Julio Cesar Chavez Jr makes his way back into the ring tonight, five months after winning a highly controversial points verdict over fringe contender Brian Vera as the pair clash again, this time at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
The first bout was plagued by delays along with problems Chavez had making the super middle weight limit, as Vera took financial compensation to allow the son of Mexico’s perhaps greatest fighter ever to tip the scales at 172 pounds.
This, coming on the heels of Chavez losing the WBC middleweight title to Sergio Martinez a year beforehand, after which Chavez reportedly failed a post-fight medical test and was allegedly accused by his trainer of failing to prepare properly for the contest.
While Vera, 23-7 (14), lost the official decision, many feel he deserved the win over Chavez, 47-1-1 (32), but at the very least, the Texas native did far better than anyone had predicted.
Was this because Chavez really had failed to prepare properly or had Vera, the reigning NABO middleweight titlist, had grown into a top fighter?
During large portions of the first fight, Chavez looked completely exhausted, keeping distance from Vera to avoid energy draining engagements and pot-shotting his opponent before moving off again, giving creedence to the first theory.
For the rematch, Team Chavez has announced that Jr has cut no corners in training camp and his weighing in yesterday at 167.5 pounds seems to back up that claim.
This will likely be bad news for Vera, who was unable to knock out or overwhelmingly defeat a shell of the fighter he will probably face tonight.
On the other hand, Chavez never faced truly top opposition until he was comprehensively outboxed by Martinez, defeating the likes of Sebastian Zbik, Peter Manfredo Jr, Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee in WBC middleweight title fights.
If Chavez is truly a world class operator who finally is motivated to reach his potential, he should hand defeat to Vera but if he is just a manufactured hype job, Vera should be able to expose him as such.
As in many cases, the truth is somewhere near the middle and we should be in for an interesting contest that sees Chavez either win by late round stoppage or decisive decision.
The undercard features the unusual spectacle of a one fight novice contending for a world title as two-time Olympic Gold Medallist Vasyl Lomachenko, 1-0 (1), challenges Orlando Salido, 40-12-2 (28), for the vacant WBO feather strap.
Saldio, who has seen innumerable highs and lows during his career, lost the WBO belt on the scales yesterday as he failed to make weight and thus cannot win the title should he defeat Lomachenko.
Ukraine native Lomachenko allegedly had a 396-1 record as an amateur, won Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012, turning pro in October by knocking out veteran Jose Ramirez, who possessed a 25-3 (15) record going into the fight, in four rounds for Ramirez’s WBO International featherweight crown.
Salido, 4-4-1NC over the course of eight world title contests, has previously held the IBF and WBO feather belts, winning the WBO trophy a second time this past October with a seventh round KO of Orlando Cruz.
For Salido, what’s really at stake here isn’t a world title, but his own reputation, which probably explains the missed weight limit as the 33 year old Mexican native doesn’t want to be remembered as a fighter who lost to a beginner in the professional game.
But Lomachenko isn’t anywhere close to being a novice as the 26 year old southpaw possesses astonishing footwork, allowing him to quickly shift position and catch opponents off balance from odd angles.
The California resident also has very quick reflexes, allowing him to stand right in front of opponents without getting hit before dishing out considerable punishment.
This should be a very good fight for as long as it lasts as both men like to operate on the inside, focusing on body shots and short punches upstairs.
Saldio has seen it all but after a hard 17 year career, could be ripe for the taking by a younger, bigger, faster opponent, although the veteran has been written off more times than anyone in the sport only to prove everyone wrong.
Salido, aptly enough, resides in Phoenix, Arizona but this time “Siri” could be facing too high a hurdle to overcome.