And Vera had plenty of time to get here as this fight was delayed throughout the summer months and then postponed for September 7th after Chavez suffered a cut during sparring in late August. With this much time to prepare, there is always the chance of overtraining and getting stale in the gym.
“There are times I thought I needed to take it down but we had our last sparring day on Saturday and that was the best day I had. So that kinda made me feel a little better about the situation because I was strong and we did 10 rounds but I felt like a beast and that’s what kinda gave me the psyche that I am in the best shape and I’m not overtrained at all,” said the 31-year-old Vera, who comes in with a record of 23-6 (14).
His trainer, the respected Ronnie Shields believes he has a fighter in optimum physical condition. “Without a doubt, we’ve had a very long time to prepare for this fight. They canceled it, what, three times? So I gave him a little bit of time off and brought him back and forth, back and forth. So he’s in great shape,” said Shields, who had Vera join him when the veteran trainer’s charges, Jermell and Jermall Charlo fought in various locales.
Vera, the reigning NABO middleweight titlist, can still make the 160-pound limit relatively easy but to land this assignment, he had to agree to make this fight at the super middleweight limit of 168 pounds. However, there is talk that the perpetually troubled Chavez Jr. may not be able to make the weight. His father said on ESPN Deportes’ “Golpe a Golpe” that there is a chance the weight limit could be moved to 173.
Before all this took place, Vera understood that Chavez not making the agreed weight was a distinct possibility.
“There’s a little bit of talk about him coming in a little heavy but we don’t know for sure, so I guess we’ll see. Ronnie and my manager, Dave [Watson] got this stuff under control. So whatever they say, if he does come in over, I’m sure he’s going to have to get penalized for it.”
On a national conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Top Rank founder Bob Arum commented that he would be meeting Vera’s promoter, Artie Pelullo for breakfast on Wednesday and that the weight limit would be determined then (yeah, seriously, that’s what he stated).
But the hard reality is Vera has waited his whole career for an opportunity like this, putting it on hold for the better part of six months. He may never get a chance to be on a stage this big ever again. The inequity of the business almost forces Vera to go through with this fight under almost any circumstance.
Vera is well aware of that, stating, “Y’ know, Ronnie’s like, ‘If it’s a couple of pounds over, yeah, we gotta negotiate something and try to make him close it or give him a day-of-the-fight weight, that type of thing. But if he comes in eight-to-10 pounds over, I mean, it’s just one of those things. Man, it’s hard to say, really.”
Chavez being heavy is like the sun coming up in the east. It’s something you expect. At last month’s press conference, Vera noticed, “[Chavez] wore a big shirt but he looked big to me. I don’t know how he’s going to get that weight down. I guess he’s got it covered or whatever, so we’ll see.”
Shields, a veteran of this business, isn’t surprised by any of this.
“Well, at first the fight was at 163 at the beginning, then when it got canceled, they came back at 168,” he explained. “We knew right then that Chavez was having trouble with the weight, so then they came back at 168 and Brian came to me and asked what I thought. I said, ‘Look, Brian, this guy is a big guy regardless of what weight he’s going to fight. He’s going to still be 30 pounds heavier than you no matter what. Now, it’s up to you. If you feel good about the fight, then go ahead with it. If you don’t, then we’ll pass on it.’”
According to Shields, Vera, drawing upon his past experiences sparring with Chavez, felt he could handle whatever disadvantage in size he may encounter.
What will most likely happen is more money will be thrown Vera’s way to make sure this fight goes off on Saturday night. It will add an already career-high payday. Vera has scratched out a living scraping together small paydays on ESPN2 but he’s never been in this tax bracket. Again, he could make a stand by walking away if the contracted weight is not met but he’d also lose out on a lucrative opportunity that may never come his way again. It may not be a life-changing amount but it will certainly make life easier.
“I’m definitely making six-figures. I’m going to do the best I’ve ever done but obviously, winning this fight is what will keep me up for bigger and better opportunities and get things going for me as far as the rest of my life and whatnot. So yeah, it’s definitely the biggest thing for me,” said Vera.
Vera, who has defeated the likes of Andy Lee, Sergio Mora and Serhiy Dzinziruk during his career, understands the impact of this fight. “It could blow me up right now, so for me, that’s why I spent so much time in camp and stayed focused. I know this could be a life-changing fight for me.”
Since hooking up with Shields, Vera is an improved fighter. Toughness and grit weren’t the problem; his problems were more the technical variety.
“I think he’s moving his head a lot more. Brian, when I first got him and started working with him, bad habits galore. I mean, a lot of bad habits. He had such bad habits that I couldn’t straighten all of them out,” Shields explained. “I had to straighten the most important ones out and that was basically moving his head, keeping his hands up and he’s been good at it. Lately, he’s been really good at it. So this fight, I feel more confident than in any other fight.”
If Vera wins, it will be considered an upset. Hey, there’s a reason why Top Rank chose him after all. But there’s also a reason why you fight the fights and you get the sense this guy is going to empty his bucket.
Shield says, “I think he’s going to win because Chavez is really underestimating him and I mean, they’re already talking about fighting this person, that person, they going here, they doing that and all we’re doing is just using it as motivation. We’re not worried about what they’re thinking or whatever. The whole thing is he’s gotta get in there with Brian Vera before he even thinks about anybody else. He’s gotta face Brian Vera first.”
Chavez Jr. is boxing royalty, bequeathed his standing in the game by sheer virtue of his father’s legacy. Vera is just a blue-collar guy who has dutifully punched into work each and every day with little fanfare or acclaim. This fight just might mean more to him and it’s why he thinks he will gore this cash cow.
“It does have a lot to do with it. I think also because I’m a better fighter,” he says, “but at the end of the day, yeah, that has a lot to do with it. Like I was telling everybody and I’ve been saying, anytime you take a year off for any fight, it’s going to be hard to come back. He’s going to be rusty; me, I’ve been busy and it’s the best I’ve ever been as far as my boxing career goes. I’m looking forward to it on Saturday.”
Chavez held a media day at the Azteca Gym on Tuesday afternoon and I have to say, while he certainly looks big, he’s not fat or soft by any means. In fact, he looks more muscular and defined than usual. He looks like a guy who was indeed putting in the physical work. In talking to some of his camp, they believe during this hiatus, Chavez has grown into his body. One thing that was noticeable was just how large his lower body is.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. works out during media day in Los Angeles for his upcoming rumble against No. 1 contender Bryan Vera
Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank
I don’t know if he can make 168 effectively but it certainly looks like his days at middleweight are over. It’s also still farcical that the weight limit for this fight could still be fudged just a few days before it takes place. There are catchweights and then I guess there is the “Chavez-weight” (where the weight limit is determined as soon as he gets off the scales).
“The camp’s very good; I feel 100 percent for this fight. The weight is good and I’m ready,” Chavez told the assembled media.
When asked if this contest could take place at 173 pounds, he responded, “Uh, no, the contract is 168.”
When asked if he would hit that mark, he replied, “Yes, no problem.”
Shields will be in another underdog’s corner when Edwin Rodriguez challenges super middleweight king Andre Ward on November 16th. The question is, is he ready for such a fight?
“Absolutely,” answered Shields without hesitation, “otherwise we wouldn’t do it. Boxing is a sport where you have to pick and choose the right fights and I think catching Andre Ward coming off of injury, number one, hadn’t fought in a year, number two, he’s never faced a guy like Edwin Rodriguez before - never. He’s fought some good guys but each one of those guys are so different than an Edwin Rodriguez. So this is where I feel we have an advantage.”
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