Top Rank announced today that former WBC middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (46-1-1 will return to the ring on September 7, 2013 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The bout will be televised live on HBO. Chavez, Jr. will be making his comeback from his first defeat, a wide unanimous decision loss to middleweight champion, Sergio Martinez, and the subsequent suspension for testing positive for marijuana (the second drug related suspension of his career). His opponent is former Contender contestant Brian Vera (23-6) who is on a four fight winning streak. That streak includes wins over Sergio Mora and Serhiy Dzinziruk. The fight will be contested in the super middleweight division.
Despite this announcement, there is rampant speculation in boxing circles about whether the fight will occur. Noted boxing writer Steve Kim of Maxboxing has tweeted more than once that he doubts the fight will actually happen on September 7, 2013. Indeed, after announcing the fight on his twitter feed, Kim tweeted “No word on when Top Rank will announce the refund policy for Chavez-Vera… I kid, I kid…” All jokes aside though, there are many reasons to believe the fight will be cancelled or postponed.
First, Dan Rafael of ESPN has reported that Chavez, Jr. does not have a valid visa to allow entry into the United States. Chavez, Jr.’s visa issue has been well known for a few months now. In fact, when Top Rank was planning Chavez, Jr.’s return, the initial plan was for his fight to occur in Mexico City, Mexico in August. Staying in Mexico would allow Chavez, Jr. to get a fight in while working on the visa issue. However, HBO was not keen on airing the fight from Mexico because the costs of televising from there would be much higher. Thus, Chavez, Jr.’s people have been working to get his visa in order. As you may know, the visa process is not an easy one, nor is it quick. The process may not be complete in 7 weeks which means the fight could not happen on September 7, 2013.
The second reason which may necessitate a postponement or cancellation of Chavez, Jr.-Vera is Chavez, Jr.’s weight. When Top Rank was planning for an August return, they wanted Chavez, Jr. to face Martin Murray at 160 pounds for the WBC interim middleweight title. Murray was coming off of a competitive loss to Martinez and was approved by HBO. That said, he had his own visa issues which prevented him from coming to the United States. A fight in Mexico would have been possible but Chavez, Jr. did not want to fight at 160 pounds. Then, it was widely reported that Top Rank had agreed to Vera as the opponent at 164 pounds. Vera, who has fought at super middleweight, has recently been fighting at 160 pounds so the weight was a concession to Chavez, Jr.. With the official announcement today, the maximum weight for the bout is 168 pounds. Then again, that could change as well (for example, this past weekend’s rematch between Kell Brook and Carson Jones was contracted at 150 pounds and was changed to 152 pounds shortly before the fight at the request of Brook, the more popular fighter). Two weeks ago, Chavez, Jr. was seen and photographed at his brother Omar’s fight and he looked to be around 200 pounds. Losing 32 pounds in 7 weeks or so will not be easy. It has been widely speculated that Chavez, Jr. has pulled out of fights in the past, usually claiming some sort of training injury, when he was really overweight. Additionally, Vera might not be willing to give Chavez, Jr. more of an advantage by agreeing to an increase in the maximum weight.
Finally, there is the related issue of Chavez, Jr.’s training. It has been well-documented that Chavez, Jr. did not diligently prepare for the Martinez fight and that cost him. He was shown on HBO’s “24/7” that Chavez, Jr. could be quite lazy and his trainer, Freddie Roach, all but confirmed that. ESPN Deportes recently published an interview with Roach where he explained that he has not heard anything from Chavez, Jr. regarding training camp. In fact, Roach believes he will not be training Chavez, Jr. for this fight. He said he would but he believes time has run out to arrange and conduct a proper training camp. So it remains unclear who will train Chavez, Jr. and when he will begin training.
The speculation will continue until an announcement is made or the bell is rung on the night of September 7, 2013. Perhaps the lead up to the bout will be more interesting than the fight. Stay tuned…