By Cliff Rold
The wheels did not come off the train. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. did the second time what he should have the first, getting himself into shape and beating down a game but overmatched Brian Vera on Saturday.
It was the sort of performance that told us a lot of what we already knew. Vera is a limited but rugged warrior who, based on his style, is a big punch short of being a player. He makes great fights with what he’s got and can play spoiler. He is who he was coming in.
The same is true of Junior. He is who he was coming in but after this latest outing, it’s worth asking: is he HBO’s new Arturo Gatti?
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Chavez B; Vera B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Chavez B+; Vera B/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Chavez C; Vera B-/Post: C; C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Chavez B-; Vera B/Post: B+; A
In terms of intangibles, Vera has the sort of professional character and heart fans always look for. His work ethic has allowed him to become someone who can be plugged in with many the right big names at Middleweight and Super Middleweight without looking out of place.
Names like Chavez. While the decision in their first bout still bears a stink, the silver lining was getting two entertaining scraps out of the deal. This time, Chavez got in shape and it showed. Where he lacked for activity between big bombs in the first fight, he kept his hands moving this time and earned the win. All the while, he took plenty of leather in return, something he does in most fights.
While he hasn’t faced many elite punchers, it’s safe to say he’s got an elite beard based on how little he appears affected by the shots he has taken in multiple fights now. Chavez is reliable in that sense. He’s also reliable in terms of what to expect at the right level of foe.
Matched with an elite talent like Sergio Martinez, he was badly outclassed until a sheer size advantage made for a dramatic end. Martinez isn’t a big Middleweight. As he makes his way into the mine fields at Super Middleweight and potentially Light Heavyweight, that won’t bode well against talents like Andre Ward, but at the next level down (guys like Sakio Bika for instance, though promotional issues might obstruct that particular fight), we could get some good scraps.
This is where Chavez might fill the gap left behind by Gatti. No, he hasn’t been in the same sort of chaotic wars as yet and may not. Gatti-type wars are exceptions to most rules. And there is nothing to indicate he is as yet as good as Gatti. Chavez has yet to beat anyone as good as Tracy Patterson or Gabe Ruelas.
But what ultimately was Gatti’s role? He was the reliable action star whose fights could make the meat and potatoes fan happy, win or lose, against the right level of opposition and who could serve as the big name walkover for the elite. Unlike Gatti, Chavez can even play a little bit of the villain to add a little spice to events.
Gatti made classic fare with guys below the elite level like Ivan Robinson and Mickey Ward and was drubbed against Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. Chavez is must-see TV against guys like Vera, Andy Lee, and John Duddy. Those sorts of fights can maintain his brand while spacing out nights like Martinez already and perhaps Gennady Golovkin or Ward down the road.
On those nights, he will serve the function of making better fighters into bigger stars before resuming action with the fighters he can beat. None of this is a bad thing. It speaks to how important Chavez can be to the sport as long as he continues on and can stay in decent shape.
He isn’t a great fighter and he won’t be one. Chavez though is a good one and he’s good in all the right ways to make him easy to anticipate.
Report Card Picks 2014: 7-5
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com