By Robert Morales
Promoter Bob Arum on Tuesday told reporters during a conference call that he would meet with fellow promoter Artie Pelullo on Wednesday morning to discuss what the weight will be for Saturday's fight between former middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. (on HBO).
They were supposed to fight at the 168-pound super middleweight limit, but apparently Chavez can't make that, so Arum said he had high hopes that something could be worked out with Pelullo, who handles Vera.
At Wednesday's final news conference in Los Angeles, a number was still not forthcoming, and Arum told reporters that the decided upon weight won't be known until Friday's weigh-in.
"Wait for the weight," Arum bellowed.
Finally, Vera's trainer - Ronnie Shields - told BoxingScene.com on Wednesday night that the camps agreed to fight at 173. That's 10 pounds more than the original weight discussed, eight more than the 165 that was also talked about, and five more than super middleweight.
This seems ridiculous, even for boxing. What's worse is that neither Chavez nor Arum seem to quite get it. At least it didn't appear that way when the two were taken to task during Tuesday's conference call. Chavez defended himself by talking about his days at 160, and Arum doled out some rather flattering stuff about his fighter.
First, a reporter asked Chavez about his reputation for not liking to train, which, for a guy who gets so big between fights, is not good.
"People have to realize how hard I trained for this fight," Chavez said. "It wasn't easy making 160, yet I made 160 and became world champion at 160 and made four title defenses. I came within a couple of seconds of knocking out the best 160-pounder meaning Sergio Martinez) in the world. So you can't say I didn't train for those fights. I was ready to fight, made weight and I showed everyone what I am capable of doing. I don't think people realized how hard it was to make 160 and how much I had to sacrifice to make 160."
Arum had his back.
"It's very difficult when a young man starts at the age that he did," Arum said, referring to Chavez not having an amateur career. "He had a completely different body than he has now. Now that he has matured, he is a big kid. There are light heavyweights who look smaller than he does. We have to question ourselves whether he stayed at 160 too long even though he was able to make the weight, because I really believe if you struggle to make weight, you deplete yourself and you can't give as good a performance than if you fight at a more natural weight.
"Julio is a big man and for him to get down to 160, he might still do it, but it would be a tremendous sacrifice for his health and for his ability to perform in the ring."
Chavez has said he would make the sacrifice to get back down to 160 if it's for a rematch with Martinez, who took Chavez's middleweight belt in September 2012 in Las Vegas. Yet, he can't even make 168 for Saturday?
Anyway, some of what Arum says makes sense. If a fighter has such difficulty making weight, he is likely to struggle at fight-time. People wondered why Chavez didn't go hard after Martinez the whole fight, instead of just the 12th round when Chavez had Martinez badly hurt. Perhaps it was because he was too weak to do anything of a sustained nature. Arum took things a step further, singing the praises of Chavez like only a promoter can.
"I think Chavez is an enormous talent and he's always performed at a very high level for us and we're proud of his performances," Arum said. "And even in the Martinez fight, where throughout the fight Martinez was getting the better of him, Chavez wouldn't quit and stayed in there and almost pulled out the fight miraculously.
"I never doubt Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and his performances. He's a true athlete and he always gives 100 percent in the ring. ... I think the adulation of the Mexican fans toward him is very justified. I think he should get enormous credit. We all know about athletes whose fathers were world famous and how difficult it is for them to excel, particularly in the same sport. But I think he's carried himself well."
Arum a friend to '420'
It's no secret that Arum is 420 friendly. He demonstrated that again Tuesday when a reporter asked Chavez to talk about testing positive for marijuana after the Martinez fight.
"You make mistakes and it happens," said Chavez, who was suspended nine months for the Nevada State Athletic Commission and fined $100,000; originally, the fine was $900,000 before being reduced. "Everyone makes mistakes; it happens, I am human."
Arum scoffed at the notion his fighter did anything wrong.
"I want to go on record as saying there is nothing wrong with smoking pot," Arum said. "Any sentence for an athlete smoking marijuana other than when he was actually performing in the ring, is unconscionable and wrong and even WADA has said the same thing.
"Let's be real about it. There is nothing wrong with pot and pot can actually be beneficial. I know what Julio said, that he did wrong. I don't think he did anything wrong by smoking pot two weeks prior to his fight with Martinez."
Earlier this year WADA - the World Anti-Doping Agency - changed its rules about what constitutes a dirty test. Now it takes 150 nanograms per milliliter rather than just 15. Now, one would have to be a regular smoker to be in violation. Basically, WADA is no longer concerned with athletes who use pot out of competition.
Vera could be the hungry one
During a news conference in late August in Los Angeles, Chavez said that this is like the beginning of the second part of his career. Well, Vera intimated he started the second part of his career when he signed on with manager Dave Watson.
