- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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SAN ANTONIO -- Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., in shape, on weight and apparently focused on the task at hand, left no doubt this time as he outslugged Bryan Vera in a brutal super middleweight rematch on Saturday night at the Alamodome.
Chavez, a former middleweight titleholder, won a well-deserved unanimous decision in a rematch with Vera five months after being awarded a highly controversial decision in a fight in which Chavez was out of shape and had to pay Vera six figures to agree to increase the weight limit from 168 to 173 pounds.
In the Sept. 28 fight in Carson, Calif., Chavez and Vera also slugged it out, in a 10-round bout, which most observers thought Vera had clearly won. But the judges had it by shocking scores of 98-92, 97-93, 96-94. Even Chavez's own fans booed the decision.
However, there was little doubt as to the outcome this time around as Chavez, looking like he was in the best shape he has been in in quite some time, comfortably made 167½ pounds and proceeded to rake Vera with overhand rights throughout the fight.
All three judges had Chavez winning 117-110, 117-110 and a surprisingly close 114-113 as he restored some of the credibility he lost with the performance and weight fiasco in the first fight. ESPN.com also had it for Chavez, 118-109.
"This time I prepared to win round by round and not to make weight," Chavez said. "A week before I was on weight and I was able to work. Losing the weight wasn't a problem and didn't take my strength away.
"I made a better fight this time and we won more clearly. I proved to all the people I'm a better fighter than Bryan Vera."
Whatever the reason for his newfound conditioning and focus, he hammered Vera in a highly entertaining, albeit one-sided fight before a crowd of 7,323 -- almost half of what Chavez drew to the Alamodome when he fought here in 2012, a clear sign that some of his fans are fed up with the outside the ring drama (the weight issues, a positive drug test and a lack of dedication to training) that has surrounded him.
"He was in condition this time and it was a very entertaining fight," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. "I think that he certainly improved on his image from last time and he certainly was in shape, but as his father (Hall of Famer Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.) told me after the fight, until he gets a real trainer (he's presently trained by Vladimir Baldenebro) we're all fooling ourselves. That's not me, that's him saying it. It's obvious there was no game plan."
Chavez said that his new sense of motivation came from the birth three months ago of his daughter, Julia, which made him work hard to get into top shape.
He needed to be in that kind of shape with how violent the fight was.
"We came in to put on pressure and we did," Vera said. "I saw the same fighter. He wasn't any better. I hurt my hand in the fourth round and got away from the jab a little. I found out four days ago that it was a 12-round fight (due to a contract snafu). We trained for 10 rounds. It's always something when we come to these f------ fights. But I'm a fighter, I always give people a great fight."
Chavez and Vera came out trading from the opening bell and rarely let up. But Chavez, with the clear power advantage, was landing heavier shots throughout the bout. Most impressive was Chavez's overhand right, which he landed almost at will.
He landed several in the third round, rocking Vera along the ropes. But although Chavez was taking the rounds on the scorecards, Vera would not give an inch. He stood toe to toe with Chavez as the crowd cheered.
Vera was disappointed with the decision, mainly because of how wide two of the scorecards were.
"I thought maybe 96-94 or a draw," Vera said. "But I thought it was a lot closer than two of those scores. But no excuses, man. I got hit too much. I got hit with too many right hands. I felt he won the fight because I made too may mistakes."
There were numerous action-packed exchanges, but Chavez's right hand never stopped landing. He had Vera (23-8, 14 KOs), 32, of Austin, Texas, in trouble in the seventh round courtesy of the right hand.
In the eighth round, referee Rafael Ramos deducted a point from Vera for pushing Chavez's head down. By the ninth round, Vera was looking very weary but he has a huge heart and managed to stay on his feet.
Mexico's Chavez (48-1-1, 32 KOs), who turned 28 on Feb. 16, badly hurt Vera in the 11th round, landing a left and a flush right that staggered him in the middle of the ring. Chavez, who said he hurt his right hand in the 10th round and was also having a problem with his foot, did not engage in the final round and heard booing from the crowd.
The mood changed moments later when he was announced as the winner.
"I hurt him, I hurt my hand, so we decided to keep our distance," Chavez said of the final round. "He is the type of fighter that is dangerous when hurt, so we were very careful with that."
With Vera now behind him, a big fight beckons for Chavez. Arum said he hopes to have Chavez back on HBO this summer and then put him in a major pay-per-view fight.
Initially, the plan under discussion was for Chavez to face middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin at super middleweight, as long as Golovkin won a planned April 26 fight with Andy Lee. However, Golovkin withdrew because of the recent death of his father.
"Because Golovkin has to postpone his fight because of the unfortunate death of his father, we'll look for another HBO fight and then a pay-per-view in the fall against (Carl) Froch, if he beats George Groves on May 31, or Golovkin or (former light heavyweight champion Jean) Pascal."
As far as Chavez is concerned, he just wants a big fight.
"This is a better version of myself, but I will give more for the people," he said. "If (middleweight champ) Sergio Martinez beats (Miguel) Cotto (on June 7), we should do the rematch."
Martinez handed Chavez his first loss in 2012, after which Chavez failed a drug test and was suspended for nine months.
"You said I was scared of Sergio Martinez, but now Sergio Martinez is scared of me," Chavez said. "(As for Golovkin), I like the fight because Gennady Golovkin is a great, strong fighter. I'd like to fight Gennady Golovkin next.
"I'm happy to fight at 168. Sorry for Golovkin's father but I'm excited to fight Gennady Golovkin, He's a great fighter, undefeated, one of the best. I'm ready for anybody."
For a change, Chavez showed that on Saturday night.
2dMalik Smith, ESPN Stats & Information