Can Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. – the boxer we love to hate – redeem himself?

Read more

Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., L’Enfant terrible of boxing, returns to the ring on March 1 when he faces Brian Vera on HBO at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. No doubt Chavez will also bring along his favorite sidekick: Old Trouble. In fact, Old Trouble is what forced this rematch against Vera in the first place. Last year, Vera, a scrappy but limited pug from Austin, appeared to outwork Chavez over 10 rounds of crude slugging. Somehow, Chavez was awarded a unanimous decision as implausible as the plotline of Homeland. Jeers, not cheers, greeted the scorecards that night, and Chavez saw his hold over the Negative Appeal demographic—which just happens to be one of the most lucrative in boxing—strengthen considerably.

As the son of the greatest fighter Mexico ever produced, Chavez has been dogged for nearly a decade by accusations of nepotism, favoritism, absurdism, and just about every other –ism imaginable. Part Lindsay Lohan, part Lounge Lizard, part Lex Luthor, Chavez has exasperated not only his trainers, promoters, and managers over the last few years, but he has also squandered the good will he earned after a credible –  albeit losing –  performance against middleweight champion Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez in 2012, when Chavez rallied late to score a knockdown and came within a left hook or two of notching a shocking upset. Although he lost a lopsided decision, Chavez proved that he was more than just a sideshow act against Martinez. It was one hell of a short afterglow, though: within days it was reported that Chavez had failed his drug test (for marijuana), and his claim that he had used cannabis solely as a remedy for insomnia produced enough LOLs to overwhelm broadband connections across North America.

After serving a suspension, Chavez returned—seemingly unrepentant—last September, creating his own weight class against Vera and winning an unpopular decision against his much smaller opponent. Add these sins to a list that already includes a DUI charge, a previous suspension for using diuretics, and a slew of canceled fights, and Chavez likely has lower poll numbers than Congress. And to Mexicans—for whom prizefighting is often bound up in matters of honor and national pride—Chavez may be as popular right now as Antonio Lopez Santa Anna was in, say, 1848. Like “The Napoleon of the West,” however, Chavez can return to the good graces of his paisanos all over again with the right kind of performance against Vera: a sizzling KO win, for example. But given the fact that Chavez may be surrounded at this very moment by overturned bottles of Jarritos, crumpled bags of Doritos, and stale bits of Coricos, Vera is more than just a live underdog. In fact, he may be the man who gives Chavez future sleepless nights.

Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.