Barely two weeks ago, Floyd Mayweather posted a victory for the sweet science over a much younger and larger opponent, who was also aided by astonishing powers of rehydraytion. It was a victory of skill over bulk, old school weight making (actually weighing the weight of your division on the night of the fight) over the wonderful benefits of re-hydrating 10 to 20 plus pounds, in the 24 hours following the weigh-in.
Floyd scored his victory, despite one of the judges seemingly suffering an optical illusion during the proceedings, and ’seeing’ the fight as a draw. At the end of the night, this lone judge’s visual deficiencies was a minor blip, and after a few days of well-deserved criticism, boxing fans were able to laugh off this blip as just one of those funny things that pops up now and then in boxing. In the end, justice was served, the right man won, and the sweet science smelled good again.
Or was it?
It says a lot about the state of the sport, that in the run-up to Mayweather vs. Alvarez, the worry for some was not if Mayweather could beat Alvarez, but rather whether the judges would see the same fight as everyone else witnessed. Any notions that these worries were unfounded, or perhaps a little neurotic, were given their answer in C.J Ross’s now infamous drawn card. Thank goodness, her two fellow judges brought their correct glasses with them that night.
Flip forward two weeks later and we have the spectacle of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr 47-1-1(32kos), (spawn of the legendary father, and born with a golden boxing glove in his mouth), hands raised high, and basking in the stinky glory of his point’s victory over Brian Vera 23-7(14kos), seemingly oblivious to the rotten smell swirling all around him.
It seems on Saturday night, at The Stubhub Centre, in Carson, California, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was just about the only person who didn’t sense something strong and unpleasant in the air, while others certainly smelt it, but didn’t care. However, the vast majority of the spectators, many of whom had entered the arena as Chavez fans, cared, as did Brian Vera and his corner. The crowd made their feelings known by greeting Chavez’s exhibition of victory with a modest smattering of applause, that was quickly drowned out by indignant boos, and then a stony silence.
Chavez Jr. had been judged the winner of a fight, which only his most die hard fans could truly see him as emerging from victorious. It is often said that scoring boxing is a subjective business, this is true to an extent, but there is a firm basis for scoring a fight and judging who is winning a particular contest. It is generally agreed that the fighter landing the most punches on his opponent, will be seen as holding the upper hand in the fight, in addition to this, a fighter who is dictating the pace of a fight and forcing the action, can also be said to be in control of the fight; therefore winning the contest in question. On Saturday night, it was Brian Vera who landed, repeatedly, and round after round; the more punches, dictated the pace, and despite a huge visible disparity in size, forced the action. Chavez Jr., for all his advantages in size, was the one continually on the back foot, and often so sparing with his punches, that at times, he resembled a sleepwalker.
The fight followed a similar pattern throughout its ten rounds. Brian Vera bustled forward with a surprisingly effective jab, forcing Chavez to give ground, and when he had got in close, Vera would open up with combinations to the head and body. Chavez Jr., despite his huge size advantage (although both boxers supposedly weighed a comparable 171 for Vera to 172.5 for Chavez Jr at the weigh-in the day before) chose to backup from Vera’s aggressive attacks. Chavez Jr. alternated from moving round the ring, to standing flat-footed, and stationary in front of Vera, but seldom used his jab, even when boxing on the retreat. In fact, Chavez Jr. seldom threw punches at all. When he did throw some shots, it was clear and hardly surprising, that they carried more weight than Vera’s punches. Rounds should not be won by a handful of heavy punches, as opposed to a much larger number of lighter punches. It was as if Vera’s shots were being blocked by Chavez, whose defense, when he wasn’t on the retreat, was as lax as his offence. When Chavez was on the backfoot, Vera had little difficulty in tracking him down and closing the gap, to once again, land more punches. Besides a fairly close opening round, which saw Chavez Jr. land some good body shots, and two better stanza’s in the 3rd and 6th rounds, where he edged the action with his heavier punches, Chavez Jr seemed to be clearly outworked and outboxed in every other round. Even when Chavez Jr connected with his bigger punches, Vera would come right back at him with his aggressive flurries.
At times, Vera responded to Chavez’s rare attacks with a broad smile, and aside from a moment in the sixth round, never seemed seriously troubled by Chavez’s superior power. If there was room for doubt over the verdict, Vera seemed to dispel this with a strong finish in the final three rounds, which saw him get busier and more aggressive, while Chavez was now complaining to the referee about some perceived fouls, and looking distinctly sorry for himself. After the contest, Chavez accused Vera of constant head-butts, yet it was Chavez’s own penchant of lowering his own head towards Vera’s that was responsible for most of the bumping that occurred, which actually wasn’t that much at all.
Vera is what is known as a tough fighter, with a busy, energetic, and occasionally rough style, but he is by no means a dirty fighter. He fought a clean and honest fight against Chavez Jr.
How ironic that Chavez, who broke so many of boxing’s supposedly cardinal rules in the run up to this fight, should then attempt to hide behind the rule book when the fight turns out to be far tougher than he had wished.
Chavez’s battered mug, was much more due to Vera’s constant punching, rather than head butts or any other rough stuff.
At the final bell, Vera and his corner were ecstatic, while Chavez Jr, and his corner were muted and downcast. After quickly berating the referee for some perceived injustice, Chavez Jr. went to his corner with all the vigour of a man who wanted to be somewhere else at that moment. The face of Chavez’s father Julio Sr., said it all, wearing a mixture of bemusement, anxiety and disappointment all over it.
