Bryan Vera is getting the second chance he so richly deserves, but it's not clear whether he'll get a fair shake.
That, though, comes with the territory when one chooses to do business with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Vera lost a decision to Chavez in September he probably should have won, but the questionable judging was only part of the issue. Chavez repeatedly kept demanding the weight-limit for the bout be raised, and at one point, promoter Bob Arum said, only half-jokingly, that the limit would be whatever Chavez weighed at the Friday weigh-in.
Chavez was the big name and used every bit of his influence to squeeze Vera, a boxing lifer who has taken every tough fight he could find but rarely got any breaks.
In his four fights prior to meeting Chavez, Vera weighed 160 three times and 159 ¾ once. But when he fought Chavez at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., he was 171 ¼ because Chavez couldn't make the initially agreed upon weight and promoters kept acquiescing to Chavez's demand to increase it.
Chavez officially weighed in at 172 ½. Vera had the theoretical option to not fight, but it wasn't much of an option at all.
"You train all of that time and you put all of that effort into it, how could I just walk away because he didn't [make weight]?" Vera said. "I did what I had to do."
Vera will meet Chavez again Saturday in an HBO-televised card from the Alamodome in San Antonio. He'll be paid more, and he'll reportedly get a $250,000 bonus payment from Chavez this time if Chavez misses the contract weight of 168.
And given that Vera is a native Texan, he should – at least theoretically – have the home-court advantage. Texas, though, is Chavez country, and this bout couldn't be more of a home game for Chavez if it were held in his backyard.
Texas judging has been notoriously biased over the years. The refereeing is frequently similar.
Texas is anything but a level playing field when a Chavez is in the ring. One can almost be guaranteed that if there is some sort of controversy, it's going to favor Chavez.
Vera is putting on a brave front. After a litany of Texas abuses is listed off, he sighs and insists he expects to be treated fairly. He doesn't really have much of a choice.
If he comes out and questions the fairness of the commission beforehand, he risks biasing the officials against him even worse. So, when he says he expects the fight to be regulated even-handedly, one must understand what he faces.
"People have asked me that all the time," he said of concerns about the officiating. "He has a big backing in Texas, of course. But I've had good relations with everyone here and I've always been treated fairly. I am not expecting them to give me the edge. I just want it to be fair, and I definitely expect it to be fair."
Of course, he expected it to be fair in California, and he lost a unanimous decision that most neutral observers felt he deserved to win. One judge, though, had the gall to give Chavez eight of the 10 rounds.
So while Vera wouldn't admit to any fears about the officiating in Texas, he did concede there are overall judging problems in boxing.
"It's obvious that there is [a judging problem]," Vera said. "Something's got to change, man. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors? When the promoters are talking to the judges, who knows what are they telling them, that they could make their life better financially? If somebody comes up to a judge and closes the door and said, 'I'm going to give you an extra 20 grand if you do this and do that,' they start thinking about their families. [Expletive] like that goes on. That's what I think."
One of the worst decisions in modern boxing history occurred in the same building that Vera will face Chavez Jr. on Saturday. On Sept. 10, 1993, Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whitaker clearly outboxed and outclassed Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., but the fight was inexplicably ruled a majority draw.
One judge had the bout 115-113 for Whitaker. But the other two scored it 115-115. Reporters from the Associated Press (116-112), Ring Magazine (117-111), Sports Illustrated (117-111) and the Washington Post (115-113) all scored it for Whitaker.
That's the environment into which Vera will step on Saturday. He's a virtual unknown on the world boxing stage, facing one of the sport's biggest and most famous names. Chavez Jr. sells tickets and draws television viewers and for that, he gets every break imaginable.
Vera is getting a bigger payday than he did the first time and he knows the world is watching now. That gives him comfort.
"I'm not going to be as good as I was last time; I'm going to be better," he said. "I expect him to be better, so I have to raise my game. I think I'm ready to do that. I'm going to go out there and fight my [expletive] off and not give anyone any reason to even start to think it's a close fight."