by David P. Greisman
Money almost always triumphs over principle. This had everything to do with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. beating Brian Vera in a fight that was already embarrassingly controversial before it even began, and then ended in a manner that did nothing to shake that stink away.
Money is not directly the cause of why three judges at ringside once again rendered a verdict that differed from many of the unofficial scorecards of boxing writers and fans.
Rather, money is what gave Chavez the privilege of commanding an unfair advantage.
It is what led Vera to forsake the premise of a fair fight and take an additional payday that amounted to a deal with the devil.
And the circumstances that led to money changing hands in turn affected the way those judges saw the exchanging of punches.
Vera was placed into a situation in which he could not win — even though he arguably deserved to.
He was placed into this situation because of what he isn’t and Chavez is. While Chavez is a star, Vera is a scrapper, a man who has been made to ply his trade as a permanent B-side, a designated opponent designed to give prospects and contenders a test without giving them a loss.
A look beyond his own defeats reveals that Vera hasn’t resigned himself to sticking to that script. He upset undefeated Andy Lee in 2008, traveled to Quebec to knock out Sebastien Demers in 2010, took a pair of decisions over Sergio Mora in 2011 and 2012, and scored a stoppage against Sergiy Dzinziruk earlier this year.
That hasn’t earned him any additional leverage. In nearly every appearance on ESPN2, Telefutura and HBO, his role has remained the same.
And so he stepped into the ring this past Saturday, headlining a broadcast of HBO’s “World Championship Boxing,” fighting in the main event at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., and understanding he was there to play the foil. This was to be the night that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. returned after a year away, getting in a tune-up against Vera before moving on to bigger fights and better foes.
That lack of leverage left Vera disadvantaged from the beginning of the negotiations through the end of the bout.
The negotiations were on Chavez’s terms. The two fighters had initially agreed to meet at a catch-weight between the middleweight limit of 160 pounds and the super middleweight limit of 168. Chavez had most recently held a world title at middleweight, losing that belt in September 2012 to the division’s champion, Sergio Martinez. Chavez had long been said to be struggling to drain down to 160. He also was coming off an extended layoff, thanks to a nine-month suspension for testing positive for marijuana after his loss to Martinez.
It made sense, then, to have Chavez come in a little heavier for a fight with Vera, who had spend much of his career at super middleweight and had since won several recent bouts at or close to the middleweight limit.
But then the limit for Chavez-Vera kept on changing.
The bout was eventually officially announced in July as a super middleweight bout, meaning the fighters could step on the scales as heavy as 168 pounds. Less than a month later, their fight was postponed from Sept. 7 to Sept. 28, ostensibly because of a small cut Chavez had suffered over his right eye while sparring. Skeptics wondered whether the delay wasn’t due to the small cut, but rather a large cut in weight. They recalled a photo of Chavez taken in early July while he stood ringside to watch his younger brother fight. Julio Jr. looked rotund, far too heavy for a boxer whose upcoming bout was barely two months away.
Then on Sept. 23, the Monday before the fight — and just four days away from the weigh-in — there was a report that Chavez-Vera would instead be taking place at a limit of 173 pounds.
On Tuesday, Chavez’s promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, said no decision had been made. He said he would wait to see what the fighters weighed on Wednesday and would meet with Vera’s promoter to discuss a potential resolution.
On Wednesday, Chavez’s team asked for a 173-pound limit. Vera’s team agreed and asked for the fight to be scheduled for 10 rounds instead of 12. Chavez’s team accepted that concession — while also paying Vera an undisclosed sum in addition to his regular purse. After all, their demand was far more meaningful, and they got what they wanted. Vera, meanwhile, had little choice but to give it to them, in essence giving in to them.
Money almost always triumphs over principle.
Chavez, as the A-side, as the favored namesake son of a Mexican legend, could afford to part with a portion of his sizable paycheck. He would benefit from not having to lose too many more pounds in too short a timeframe. He could rehydrate after stepping on the scale and then be even bigger than Vera, who had been in training for one date, and continued training for another, all while preparing himself to make a lower weight limit. Chavez could use that size disparity to stack the odds against Vera even more than they already had been. He could get the win and move on to another HBO date and another seven-figure payday.
Vera had no such guarantees. He could not expect another opportunity like this to come. It was similar to the decision Vicente Escobedo made a year ago when Adrien Broner came in at more than three pounds heavier than the junior lightweight limit. Escobedo got paid, and then paid the price. Many expected the same to happen to Vera but hoped otherwise. They rooted against Chavez, who angered them enough with their actions and exacerbated their anger with his explanation.
This was not a championship fight, so there didn’t need to be a strict divisional weight limit, he said.
Except he’d already agreed to a specific limit before deciding to blow it off. He’d thrown his weight around figuratively so that he could do so literally.
Vera stepped on the scale at 171.2 pounds. Chavez checked in at 172.4. No unofficial fight night weights were given. Chavez refused to get on HBO’s scale. He looked much larger than Vera, though. That’s because he was. His punches carried far more power, while Vera’s had less effect on him.
