On Saturday night HBO Boxing brought us two main events from two different venues featuring what was supposed to be two championship fights. First up, Adonis Stevenson (21-1, 18 KO’s) was looking to answer the questions about his legitimacy as champion, taking on a former champion Tavoris Cloud (24-1, 19 KO) at the Bell Center, in Montreal, Canada. Then it was off to the StubHub Center, in Carson City, California where Julio Cesar Chavez Jr (46-1, 32 KO’s) took on Bryan Vera (23-6, 14 KO’s). It was supposed to be a tuneup fight for Chavez Jr in his return to the ring and for Vera’s WBO NABO belt. Instead, it managed to highlight many of the problems in boxing today, and the issues that continue to trouble Chavez Jr.
This fight was supposed to take place at middleweight but Chavez Jr realized he would not be able to make the 160 pound limit so it was re-negotiated to super middleweight. Then as the week progressed it was apparent that he could not make that weight. Again, they paid Vera more money to do the fight at a catch-weight, essentially whatever weight Chavez Jr. could make. It ended up taking place at 173 pounds – this is a new weight class. It is the ChavezJrweight class. It works like this: you agree to fight him and then a few days before the fight he lets you know what weight he can make. He then pays you the amount you need to go ahead with the fight. This weight issue is made worse by Freddie Roach refusing to work with him anymore because of Chavez Jr’s poor work habits. The problem with Chavez Jr. is that he has no problems taking advantage of his famous name. He then tries to garner sympathy for himself and discredit his critics by accusing them of attacking him because of his famous name. Many people feel he won this decision precisely because of his famous name.
The decision itself was the perfect ending to the farce that this bout had become thanks to Chavez Jr. and his antics. It was hard to justify the 97-93 score by judge Marty Denkin, and even more difficult for the incredulous score of 98-92 turned in by judge Gwen Adair. At least you could understand the 96-94 score of judge Carla Caiz. Throughout the fight Andre Ward kept reminding the viewers that it was difficult to score fights when they are fought like this one. Vera was extremely active throughout the fight. He was the aggressor and dictated the pace of the fight. This was offset by Chavez Jr. being more accurate and powerful. The stats say that Vera landed more power punches than Chavez Jr, 109 to 98. There was a significant difference in the power of their respective punches.
Consistently during the fight Chavez Jr. was snapping Vera’s head back with his punches. He should have more power being the significantly larger fighter. Even with his size and power advantage he was never able to put Vera down in the fight. His claim that he should have won one of the rounds 10-8 was ludicrous. If he could have put together a combination or two he might have been able to finish the fight or at least score one knock down. Every time he had Vera in trouble with one of his big punches he could never follow it up. The talent is there for Chavez Jr. and that makes it even more frustrating to watch him at times. His movement was very good and he was very accurate with his punches landing thirty-eight percent of all his punches and fifty-three percent of his power punches compared to twenty-four percent overall and thirty-two percent of his power punches for Vera. The number of punches he threw was staggering for a ten round fight at the ChavezJrweight class with 734 for Vera.
As upset as the crowd, Vera’s trainer and other sighted sane individuals who watched this fight,were at the verdict, their collective ire was matched by Chavez Jr’s anger towards the referee. He was upset and complained throughout the fight about Vera’s tactics on the outer fringes of the rules. In the fifth round Chavez Jr. tied up Vera’s left arm with his right arm. Vera takes advantage of the moment and lands a short right elbow. This led to Chavez Jr. complaining and referee Lou Moret responded with, “It’s a fight. C’mon lets fight.” Generally, as a competitor, you want the rules to be informed the same for both sides and that is what happened in this fight. The difference was when Chavez Jr. did something just outside of the rules, Vera did not complain to the referee.
Vera did not complain until the decision was read and then he had some reasons to complain. He could have started with the significant weight advantage Chavez Jr. had for the fight. This was a fight that was set up for Chavez Jr. to win. This is another problem in boxing and the reason why just one or two losses damage your career. Vera was a straight forward fighter with little head movement but tough. He is not elusive and he can and will be hit, but Vera did not cooperate. Instead he came to win and convinced most people, just not the right three.
Even the crowd that had cheered every significant punch of Chavez Jr’s, booed the decision when it was announced. They could see the talent that is not being fulfilled and that Vera had won this fight. It is easy to think that Chavez Jr. has already squandered his career but he is only 27-years-old. He could become more dedicated with his training and put it together later in his career. You got the impression that if he had been in better shape coming into this fight, he could have ended it earlier with just one or two well-placed three of four punch combinations. He showed good toughness battling through a possible broken right hand and he flashed his high level talent in the fight. If he can just dedicate himself to get in better shape before the fights he could still achieve the greatness that his talent hints is possible. He could use the winner of the earlier fight from Canada as example of how to blossom later in one’s career.
The first fight of the night should answer the critics of Adonis Stevenson as he put on a boxing clinic against Tavoris Cloud. After Stevenson KO’d then champion Chad Dawson, in the first round in highlight reel fashion in the first round nonetheless, people were wondering if it was a fluke. Max Kellerman talked about the nature of the first round knockout and did Stevenson catch Dawson cold? Was Dawson suffering lingering effects of the knockout by Andre Ward in his previous fight? Stevenson entered that fight on a seven fight win streak all by TKO/KO including two in the first round. It does not seem that surprising when a power puncher knocks someone out in the first round. Especially, when it was predicted by the late and beyond great trainer Emanuel Stewart. Before he passed and was still training Stevenson, Stewart told him that if he ever got the chance to fight either Dawson or Cloud, he will knock them both out easily. He took Dawson out apparently too easily and Cloud was supposed to best the test.
