Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has every incentive he needs to put on a great performance on Saturday when he meets Bryan Vera at the Alamodome in the main event of an HBO-televised card in San Antonio.
Chavez is coming off a lackluster victory over Vera in September, a bout in which he struggled mightily to make weight.
He was shunned by fans in that fight, who unexpectedly failed to turn out in big numbers for the match at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Fans seemingly have gotten tired of his act, in which he coasts on the name of his legendary father and gets every break handed to him.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said the apathetic fan trend is continuing for the rematch. The Alamodome is scaled for a $1 million gate, but Arum said it is looking more like it will be $600,000.
"Not nearly what he did in San Antonio before," Arum said.
Arum is deep in talks with K-2 managing director Tom Loeffler for a July 12 bout at 168 pounds between Chavez and middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
It would be yet another big-money, high-stakes bout for Chavez.
But whether any of that is registering for Chavez, or whether he feels a sense of urgency on Saturday to perform, is anybody's guess.
"At first when we got him, I thought he had marginal talent, but after watching him for as long as I have, I realized he has enormous talent," Arum said. "He takes a great punch. He throws a good punch. When he's in shape and in condition and his mind is focused, he's a tough, tough out. He's a hell of a tough out. But with him, who knows?
"We've all talked to him and told him. It doesn't make much of an impact. He's a headstrong, stubborn kind of a kid. He'll agree with what you're saying and once in a while, the message gets through. But it only lasts for a day or two and then he's back on his own program."
And his own program isn't good. It's one in which he cruises and doesn't put in the kind of effort required to be a championship-level performer.
He doesn't seem to get the anger people feel when he fails to make weight, or lollygags through a fight. He has the ability to be a first-rate fighter, as well as one of the sport's biggest draws.
The problem, though, is that those around him seem to want it more for him than he does.
"I know some people look at me as spoiled, but my father worked hard for 26 years in his career to be successful and I'm very grateful for that," Chavez Jr. said. "I want to keep the name up as high as possible. I think I have talent and I've done well with that talent. I hope people recognize me for that."
The problem is simple, though: People do recognize that talent. But they also recognize a guy who cuts corners, who looks for the easy way, who doesn't appreciate the opportunity he's been given.
What the people recognize is that if Chavez is at his best, there is no way Vera should be competitive with him. But many observers, including a large majority of the pro-Chavez crowd in Carson that night, felt that Vera outworked him and deserved the decision.
"They're just on different levels," Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler said of Chavez and Vera. "Vera is a kid with a great heart and he's a good, solid journeyman fighter. But if they're both at their best, Chavez has the ability to way outdistance Bryan Vera. The reaction to that last bout should have sent a message to him.
"He said, 'I won the fight, don't you think?' Even if he won, and maybe he did, maybe he didn't, that's a question he should never have to be asking."
Chavez, though, is his own mind. Since the first Vera fight, he's become a father and insists that's going to make a difference.
He's going to fight to provide for his daughter, Julia, the way his father fought to provide for him.
"I want her to have the best life and I'll sacrifice everything for her," Chavez said.
He's at a stage, though, where he has to prove it. His words have repeatedly been proven hollow. He's not taken seriously.
The chance at redemption against Vera and for the big fight against Golovkin should be motivators.
Golovkin won't attend the fight because of his father's recent death, but Loeffler and trainer Abel Sanchez will. Their presence in the Alamodome will be a tangible sign to Chavez of what might be.
If that's enough to motivate Chavez and get him to perform at his best, only he knows.
And though he's saying it is, he's hasn't proven trustworthy in the recent past.
If he's ever going to salvage something from his career, it has to begin on Saturday. He needs to get rid of Vera in convincing fashion and then come in prepared to fight at a high-level against Golovkin.
If you believe that he finally gets it, fine. A piece of advice, though: Don't bet money on that opinion unless you can afford to lose it.
Understanding how to motivate Chavez is one of life's most difficult tasks.
- Sports & Recreation
- Julio Cesar Chavez Jr
- Bob Arum