Vera is a scrapper, and that’s what he was forced to do. CompuBox credited him with throwing 734 total punches, an average of 73 per round, which more than doubled Chavez’s output of 328 shots, or about 33 per round. He landed just 176 of those, or 24 percent, landing more frequently but less accurately than Chavez, who had 125 landed shots and a 38 percent connect rate.
A similar pattern showed in the category of power punches. Vera was 109 of 343, a connect rate of 32 percent, while Chavez was 98 of 186, or 53 percent. (Chavez said afterward that he’d hurt his right hand.)
Such statistics are not wholly indicative of a fight’s storyline. So much can depend on the power of the fighter throwing the punches and the chin of the fighter taking them, and it can depend on where, when and how those punches land.
What these statistics do show, though, is that Vera outworked and outlanded Chavez, while Chavez picked his spots for landing harder shots. The judges had to decide whether the accumulation of punches from Vera over the course of a round — and him taking the fight to Chavez — meant more than the occasional thudding blows Chavez sent out.
They gave a majority of the rounds to the bigger man with heavier hands. One judge had it 98-92, or eight rounds to two. Another judge had it 97-93, or seven rounds to three. The third had it 96-94, or six rounds to four. Other observers believed Vera had won. Their opinions had no bearing on the result.
Instead, the fight would end with Chavez again being rewarded, and not punished, for his cavalier refusal to honor his initial contractual agreement.
Vera would leave with little more than the seventh loss on his record, a belief that he had deserved the victory, an increased payday that still wouldn’t salve the wound, and a desire for a rematch that will not come.
It will not come because the only justification for a sequel is the principle of fairness. Money, meanwhile, dictates that there’s no need to settle this score or calm this controversy.
Money is why Chavez won’t be held accountable, not as long as he brings revenue to his promoter and ratings to his network. Business and sports are intertwined, with the former always taking precedence over the latter. It does not matter how unfair or unconvincing the win was. Chavez will still be moved toward a match with super middleweight champion Andre Ward.
The controversy from this bout might even be used in the marketing for the next one.
It wouldn’t be a surprise.
This is a sport in which fighters who’ve committed various misdeeds are allowed back into the ring. Mike Tyson being denied a license in Nevada prior to his fight with Lennox Lewis was the rare exception, and that match moved on to Tennessee.
This is a sport in which promoters have only subsidized the cost of more stringent drug testing on rare occasions. Positive tests have led to last-minute cancellations, after all. Athletic commissions, meanwhile, have not increased the cost of doing business in their state so as to truly ensure clean competition in this era of advanced doping techniques. Too many taxes, fees and regulations can drive business elsewhere.
This is a sport in which poor judging and refereeing is a regular problem that’s yet to be solved. The three New Jersey judges who scored Erislandy Lara’s fight with Paul Williams in 2011 as a majority decision for Williams were suspended. The judge who saw Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez as a draw earlier this month has since taken an indefinite absence from the sport. Beyond them, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a case of officials facing official scrutiny so publicly.
This is how the sport operates.
This is why Vera took the fight.
This is why Chavez took advantage.
And this is why Chavez took the victory.
The 10 Count
1. A closer look at the scorecards for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s win over Brian Vera reveals the differences in how the judges saw the action — with the one similarity being that all three gave more credit to Chavez for his power shots.
We’ve also seen judges favor aggression and activity without requiring the aggression to be effective and the activity to be accurate.
And we’ve seen judges overwhelmingly favor power punches to the head while paying little mind to jabbing and body shots.
I’d love to hear from each of the Chavez-Vera judges and know what they were watching. I know better than to expect that to actually happen.
The three judges only agreed on four of the 10 rounds. They all gave rounds 5, 6, 7 and 10 to Chavez.
Carla Caiz gave the first four rounds to Vera and the final six rounds to Chavez. Gwen Adair only gave Vera rounds 8 and 9. Marty Denkin also gave Vera those rounds, as well as round 3.
Caiz was in the minority for half of the rounds — and she still had the sanest scorecard of them all.
2. Chavez-Vera led the headlines by virtue of the various controversies, and also because it topped HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” broadcast. It wasn’t the only newsworthy item from the show, though.
There also was Adonis Stevenson, who defended his standing as the true light heavyweight champion by battering former titleholder Tavoris Cloud and scoring a seventh-round technical knockout.
Cloud was coming off his first career loss; he’d been out-boxed by Bernard Hopkins in March. Many observers also believe he’d deserved defeat against Gabriel Campillo back in February 2012. Nevertheless, Cloud had never been beaten up the way he was this past Saturday.
Stevenson was coming off a one-punch, one-round stoppage of Chad Dawson. His key punch this past Saturday also came on a left hand in the opening stanza. Cloud, an orthodox fighter, threw a left jab. Stevenson, a southpaw, countered with a cross that caught Cloud, cut Cloud’s eye and got Cloud’s attention.
Stevenson had said before the bout that he would box against the typically aggressive Cloud if necessary. That proved to be smart, as it set up opportunities for Stevenson to retaliate after making Cloud miss. And it took the aggression out of Cloud.
