By Kieran Mulvaney
Photo: Will Hart
This time there was no controversy, no booing by the crowd at the decision, no looks of bewilderment from the media – except perhaps over one of the scorecards, which was closer than it should have been. For the second time in five months, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr scored a unanimous decision win over Bryan Vera, but whereas the previous victory was shrouded in dispute and discord, this one was emphatic.
At times, Saturday’s main event in San Antonio morphed from professional boxing to Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, or a fight scene from a Rocky movie. Scribbling notes about the action in the ring almost became a case of writing “Chavez lands a huge right hand” and “Vera comes back with a right hand of his own,” over and over. Cut and paste.
For twelve rounds, Chavez (48-1-1, 32 KOs) and Vera threw everything they had at each other. The difference, ultimately, was that Chavez landed harder, he landed at a higher rate – the connect percentage on his power punches was a ridiculous 62 percent – and he landed with greater variety. He was, at the end of the day, simply better.
He needed to be, because Vera (23-8, 14 KOs) showed what he had shown in the previous contest: that he is possessed of relentless energy and a determination to keep coming forward no matter what kind of punishment is being flung in his direction. In the first fight, Chavez had been too slow, too still; even though on that occasion, too, his punches were the more authoritative, he allowed Vera to outwork him with a blistering fusillade of blows of his own. This time, the Mexican boxed far more intelligently and with greater activity from the beginning, stepping forward with his jab and throwing thudding left hooks that Vera seemed powerless to avoid. Chavez mixed up his punches, throwing to Vera’s body and causing him to drop his guard, and then switching upstairs, and following up his hooks with hellacious right hands that repeatedly snapped Vera’s head around and sent the spray flying.
Round after round, Vera would begin brightly enough, but each time Chavez would grind him down with his heavy-fisted assault until, at the end of each three-minute spell, Vera would take a deep breath and head back to the corner looking increasingly ragged. But then after a minute of recovery, he would come back out again and start firing – his uppercut proving especially effective – until Chavez would resume his assault anew.
Throughout it all, the crowd lustily roared its approval, never more so than during an extraordinary eleventh round in which Chavez, showing his first signs of tiring, suddenly landed a left/right combination that looked to have Vera almost out on his feet. But the next blow apparently woke him up, as the Texan simply smiled again and threw more combinations of his own.
Cut and paste.
The twelfth saw Chavez running out the clock, doing the Ali shuffle and staying out of trouble – a necessary consequence, he said afterward, of having hurt his right hand in the previous frame. When that twelfth round was completed, the scores were unanimous – 114-113, 117-110, and 117-110 again – in the Mexican’s favor.
“I thought the fight was really close,” said Vera. “A lot closer than it was on the scorecards. I thought the fight should have been scored closer.”
But there were no real complaints from the loser, merely an acknowledgement that, as much as his face-first fighting style is exciting, it may not be in his best interests.
“I’m a fighter and I always give people great fights,” he said. “I’ve got a tough chin. We grew up rough. My mom and dad raised us to be tough kids. I’m too hard-headed and I need to work on things to be a smarter fighter to get where I want to get.”
For Chavez, who had been heavily criticized for failing to come close to making weight for the first fight, the take-home lesson was equally simple.
“Vera saw a better Julio this time,” he said. “The real difference in this fight was that I was on weight.”