Julio Cesar Chavez Jr said that in the buildup to his rematch with Brian Vera that he was reinventing himself both proffesionally and personally. Gone were the old bad habits, the lax training, the poor diet, the smoking of questionable substances. In were discipline and control.
And from the way hes started boxing this bout, he wasn’t just reinventing his life, he was reinventing his style.
We’ve got used to seeing Chavez Jr as a (bad) imitation of his father, coming forward, walking opponents down and breaking them apart on the inside with a sustained body attack and inescapable pressure. A huge man for the weightclass, Chavez Jr didn’t really use his height but he did use his weight, swinging his body through punches and wearing opponents down as he leaned on them.
Yet he came into this bout seemingly trying to be a boxer/puncher, stepping back, walking away, trying to pop his jab and slip through left hooks and straights. He had some success with the punching part but for the record Vera has never been a boxer known for being able to avoid a punch. The problem was the defensive part. He may have caught Vera by surprise in the first round but crouched down, with his hands out of position Chavez quickly discovered to his cost in the second that Vera was able to land swinging right hand after swinging right hand.
Deciding that reinvention can wait for another day Chavez soon reverted to type, giving up the pretence of being a boxer in favour of being the brawler who had found success at 160lbs. By the end of the third he was bullying Vera back, by the fourth he was starting to land hurtful looking punches and by the fifth the first signs that Vera was breaking down began to shine through. That’s not to say Vera didn’t have his moments… he did, be it with more swinging rights or short uppercuts on the inside… but his punches barely seemed to impact Chavez Jr, while the Mexican’s own punches snapped Vera’s head back with every shot that landed clean and caused his body to tremble with every deep body shot. Vera was busy on the inside (notably with the aforementioned uppercuts which Chavez always seemed to be open for) but the notable shots that caused the audience (remarkably evenly split between the two) to “oohh” and “aahh” came from Chavez Jr.
By the end of the seventh Vera… who’s effort could never be questioned… was starting to look really tired and in the eighth Chavez started to take complete control, walking through Vera’s shots and landing sickening ones of his own. Vera’s situation went from bad to worse when he was deducted a point for pushing Chavez Jr’s head down (a soft point deduction but Vera had been warned previously). Perhaps reacting to that, perhaps reacting to the (explitive filled) demands of his trainer Ronnie Shields or perhaps simply because he’s that sort of man, Vera gritted down on his gumshield and seemed to gain a second wind… but by the 10th Chavez was back in control.
For all that however, the bout was reasonably close with each round competative. Vera was the busier and while his shots may not have been spectacular they were frequent. Chavez’s own offence came in spurts but when it did it was spectacular, especially his right hand. Scoring rounds often came down to whether you favoured the more frequent work of Vera or the more exciting work of Chavez Jr.
And then Chavez Jr took over completely in the 11th. He wobbled Vera with a right hand, hit him another and later landed a sizzling left hook… all followed up by nasty body work. Yet Vera could not be put down or detered. He had looked like he was falling apart, looked like he had been bullied but he kept coming forward and kept trying. He may not have been that effective but it was enough to keep him in the bout and keep the crowd on its feet. The 12th was somewhat of a procession; thinking he had the bout run Chavez moved, posed and preened while a frustrated Vera chased him without being able to land anything of note.
As you’d sort of expect with as many close rounds as this the scorecards were somewhat confused with one judge having it 114-113 (so a draw if not for the point deduction) and two having it 117-110. I have no issue with any of the cards… if you split the close rounds then the narrow card makes sense, if you think Chavez Jr had the edge in them the wider cards made sense. Both fighters can hold their head high after that performance.
For Chavez Jr it now looks like he’s a super middleweight for the forseeable future. At 168lbs he’s still a big man although he doesn’t quite hulk over opponents at the way he did at 160lbs. The options for Chavez Jr are massive; people are already talking about Golovkin (who has delayed… and most likely cancelled… his bout with Andy Lee due to the death of his father) with Golovkin moving up in weight. One of the reasons Andre Ward wasted 2013 was trying to leave his promoter to sign with Top Rank and face Chavez Jr, Froch talked about facing him when deciding whether to rematch Groves and pretty much every fighter in or around 168lbs is going to want a piece of Chavez Jr and the big money he brings.
