Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., returned to the ring on Saturday night before a crowd of roughly 7,000 and outpointed gritty Bryan Vera over twelve rough-and-tumble rounds at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Official scores were 117-110, 114-113, and 117-110. Unlike in their first fight last September—when Chavez was awarded a curious decision in Carson, California—there was no arguing about who won this time.
After opening the fight skirting the perimeter and alternating jabs with overhand rights, Chavez switched to his runaway-freight-train style, grinding Vera in close with hooks to the body and clubbing roundhouse shots. In response, Vera tried to establish distance behind a weak jab, but found himself exchanging too often with his bigger, stronger opponent on the inside. Chavez took his fair share of blows, but repeatedly smacked Vera around the ring.
Somehow Vera, now 23-8 with 14 knockouts, stood up to the punishment and returned fire as often as possible. It was another gutsy performance by a fighter whose limited skill is overshadowed most of the time by his incredible heart and determination. As a member of the scuffling underclass that makes up most of boxing, Vera has the kind of hunger that can serve as an equalizer against an opponent with an edge in talent. Unfortunately for Vera, desire was not enough to slow down Chavez, who looked like he was in peak condition for the first time since he demolished Andy Lee almost two years ago. In fact, Vera looked like he was ready to go in the eleventh.
Instead of trying to close the show in the last round, however, Chavez chose to hotdog for the final three minutes. He did a clumsy imitation of the Ali Shuffle, raced around the ring with his hands raised in the air, mugged at Vera, and backpedaled until the bell rang. It was almost as if Chavez, who improves to 48-1-1, with 32 knockouts and one no-contest, were auditioning for a dance routine on “Sabado Gigante.” Latinos are about as interested in showboating in combat sports as they are in ice fishing in Alaska, but Chavez seemed blissfully unaware of this. At 28, Chavez remains almost childlike in his approach to a sport where gravitas is a prerequisite. For Chavez to reclaim the respect of the aficion, he will have to do something big in the ring, and right now he is a loud target, with Gennady Golovkin, Carl Froch, and Andre Ward all looking to mix it up with “El Hijo De La Leyenda.”
Although Chavez was effective against the limited Vera, his crude stampeding methods will be easy pickings for world-class professionals. There is a good chance that Chavez realizes this. In an interview with NacionESPN in 2012, Chavez admitted that he suffered from anxiety and insomnia before his fight with Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez. These confessions, better suited for a Dr. Phil session, are not what you usually hear from a prizefighter. If Chavez gets a case of the nerves before facing Ward, Golovkin, or Froch he can forget about winning any Teen Choice Awards or earning the lasting respect of his suspicious paisanos.
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.