Before the fight HBO made it clear that Cloud was a legitimate light heavyweight, not some blown up middleweight. Cloud was also the superior boxer who had some power. For Stevenson’s doubters this was supposed to be the fight that showed all of his flaws. Instead it showcased his superior boxing skills, and he had significantly more power than Cloud throughout this fight. He did to Cloud what his critics thought Cloud would do to him and he is proving that you can learn new tricks as you grow older. This is the best that Stevenson has looked in his career and this version is scary good , he keeps improving with each fight. It is amazing to read some people’s take on the art of boxing. Both Kellerman and Roy Jones Jr. were excited by the matchup. They both are at the top right now according to Jones. Others, including HBO’s own site did not think so highly of Stevenson. This was in their pre-fight write-up: “The 35-year-old Stevenson often looks crude in the ring, with minimal footwork, a bad tendency to hold his lead hand by his waist, average hand speed, and often throwing his punches one at a time.” That does not describe the fighter that was in the ring on Saturday night. Also, the lead hand comment shows a lack of understanding of boxing.
One of the first fighters I remember that carried his lead hand low also came from the Kronk Gym. In fact, many people think that along with Emanuel Stewart, Tommy Hearns put the Kronk Gym on the boxing map. Holding the lead hand down does two big things for a fighter. First it creates openings when an opponent rushes in to take advantage of the opening you gave them. By baiting them in a controlled fashion you are able to dictate the action and you can then literally be one step ahead of your opponent. Inside of the ring it can come down to that slight edge that is the difference between delivering a knockout and getting knocked out. There are many examples of a fighter getting knocked out as they were throwing a punch and their opponent just got there one tick sooner. The other advantage it creates is a new punching angle. The up jab comes from a lower angle and forces the opponent to adjust their eye level and then opens up other punches. In this fight Stevenson would also loop it at times more like a hook to the face or the body. It is also easier to throw it to the body as a jab. There is a difference in being lazy or tired and dropping your hands, and carrying your lead hand lower as an effective strategic part of your arsenal.
The southpaw Stevenson started out carrying his right hand up by his face for much of the first round and he kept his left hand up for most of the round. Cloud started out more aggressive but caught a glancing straight left that still slowed him a little bit. Stevenson was throwing jabs and double jabs and following them with the left. Then with just under a minute and a half in the round Stevenson landed a clean straight left directly to Cloud’s right eye. It clearly affected him the rest of the round as he touched it frequently. As soon as he landed it Stevenson ramped up his aggression but not recklessly. He did a good job working the body and the head. It took Stevenson about half of the first round to dictate the pace and space of the fight.
Things only got worse for Cloud in the second round as Stevenson got comfortable. Extremely comfortable. Inside of the first minute Stevenson gave us a little Ali-shuffle and now his right hand was much lower. In fact, he was carrying both hands much lower. He was able to easily avoid Cloud’s punches and had the superior footwork, and head movement. Stevenson was also the quicker fighter, he used nice combinations and controlled the fight. He put on a boxing clinic and like Hearns, who could box and punch with devastating power, he also still had knockout power. With thirty seconds left in the second round Jones Jr. noted that Stevenson was outboxing Cloud who was supposed to be the boxer, and this was not good for Cloud. Moments later we got an example when during an exchange in close Stevenson was able to slip Cloud’s punches, and Cloud ended up off-balance and fell down. it was a slip brought about by Stevenson’s movement. It did not get much better for Cloud as the fight progressed.
Stevenson continued to put on a boxing clinic and picked apart Cloud who fought gamely. He was not able to deal with Stevenson’s movement and speed. As the rounds progressed Cloud’s face showed more damage at the hands of Stevenson. When Cloud’s corner ended the fight between the seventh and eighth round his face was cut on both eyes, battered and bruised up. They mercifully ended the fight. When Stevenson came over to Cloud’s corner after the fight their contrasting faces told the tale. Cloud looked like he had been mugged and Stevenson looked like he had witnessed the mugging on his afternoon run.
It was a tale of two fights in two different venues. In Carson City, California Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. won the fight in at least three other sets of eyes other than his corners. It was his good fortune that it was the only three that mattered as there may not have been three other people in the StubHub Center that thought he won the fight. Chavez Jr. is only 27-years-old and has natural power and talent. If he can find the focus to do the work in the gym we could see the greatness he hints at inside of the ring. Having one-punch knockout power can cover up bad habits as he often only needs one shot. On this night Vera did not cooperate and took Chavez Jr’s best shots and remained standing. In fact he refused to play his role of slightly challenging tuneup fighter in the return of Chavez Jr. Instead he came to win the fight and convinced most people that he had won it. Right now Chavez Jr. is not interested in a rematch but he will need to fight Vera again to erase the lingering tainted aftertaste of this fight. Until he does this fight with the pre-fight weight antics and the clown like judging will follow him. If he needs a blueprint on how to silence his critics with his talent he can learn from Stevenson.
A few thousand miles away in Montreal, Canada Adonis Stevenson retained his title and silenced some more of his critics. It seemed like with each new victory Stevenson’s critics would find some reason to disparage the win. This was supposed to be the fight that proved all of his critics right. Now they are left to find some new reasons to hate on him. On this night he was the boxing puncher or the punching boxer. However you describe him he was dominant in methodically taking Cloud apart round by round. He continues to grow with each fight and is forcing the critics to re-evaluate him. With each impressive win he looks more and more like his “Superman” nickname. You would like to see him and Chavez Jr. fight if only to see Stevenson punish Chavez Jr with his nasty left hand. It would be surprising if Chavez Jr’s camp had any interest in that fight, he got more than he was expecting or wanted from Vera. The last thing he wants is to face a fighter with Stevenson’s power and boxing skills.
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