When Canelo Alvarez lost a majority decision (lol) to Floyd Mayweather Jr., he was once again on familiar ground with his budding rival in the division above Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
The two are different in almost every way – as Canelo channels the Golden Boy image, Chavez sticks his middle finger up at any opportunity – except in their boxing identities. Both the product of Mexican hype – Chavez Jr as the heir to his father's legend, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr; Canelo as the heir to boxing's throne. Though both achieved notable success and proved their worth among boxing's elite, sparse as it may be, they failed to seize the moment and fulfill their promises.
Chavez (46-1-1) fell to Sergio Martinez for his first career loss last September in a unanimous decision that wasn't close. It was much like Canelo's performance against Mayweather, though Chavez at least had the courtesy of providing an excellent 12th round.
On Sept. 28, he re-enters the ring against Brian Vera after a yearlong suspension for failing a post-fight drug test (marijuana). Vera (23-6, 14 KOs) is a tough fighter of “Contender” fame, but it would be a big surprise if he beat Chavez. Chavez can take as much as he can dish out, and his size advantage should be enough to at least ensure a decision.
Once Vera and any ring rust are aside, Chavez Jr has a lot of options. Most of them lead to a big payday. His fighting style is much more entertaining to watch than, say, Mayweather's, so he can sell fights against almost anybody (case-in-point: Brian Vera). He regularly sold out venues in Mexico, and his core fans probably don't mind the fact that he's not undefeated. At this point, judging from Jr's work ethic (he simply never showed up to train with Freddie Roach), it's fairly obvious he's not turning into his father. Still, his reputation as a bruiser with an eff-the-world attitude sells tickets.
Chavez-Vera was rescheduled due to a cut on Chavez's hand, so it might be hard to use this fight as a barometer for how well Chavez Jr. resonates after his exposure. It probably won't drop off much. In a way, though, his marketability could prevent him from fighting boxing's best.
He's Top Rank's cash cow, a marketable asset that people enjoy watching. But at what point will fans tire? When he fights tough guys like Vera, a guy he should beat and will come to throw punches, they make big bucks and the crowd goes home happy. When he faces the top dogs, he is toyed with. And though Chavez very nearly dished out same last-minute justice, he lost a wide decision chasing Martinez around the ring. Why risk a win-lose when you have a win-win?
It's why guys like Andre Ward sit on the shelf. Everybody's already partnered up with someone they have a reasonable chance of beating, with good fights all around him that could turn into a series. Ward doesn't have a big enough fan base to demand that kind of opponent. He's so good, he'd have to bring in significant financial value to entice a big fight in today's market. He needs that Mayweather-like money to go with those Mayweather-like hands.
For now, it's Chavez with the money and the easy fight. As for whatever he does next, who knows? We don't really know if he'll make weight for this one, or that he won't cause some trouble after. But one thing's for sure: He won't be sitting around for a year wondering who to fight.