Referee Laurence Cole, often derided for his regularly poor performances as the third man in the ring, allowed Salido to get away with plenty.
Lomachenko didn’t have enough answers to the problems Salido was posing. Though he sought to battle back, it was Salido who left with the split decision victory, only the second loss Lomachenko has suffered in hundreds of fights dating back to his acclaimed amateur career.
Judge Jack Reiss had Salido winning 116-112, or eight rounds to four. Oren Shellenberger saw it 115-113 for Salido, or seven rounds to five. Levi Martinez was the sole voice giving Lomachenko the edge, at 115-113.
The fight started off slow, which proved to be to Salido’s advantage. A notoriously slow starter who picks up steam as the fight goes along, he dedicated a majority of his attack to Lomachenko’s body, digging to the ribs and stomach, and even down to the hips and legs.
Not only was Lomachenko allowing Salido to warm up, but he wasn’t winning either. And even the rounds he won early were close and were not emphatic.
After five rounds, Shellenberger had Salido ahead, four rounds to one; Reiss head Salido ahead, three rounds to two; and Martinez had Lomachenko ahead, three rounds to two.
Lomachenko wasn’t throwing as much as Salido. Salido’s body (and hip and leg) work may well have taken the steam off Lomachenko’s shots even further. And Salido, who’d weighed in at 128.25 pounds — more than two pounds overweight, dropping his world title on the scales — came into the ring on fight night at an unofficial weight of 147 pounds. Lomachenko had gone from 125.25 pounds up to 136.
Lomachenko wasn’t able to deter or hurt Salido — not until the final round.
Lomachenko hurt Salido at the halfway point of the 12th, and Salido was suddenly holding on to Lomachenko’s arms. Salido said afterward that he got hit with a body shot and almost got stopped due to it, according to Lee Samuels, a spokesman for promoter Top Rank.
Lomachenko’s late surge — four of the final six rounds on Shellenberger’s and Martinez’s cards, two of the final six rounds on Reiss’s card — wasn’t enough to win.
“I did my best. It didn’t work out,” said Lomachenko afterward. “I thought I won, but now I’m going to go home and review the tape of the fight.”
Samuels said Lomachenko, asked about the low blows, didn’t complain.
“It’s boxing,” he reported Lomachenko as saying.
As for Salido, he gave Lomachenko credit afterward.
“He’s very smart. He has good movement,” Salido was quoted as saying. “I knew I had to keep throwing punches. I tried to land all the punches I could. In my opinion, my experience was the difference.”
It also was the activity. CompuBox credited Salido with being 142 of 645 on the night, including 137 of 546 in power punches. Lomachenko was more accurate but less active, going 164 of 441 in total, and 105 of 239 with power punches.
Salido was also credited with landing about 100 shots to Lomachenko’s body (it’s uncertain whether that number includes the low blows).
Salido has had quite a lengthy career for someone who is just 33 years old. The man from Sonora, Mexico, turned pro at 15 years old in 1996, lost his first fight, and suffered many defeats early in his career before working his way up to an unsuccessful challenge for Juan Manuel Marquez’s featherweight titles in 2004.
He has been in and out of the title picture ever since, picking up a world title from Juan Manuel Lopez in 2011, dropping it to Mikey Garcia in early 2013, and then regaining the vacant belt late last year with a win over Orlando Cruz.
Salido improves to 41-12-2 with 28 knockouts and 1 no contest (a win over Robert Guerrero in 2006 that was overturned when Salido tested positive for steroids).
He’ll clearly need to move up in weight after more than a decade at 126.
Lomachenko, a 26-year-old from Ukraine, won Olympic gold in 2008 as a featherweight and once again in 2012 as a lightweight, to go along with a silver in the 2007 world championships and gold medals in the 2009 and 2011 world championships.
He had six pro World Series of Boxing fights before appearing on the undercard to last year’s Juan Manuel Marquez-Timothy Bradley pay-per-view, on which he scored a fourth-round knockout of Jose Ramirez.
Lomachenko is now 7-1 with 1 knockout.
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]