Meanwhile in Vera’s corner they celebrated.
Then something happened. Moments before the verdict was announced, members of Chavez’s corner started celebrating, and giving whoops of joy. Then came the point’s verdicts. It soon became suddenly clear that the night’s three judges had studied at the same school of judging as C.J. Ross.
Carla Caiz had it 96-94, Marty Denkin 97-93, and then Gwen Adair (who definitely deserves the C.J. Ross judge of the month award) had it a wonderful 98-92.
Looking at the judging of these three blind mice it is as if they were at three different fights. The only thing that their judging has in common is that neither of them saw Chavez losing. It seemed to be something that neither judge wanted to see either.
Carla Caiz’s card is curious; as it shows that, she gave the first four rounds to Vera, and then on realising her mistake, gave the remaining six rounds to Chavez. Marty Denkin, by contrast, gave Chavez everything, save the third, eighth, and ninth rounds. Finally, Gwen Adair’s card is a masterpiece of scoring, through Bob Arum tinted glasses, but at least she had the decency to grant Vera rounds eight and nine, presumably, as a consolation prize.
This verdict is not the greatest robbery ever committed in boxing, unfortunately, it is not even the biggest robbery of this year, or even this month (that prize must go to Burns vs. Beltran). However, this only shows the depths of the problem. This is not a one- off, it is a pernicious disease, which is infecting boxing, from top-to-toe, and threatening to poison the remaining magic held within the sweet science. Is it any wonder that many view boxing now as a place where the fixers and schemers decide who will win and who will lose, before anyone has even stepped into the ring.
We often hear about the bad old days when boxing was in the hands of cartels and ruled by the mafia, but is it any cleaner now? Have the mob bosses of old, simply been replaced by the world boxing bodies, TV networks, and the promoters?
How much longer can boxing afford to steal victories from some of its hardest working fighters, and treat its fans like fools?
As it is, the effects of how boxing is managed by the people that run it can be seen by the fact that it is no longer a mainstream sport. The greed that has led to multiple world champions, at every weight, has chipped away steadily at its reputation and appeal. A decision, like the one given on Saturday night for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., is just another blow and another chip, into boxing’s evermore battered visage.
Perhaps a good illustration of the way things work in boxing these days can be found in the contrasting treatment given to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Guillermo Rigondeaux. In Chavez, we have a fighter who is basically an over protected slob, who seems to be incapable of staying in shape, and who treats the advise of those around him with a mixture of boredom and contempt. On the other, we have a fighter who is blessed with an abundance of talent, is a dedicated professional, who has made huge sacrifices in order to pursue his dream of becoming a great boxer. So, which boxer, out of these two men, was described by their promoter as being a ‘boring fighter’ who makes HBO executives ‘throw up’ when Arum mentions his name? Yes, Rigondeaux! The oh so ‘boring’ WBO and WBA world super-bantamweight champion, who in April schooled Arum’s favourite, Nonito Donaire, and hasn’t been able to get a fight since.
Ironically, Saturday’s farcical decision for Chavez Jr., took the attention away from the saga of Junior’s ever-increasing weight limit. First, it was 165, then 168, and then 173, until, finally, it seemed that Chavez was going to be able to turn up, and weigh in at whatever weight he wanted. In the end, Chavez weighed in at a suspiciously ‘light’ 172.5, while Vera scaled in at just a pound lighter, so we were told. In the ring, the difference in size between the two was almost shocking; it really did look like a middleweight fighting a light heavyweight. The fact that it was the much smaller man, who seemed to have ‘won’ the fight, says a lot for both men. Indeed, Vera exposed Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for what he is, both in and out of the ring. The truth is, that Chavez’s ‘talent’ is a myth, aside from the advantage in size that he usually holds over his opponents, Chavez is a mundanely talented fighter, who is too lazy to even make the most of the modest ability which he possesses.
Vera would like a rematch against Chavez Jr., but the chances of that happening are miniscule, Chavez Jr. will not want to risk ‘losing’ to the smaller man twice.
After the fight, and between declarations of how he was always in control of the fight, and would have knocked out Vera if he hadn’t hurt his right hand in the fifth round, Chavez stated his intention of going down to 168 pounds to fight for a world title.
Of course, as luck would have it, the WBC have a nice little ‘world’ title fight waiting for Chavez, should he manage to get his hulking body back down to 168 pounds, having sensitively taken the crown away from Andre Ward, and awarded it to the winner of Sakio Bika vs. Marco Antonio Periban. The veteran Bika won on points, after a rugged fight, which at times, seemed as if it was being fought in slow motion.
The WBC may as well call a press conference and award the title and WBC belt to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., there and then, rather than go through with the charade of ’fighting’ for the title. The ever so likely outcome is that Chavez will win, even if he loses.
The saddest part of all this was watching the joy and exaltation of Vera’s corner, especially Vera and his trainer Ronnie Shields, crumple up into shock and disbelief after the decision was announced. Even Ronnie Sheilds, a former world title contender, and a trainer with over thirty years in the business behind him, found this fight a bitter pill to swallow.
So it goes on, the crowd will boo the decision and some scribes will wring their hands at the injustice of it all, but the fixers and schemers who run the game will rub their sweaty hands together, and plan their next move. They’ve been getting away with it for so long because they are the ones who make up the rules, and it’s very easy to do what you like when you are making up your own rules.
Therefore, one man’s dream sparkles for a moment, then flickers and dies. We watch it fade away before us, and then wonder whose dream it will be next time. Chances are we wont have long to wait.