As for Vera this bout is pretty much what he does. Come in against favoured fighters, box his heart out, put on a fairly exciting bout and give them a real test. Nothing has changed there. Back at 160lbs he doesn’t face the sort of physical disadvantages he does against Chavez Jr and he’d be an interesting test for any of the would be contenders at middleweight.
Vasyl Lomachenko came into his second pro bout with a lot of hype behind him. In truth, most of it was deserved… one look at Lomachenko’s amateur accolades shows that. That’s why he was put into world title bout in only his second pro bout (depending on your views on the World Series of Fighting).
Orlando Salido is exactly the sort of fighter who enjoys ruining those with hype.
Salido gave Lomachenko a boxing lesson. Not a lesson in the clean, crisp amateur style… Lomachenko is arguably the greatest ever at that. No, this lesson was in the professional style, in gritty in-fighting, in borderline low blows, in 12 hard rounds of actions.
I predicted a Salido win but I predicted it on the basis that Lomachenko would outclass him early before Salido started to get to him later on as Lomachenko tired. That’s not what happened. The first half of the bout was cagey and tactical with Lomachenko never looking comfortable or getting into his flow. Salido was the busier man and while there were flashes of Lomachenko’s class in his movement there was little punching to follow it up. And round by round Salido ground him down. It was ugly, dirty stuff, filled with low blows and clinching (surprisingly normally initiated by Lomachenko) but it all counted and Salido was getting the best of it. Salido won this bout because he boxed a professional boxing match, the result of years of experience in paid boxing matches, high profile and low, for big money and little, in bright arenas and dingy halls. Lomachenko couldn’t handle it.
In 36 minutes of action there was only one that really showed why people were excited by Lomachenko. Late in the 12th he finally managed to time a counter, hurt Salido and tried to swarm for the finish. But again, Salido’s experience showed through. He grabbed, he held, he recovered and he survived. It was too little too late for Lomachenko. Perhaps a better way to describe the entire thing was too much, too soon.
Salido lost his title on the scales and it seems that after more than a decade at 126lbs his body simply can’t make it any more. Thus 130lbs is in his future and Salido will prove a tough, awkward, durable opponent who will put anyone through a real test. 130lbs isn’t the deepest division right now… even at his age Salido could certainly make some noise.
As for Lomachenko, back to the drawing board. That may seem harsh for someone who lost a split decision to an opponent like Salido in only his second pro bout but frankly I think it’s the truth. Lomachenko looked lost in there at points, unsure of what sort of fighter he was; did he want to counter punch? Stick and move? Dominate behind the jab? Try to outwork Salido on the inside? In the end he tried a bit of everything and succeeded with pretty much nothing. More than that, Lomachenko also has to rebuild his reputation. People expected spectacular things from him and even if he had won the bout on the cards he looked anything but spectacular. Lomachenko clinched a lot and only punched a little. There was simply little to get excited by if all you had to go on was this match. Lomachenko’s amateur credentials means he deserves to be fast-tracked compared to most prospects. But he still needs to go through some seasoning before being put in another bout at this level.
Juan Diaz continued his comeback with an entertaining but routine win over Gerardo Robles, taking a wide decision largely behind the strength of his inside work. Diaz remains essentially what he was during his previous run at boxing, a talented inside fighter who wins bouts behind pressure and workate, working the body until the head opens up, with the difference being that he doesn’t quite how the workrate he once did. He was clearly a step above Robles througout and he rocked his opponent with some nice looking left hooks but even in his prime Diaz was never a power puncher and without the workrate to back it up he ended up simply taking rounds rather than making a statement. Diaz is pretty much a boxer designed to have entertaining bouts so when he does step up his competition it should be fun to watch but I’m not sure he goes that far during his comeback; Diaz appared to have peaked when he previously retired and I’m not sure a few years out of the ring have improved him.