Without mentioning any names, Vera said he felt like he was fighting for nothing before and suggested his previous management team did not properly take care of his business. But without going into detail on all that, he sounded like he really wanted to focus on the present, which isn't too shabby.
After losing three consecutive fights - to James Kirkland, Craig McEwan and Isaac Rodrigues from November 2008 to February 2010 - Vera's career appeared all but dead. But he made the move to Watson after the loss to McEwan. And though he's had two other losses under Watson - to Max Bursak and Andy Lee - Vera also has two wins over Sergio Mora since hooking up with Watson, and, most impressively, one over former junior middleweight champion Sergei Dzinziruk last January.
Vera is 7-3 with four knockouts with Watson, and he's won four straight.
"I just wasn't motivated because I felt like I ws fighting for nothing," Vera said of his pre-Watson days. "It was a bad situation. Then I was out in the streets chasing girls, doing all the bad things, because I wasn't happy with the situation I was in. Once I dedicated myself and made a change, got with him (Watson), everything started falling into place."
Vera has parlayed his situation into a No. 1 ranking in one of the four governing bodies.
"It means everything," said Vera, of Austin, Texas. "It's a good story to tell later on to my kids, because I'm not supposed to be here."
Vera, 31, said he always knew he had this in him.
"I always felt if I got around the right people, and just dedicated myself, I could be in this position and on to bigger and better things," he said. "It's not going to last much longer, so I'm trying to make sure I get the best out of it."
Vera talks strategy
Vera, who is 23-6 with 14 knockouts, is a tough hombre. Not the type of fighter who runs around much. But he suggested he'll move just a bit to perhaps throw Chavez off track.
"We're not going to stay in front of him like I normally would," Vera said. "We plan on doing that, but just getting around, making it difficult for him. A lot of these guys stay on the ropes with him and let him bang them out. But we're trying to get out of there and not be that guy. Make him go back."
Vera also wondered about ring rust for Chavez, who will not have fought in slightly more than a year when he steps into the ring Saturday.
"I think I will capitalize on him because he hasn't fought in so long," Vera said.
"Anybody who hasn't fought in a year, it's going to be hard to get back here for anybody."
Golovkin sees fear in opponents
Gennady Golovkin is not a braggart, nor does he talk trash. Getting him to boast about himself at all is quite a task. But during a recent Los Angeles news conference promoting his upcoming middleweight title defense against Curtis Stevens on Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden (on HBO), Golovkin responded to a reporter who wanted to know if he can see any fear in the eyes of his opponents before the bell rings. Keep in mind that Golovkin is 27-0 with 24 knockouts and has the highest knockout ratio of any current champion.
"Before a fight? No," he said. "After two rounds, a little bit, yes."
Fighting on the streets of Kazakhstan
Golovkin, 31, has lived in Germany the past seven years but he was born and raised in Kazakhstan. He said he got into a lot of street fights as a kid.
"My area was not good," he said. "A lot of good fighters. It was very good school, outside was always dangerous. Crazy. I remember 20 years ago, just crazy times."
And he's a comedian
Golovkin doesn't speak a lot of English, but what he knows, he speaks well. He was queried as to what sports he played growing up. He ran down the list, mentioning basketball and soccer among the sports. Someone brought up hockey.
"Hockey, no, because too much fighting," he said, holding up his dukes and smiling.
Reporters laughed out-loud.
No-win situation for Golovkin?
Abel Sanchez, Golovkin's classy yet out-spoken trainer, was told at the Golovkin-Stevens news conference that it appeared his fighter was in a no-win situation.
He's expected to beat Stevens. If he doesn't, it's a huge step in reverse.
Sanchez did not disagree. But he said he's used to it.
"It's a catch-22 for us, but it's a catch-22 for anybody I train," he said. "Anybody that Freddie (Roach) is involved with, that (the late) Emanuel (Steward) was involved with, that Virgil Hunter's involved with, anybody that comes out of those gyms and comes out of my gym, people expect something from them because of who you've had in the past.
"It's a little unfair, but that's the business that we're in and I wouldn't agree to a fight if I didn't think that he (Golovkin) was going to look spectacular like I want him to. All these guys, all these trainers, we're in the same position - a catch-22. But that's OK, we understand that. But as a fight fan, if I see Virgil's guys fighting and Freddie's guys fighting, I want them to fight somebody that makes them work. I don't want a one round blowout; that doesn't make any sense."
Sanchez said he doesn't want that for this fight, either.
"Hopefully, this kid (Stevens) right here, the way he's talking, the way he's fought two or three times - he's got power, he's coming up to 168 - hopefully he presents that kind of problem for us," Sanchez said. "If it's a 12-round fight, it's a 12-round fight. I don't think it will be because I believe Gennady is on a different level than this guy is. And we're going to find out in the first couple of rounds.""
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News and BoxingScene.com.