The Legend of Chavez Jr. Grows..and Grows and Grows

The legend continues for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Unfortunately, instead of adding to the foundation his father built while being arguably the greatest fighter in Mexico’s history, Junior’s legend is increasingly becoming unprofessional and arrogant flippancy.

Chavez will fight Texas middleweight Bryan Vera tonight in an HBO-televised match at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The problem? It’s now a bout scheduled at light heavyweight, a weight class above any division Vera has ever fought in before. Moreover, Vera likely could’ve made the weight limit this week in full clothes without training a lick. Meanwhile, the ever growing Chavez apparently had to work his way down to the egregiously high new contract weight from whatever the massive behemoth weighs in at when he’s not scheduled to fight.

The bout was first scheduled at a contract weight of 163 pounds. After it was postponed because of a cut Chavez suffered while training, the new contract weight was moved to 168. This week, the poundage moved all the way up to 173.

Vera, a game fighter who has lost most every bout he’s had against upper echelon middleweight opponents, isn’t in a position to turn down the extra cash thrown at him to continue to fight. Nor is he the type of fighter with the luxury of turning down a TV date on HBO. Instead, he’ll come into Saturday’s contest even more an underdog than he would have been otherwise.

Make no mistake. Chavez isn’t fat. In a recent picture posted by Top Rank’s Crystina Poncher via Twitter, Chavez appears as muscular and in shape as ever.

Bob Arum, Top Rank’s CEO, said Chavez was just too big now.

“I think he’s in good condition,” Arum told Boxing Channel’s Marcos Villegas. “The problem is that he keeps growing. At a time that he believes a weight is easy to achieve, it turns out it’s not because he’s grown an inch. Until they stop growing, it’s a very, very big problem. He’s now the size of a football tight end. He started out as a professional at 140 pounds. So he’s become a totally different human being. So yeah, a lot of it is on him, but a lot of it is understanding what’s happening to his body.”

The person not responsible for what’s happening to Chavez’s body, of course, is Bryan Vera. So while it might be fair to say Chavez has simply outgrown the middleweight division, it’s equally fair to say he and his team are responsible for finding fighters larger than middleweight to tussle with come fight night. It’s simply not fair to the smaller fighter, especially someone like Vera who stands to make one of the biggest paydays in his career this Saturday simply by showing up to fight.

Weight classes exist in boxing for a reason.

Chavez Jr. began his professional career in 2003 at 130 pounds. He moved up to 140 immediately after, competing at the weight for around two years. Soon, it was evident he needed to move seven pounds north to welterweight. That lasted for about a year. Chavez was then a junior middleweight where his breakout win was a six round stoppage of Rey Sanchez in late 2007. By the end of 2009, Chavez was a full-fledged middleweight.

Chavez captured the WBC title belt in 2011 by defeating rugged contender Sebastian Zbik. The bout marked his first appearance on HBO. Wins over solid middleweights Peter Manfredo Jr., Marco Antonio Rubio and Andy Lee built him into a true threat for the lineal middleweight championship held by Sergio Martinez.

Chavez lost virtually every round in the encounter, save for the last when he was moments away from knocking Martinez out after crushing him down to the canvas with several hard blows. Martinez made it to his feet, survived and won a wide decision.

Chavez tested positive for marijuana after the bout, and was handed a nine-month suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He recently split with trainer Freddie Roach and hired his father as trainer.

Chavez isn’t a bad fighter. He’s proven to be damn near elite. His problem seems to be a lack of discipline. While one can certainly debate the illegality of marijuana and whether it’s justifiable to outlaw its use, it’s much more difficult to justify the use of any type of mind altering substance in the weeks leading up to the biggest fight of a boxer’s career. In a sport where some men forego sexual activity and the consumption of red meat leading up to fights, smoking marijuana just won’t cut it.

Even less justifiable is the moving of a contract weight less than a week before a fight.

Regardless, Chavez’s name and talent will keep him relevant so long as he decides to sign the dotted line and show up on fight night. Hopefully, the last-minute change in Saturday’s contract weight will give him and his handlers cause to start taking the fight game more seriously. If so, Chavez could be a real force in a division featuring exciting competition. A Chavez bout against any of the top super middleweights in the world would make great television. HBO would be happy to pay for it, and fight fans would be happy to watch it.

“I think it’d be crazy for him to fight at middleweight. I think with a good nutritionist he can be comfortable at 168 and that’s where he should be fighting,” said Arum.

So no rematch with Martinez then, Bob? Didn’t Chavez say he could make 160 for that one? Will we ever seen Chavez signing a middleweight contract again?

“I don’t think we’ll ever see that,” said Arum.

Let’s hope not.