By Jake Donovan
If you’re concerned about Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. once again missing weight for his March 1 rematch with Bryan Vera, you are not alone. The once-beaten former middleweight titlist is as concerned as anyone else, though his worry carries far less doubt than those with skeptical views.
“I really hope I make the weight limit,” Chavez Jr. quipped Tuesday evening following a training session in Mexico. “I don’t want to have to give up $250,000.”
The aforementioned figure is the penalty in place, in the event that the second-generation superstar fails to make the contracted 168 lb. limit for his rematch with Vera, which will air live on HBO from San Antonio, Texas.
Promises have been made that weight will not be a concern this time around, with his physique supporting that evidence. Lean, muscular and without a trace of fat, Chavez Jr. – who turned 28 over the weekend - bore a look of determination during an extended session in the gym.
‘Extended session in the gym’ is a phrase not often associated with his career, but the son of arguably the greatest fighter in the history of Mexico is doing his part to change that perception. Given the events leading up his first fight with Vera – as well as the fight itself and immediate aftermath – the still growing boxer realizes he has his work cut out for him.
“I was out of the ring for more than a year heading into my first fight (with Vera),” Chavez Jr. recalls, referring to a lengthy suspension served due to his testing positive for marijuana following his 12-round points loss to Sergio Martinez in Sept. ’12. “I let myself get out of shape, and trained just to try to make weight.”
Chavez Jr. was out of shape enough to where the fight was postponed from mid-summer to early fall, but still wasn’t enough time to meet the contracted catchweight limit. Only due to Vera’s concessions – which came with financial upside – was the fight allowed to take place at a modified weight limit.
Ten rounds later, many believed Vera deserved to win the fight or at least fare no worse than a draw. The three judges at ringside didn’t agree, with scores of 96-94, 97-93 and 98-92 leaving many to believe that Vera never stood a chance, politically, from the moment the fight was signed.
To this day, Chavez Jr. believes he did enough to win, but acknowledges why fans would rally behind the efforts of his opponent. The event made the headlines for all of the wrong reasons going in, with the questionable verdict continuing that trend, but still managed to make for great theatre.
One thing Chavez Jr. can never be accused of is being boring in the ring. His fights are almost always loaded with action, and his fighting style – coupled with familiar bloodlines – classifies him as must-see TV. The proof isn’t always at the box office, but he remains a televised-ratings magnet. The first fight with Vera was the second highest-rated cable boxing telecast of 2013, topped only by the ring return of Miguel Cotto, which came just one week later.
The rematch comes after a spell of no major boxing action on either HBO or Showtime since late January. Five weeks will have passed since the last big show on either network, with absence only making the heart grow fonder as far as boxing fans are concerned.
Chavez Jr’s rematch with Vera is paired with a potentially history-making featherweight title fight between Orlando Salido and recently turned pro Vasyl Lomachenko, who has more Olympic gold medals (two) than pro fights (one). A win would make Lomachenko a champion faster than anyone in the history of the sport.
Given that fact, more attention than normal will be paid to a show featuring Chavez Jr. It only serves as that much more motivation to make the most of another chance at a lasting impression, and to prove that he’s more than just the son of a legend.
“The majority of fans believe I am my own man. My father is Mexico’s greatest fighter of all time and one of the greatest of all time in the whole world,” Chavez Jr says of Julio Sr, a retired former champion in three weight classes, whose 90-fight unbeaten streak to start his career a boxing record. “When I get up in the ring, they remember my father. He will always be a part of me inside the ring.
“But when that bell rings, I am my own man. My father can’t help me in the ring, but because of who he is, my opponents fight that much harder when they face me. I’m seen as their prize, a chance to become a bigger name if they can beat me. A lot of people will be watching this show, more fans than normal. Everything has to be right for this fight, and everything has gone right so far.”
The biggest change made for this training camp was actually showing up in shape.
“When I fought (Vera) last year, I lost 43 lb. while training for that fight,” Chavez Jr. revealed. “Everyone wants to believe that I just decided to not make weight, but it wasn’t like that. I came into camp way too heavy after being out for so long, and lost as much weight as I could before reaching a point where it would compromise my health.”
For the forthcoming rematch, Chavez Jr. remained in the gym, even before the contracts were signed. The 6’1” boxer was camera ready during the early February press conference to officially announce the March 1 headliner in San Antonio, not at all slacking off between then and now.
“I kept training and never grew overweight,” Chavez Jr. says. “It will be a big difference in this second fight. I’m not training to make weight. I’m training for a fight and working on a strategy to win and leave no doubt with the boxing public.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox