Boxing

Despite poor ticket sales, Chavez Jr. again a big hit with HBO viewers

Kevin Iole
Boxing

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Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s fight with Bryan Vera is the No. 1-rated cable fight of 2013 (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

Over the last two years, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has morphed into one of boxing's top draws. The son of the Hall of Fame fighter of the same name has a large and passionate fan base.

But on Saturday, ticket sales for his bout with Bryan Vera, his first match in more than a year, were tepid at best. Attendance was announced at 5,206 in the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., with large sections completely empty.

The box office report shows that there were 4,137 tickets sold, with 904 comps, contributing to a gate of $334,831.

The poor ticket sales could be attributed to fans' disgust with his behavior. After his Sept. 15, 2012, loss in a middleweight title fight with Sergio Martinez, one in which trainer Freddie Roach was repeatedly stood up by Chavez while waiting to train, Chavez tested positive for marijuana and was suspended nine months by the Nevada Athletic Commission.

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Julio Cesar Chavez (R) won a questionable verdict over Bryan Vera (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

His promoter, Bob Arum, instantly defended Chavez and went on a campaign to insist that marijuana be legalized. While marijuana is unquestionably not a performance enhancing drug, it was illegal in Nevada at the time and Chavez smoked it despite knowing the rules.

Arum's passionate defense of Chavez simply ignored yet another case of Chavez blowing off the rules and doing what he wanted.

When Chavez fought Vera, he signed a contract for the weight to be 163 pounds. But Chavez never made 163. The contract for the bout kept going up until it settled on 173. Chavez refused to step on a scale Saturday when asked by HBO, though he was not obligated to do so. However, he looked as if weighed 190.

He was also arrogant in his comments about the weight, acting as if he had the right to weigh whatever he wanted since he was the star and the match wasn't for a world title.

It all seemed to catch up to Chavez on Saturday in Carson, as the crowd was shockingly slim. Featherweight Abner Mares, who isn't nearly in Chavez' league as a drew, drew a sellout crowd of more than 8,000 in August. The Marcos Maidana-Josesito Lopez fight in June had more than 7,000 tickets sold.

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Light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson is a burgeoning star (AP)

But when the Nielsen ratings for Saturday's show came out, Chavez was a big winner. The show attracted 1.416 million viewers, the top showing for boxing on cable this year.

What it shows is that though fans were disgusted by Chavez's behavior and refused to support him by buying tickets -- there were plenty of $25 tickets available that went unsold -- they still were interested in seeing him fight and tuned in to HBO.

The encouraging part from an overall boxing viewpoint was the high rating for the Adonis Stevenson-Tavoris Cloud bout from Montreal, that served as the opener in the split-site doubleheader. That bout drew 1.18 million, a 15 percent increase from Stevenson's previous fight on HBO.

Stevenson looks like a star in the making, with power, athleticism and charisma, and the rating for the HBO opener seems to confirm that.

There are a number of great fights that could feature Stevenson, who may soon become one of the network's staples.

As for Chavez, he'll continue to be a big star, even as he increasingly turns fans and media against him with his behavior. Vera deserves a rematch, preferably in his hometown of Austin, where the deck won't be as stacked against him.

Don't count on it, though. Arum has been tone deaf throughout the process and acts like Chavez is incapable of wrong-doing. His vigorous defense of Chavez in the light of so many failures is wearing thin.

But until Arum, one of the few people with the stature to get to Chavez, gets tough, Chavez is going to continue flaunting the rules and laughing his way to the bank.

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Julio Cesar Chavez and promoter Fernando Beltran celebrate a victory (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

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