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After a year away from boxing following the loss of his middleweight world title and a subsequent suspension and controversial fine for a positive drug test, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will return to the ring.
Chavez, moving up in weight, will face battle-tested Brian Vera in a scheduled 12-round super middleweight bout Sept. 7 (HBO) at Staples Center in Los Angeles, promoter Top Rank announced Wednesday.
"It's a fan-friendly fight. We know how Chavez fights, and there is no quit in Vera," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com. "Vera is gonna bring the fight to Chavez. It will be a fight that the public will love to watch. Are these guys the greatest boxers in the history of the sport? No, but they're brawlers. They come to fight, and that's what people love to see."
Staples Center is the same venue in which Chavez won his 160-pound world title by majority decision against Sebastian Zbik in June 2011. Chavez made three successful defenses before being outclassed in a lopsided unanimous decision loss to lineal champion Sergio Martinez last September in Las Vegas, although Chavez scored a hard knockdown in the final round and nearly knocked out Martinez in what would have been an improbable comeback.
But Martinez hung on for the win to regain his old alphabet belt. After the fight, Chavez tested positive for marijuana, his second positive drug test in Nevada since 2009, when he tested positive for a banned diuretic.
As a two-time offender, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Chavez for nine months and fined him 30 percent of his $3 million purse -- a stunning $900,000.
After Chavez (46-1-1, 32 KOs), 27, son of the Mexican legend and Hall of Famer Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., threatened to sue the commission over the amount of the fine, the sides negotiated a settlement last month and the fine was reduced to $100,000. That cleared the way for Chavez, who already has served the full suspension, to be licensed again in the United States.
"He'll be a little rusty after the time off, so we'll see," Arum said. "He's young enough that the rust shouldn't affect him."
Said Chavez: "I am looking forward to getting back in the ring and prove that I am still one of the best in the world. Vera is a tough guy with an aggressive style, and I am sure we will give the fans a great fight."
As for the weight, Chavez has had mighty struggles getting down to 160. Initially, the weight for the fight with Vera, in the works for months, was going to be 164 pounds.
"Now it's 168. Both sides agreed," Arum said. "[Chavez] wants to test at 168 and see if he is going to remain at super middleweight."
Chavez said he doesn't plan to stay at super middleweight.
|Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who lost his title to Sergio Martinez, returns to the ring Sept. 7 versus Brian Vera.|
"I will return to middleweight after this fight and will get my world title back," he said.
Vera (23-6, 14 KOs), 31, of Austin, Texas, has had a number of fights at super middleweight, so weight is not an issue for him. He is just pumped up for the opportunity to fight one of boxing's biggest names.
"It's been going on for about two months and now it's finally done. I'm definitely hyped about it," Vera told ESPN.com. "The Chavez Jr. name is bigger than a world title. When I beat him, it opens doors to everything else. I've already been training with Ronnie [Shields] for two weeks."
Vera gained attention as a participant in the 2007 season of the "Contender" reality series and has won six of his past seven bouts. The lone loss in the stretch was a decision to Andy Lee in a 2011 rematch. In 2008, Vera scored a major upset by knocking out the then-undefeated Lee in the seventh round.
During his recent stretch, Vera also has two close wins against former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora and a 10th-round knockout of former junior middleweight titlist Sergiy Dzinziruk. "For me, this fight is a great opportunity and that's why I came to camp early with Ronnie," Vera said. "This is gonna be good. I will be as strong as I can and have a full camp. I'm not taking this fight on three or four weeks' notice like I've done before. When I get a full camp and get as strong as I can, I think I can get him out of there.
"I think it will be a fan-friendly fight, similar to the Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado fights. I will be in the best shape to do it."
Whether Chavez will train again with Freddie Roach remains to be seen. Roach has trained him since 2010 but was extremely unhappy with Chavez's lack of dedication for the Martinez fight. Arum said Chavez would do most of his training in Mexico with another trainer and then likely finish in Los Angeles with Roach.
"Chavez will train much better for this fight, not like the idiot who trained for the last fight," Arum said. "I think he's going to train most of the time in Mexico and come in the last two or three weeks and have Freddie fine-tune him."
Roach said that as of now, he isn't Chavez's trainer but added that if Chavez called him and asked him to work with him, he would be willing.
While the fight with Vera was announced and tickets go on sale Friday, Chavez still must get a visa, which has been an issue, in order to enter the United States. Chavez has had problems getting a visa because of a DUI arrest last year in Los Angeles. In a plea deal last summer, he pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Arum said he expects the visa issue to be ironed out shortly.
"We have every indication that he has one more thing to do, which is to attend his [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings, and then he's passed everything, and the clinic will send the papers to the U.S. consulate with the recommendation that he be granted a visa," Arum said. "We expect him to have a visa by the end of the month. He had to give blood and urine and pass a drug test, and he did that. He was clean. They will also pass those results along."
Arum said welterweight contender Luis Carlos Abregu (35-1, 28 KOs), 29, of Argentina, whose only loss was a 2010 decision to Timothy Bradley Jr. (who later claimed a welterweight title), would fight in the televised undercard bout.
Since the loss, Abregu has won six consecutive fights, including strong back-to-back victories, a seventh-round knockout of hot prospect Thomas Dulorme in October and a unanimous decision against Antonin Decarie in April.
Top Rank hoped to match Abregu with another of its fighters, Jessie Vargas (22-0, 9 KOs), but his manager, Cameron Dunkin, rejected the match.