In his five previous fights, CompuBox statistics showed Cloud averaging nearly 69 punches per round, landing 20. He had been about 12 of 33 with his power punches each round.
Against Stevenson, Cloud threw just 176 punches over the course of seven rounds — an average of about 25 per round (a little more than one-third his usual work rate). He landed only 36, an average of about 5 per round (just one-fourth of his usual connects).
In terms of power punches, he threw just 55, or about eight per round (one-fourth of his usual), and he landed only 15, or about two per round (one-sixth of his usual).
3. Adonis Stevenson vs. Sergey Kovalev is the light heavyweight version of James Kirkland vs. Alfredo Angulo — except Stevenson-Kovalev would be a unification bout involving the lineal champion against a world titleholder.
4. How great are the boxing scenes in Montreal and Germany? They are so vibrant, and sustainable at that.
Local news outlets said the announced attendance at Montreal’s Bell Centre for Stevenson-Cloud was 9,122. That’s a good crowd for Stevenson in a city where Lucian Bute has been king, followed by Jean Pascal. Stevenson grew as a prospect on undercards there; this past weekend was his 19th fight in Montreal, and all but two of his 23 fights have been in the province of Quebec.
5. The cases of Curtis Stevens and Edwin Rodriguez are two rare situations in which clear B-sides in a bout rejected what they saw as unfavorable terms and wound up benefitting because of it.
Stevens said he turned down the first offer he received to face middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin on a card scheduled for this November. The next offer was enough to get him to sign. That offer came because Golovkin had a date and needed the right opponent. Stevens was available, is from Brooklyn (the fight is being staged at Madison Square Garden in New York City), and had been spotlighted on American television this year.
Rodriguez turned down the initial offer he received to face super middleweight champion Andre Ward. A subsequent offer added enough to his purse to get him to put his name on the dotted line. Ward needed a comeback opponent, and Rodriguez had enough of a name that HBO was willing to fund the fight.
The strategy to turn down their initial offers was gutsy, as they could’ve been left without big fights and the commensurate paychecks.
6. In mid-May, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions said he wanted to make a fight between welterweight titleholder Devon Alexander and Amir Khan.
The negotiations have been going on forever. They may end up being fruitless.
Ben Thompson of FightHype.com reported last week that the Dec. 7 card on which Alexander-Khan would have taken place could instead end up pitting Alexander against Zab Judah and, on the undercard, a potential bout between Paulie Malignaggi and Shawn Porter.
That would then leave Khan open for a fight with Floyd Mayweather, Thompson wrote, confirming what many of us have suspected as the Alexander negotiations lingered on — and as Mayweather’s team spoke of possibly promoting in the United Kingdom.
Khan last fought in late April. Mayweather’s next fight won’t be until May 2014. But I wouldn’t blame Khan for keeping himself available to take it. The Mayweather bout is as lucrative a fight as there is for him. And if his shaky chin is about to be shattered again, that might as well come against the best fighter in the world — no offense intended toward Alexander.
7. A fight between Mayweather and Khan is not yet a certainty. Nor does the prospect of it appeal to this scribe. But it wouldn’t surprise me if it does happen.
Mayweather’s final run in this sport is about spectacle. Muhammad Ali, in his prime, traveled to underdogs’ home countries. Mayweather-Khan would pack a huge arena in the United Kingdom and do well on pay-per-view there, counteracting some of the diminished business that would come with a buy rate in the United States that would be far, far less than Mayweather-Alvarez.
I’d rather Mayweather trade in his vehicle collection for Marty McFly’s DeLorean so he can go back in time and face some of the other welterweight greats.
8. Boxers Behaving Badly: Exum Speight has two types of records — a boxing record and a criminal record. As of right now, neither looks good.
Speight won just 9 of his 50 pro fights, losing 39 times and seeing two other bouts ending in a draw. Many of these defeats came against recognizable names at heavyweight and cruiserweight, including John Ruiz, Chris Byrd, Shannon Briggs, Wladimir Klitschko and Vassiliy Jirov, many of whom were very early into their careers. Speight's time in the sport lasted from 1986 to 2001.
But way back toward the beginning of his pro career, he allegedly killed his manager, a man named Douglas Stumler, according to CNN. That case dated all the way back to 1987; Speight, who is now 50 years old, was arrested last week.
Per the article: “Los Angeles' cold case detectives developed a break in the case after they screened potential forensic leads under a grant from National Institute of Justice's 'Solving Cold Cases with DNA' program, authorities said.”
9. The strangest venue for boxing might just belong to an Oct. 19 card in Wieliczka, Poland. It is there, according to Fightnews.com, that pro fights will be held underground “in a beautifully restored but nearly 700-year-old salt mine.”
There are photos online from the four previous cards held there. It actually looks pretty cool. One other thing’s for sure: Despite the venue, it still won’t be as cavernous as the Silverdome was for Timothy Bradley vs. Devon Alexander.
10. Boxing in an underground salt mine? Just when we thought boxing couldn’t sink any lower, it literally does…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]