CARSON, Calif. – Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. won a unanimous decision over Bryan Vera on Saturday night in his return to the ring from a yearlong absence.
Chavez (47-1-1) overcame weight struggles and a lively challenge from the unsung Vera to get the decision on all three judges’ scorecards, winning 96-94, 97-93 and 98-92.
“I definitely won seven or eight rounds of the fight,” Chavez said. “I was very close to knocking him out like three times in the fight.”
Not many ringside observers agreed: The crowd at the StubHub Center, largely pro-Chavez during the fight, roundly booed the decision and Chavez as he left the ring.
The Associated Press scored it 96-94 for Vera.
The win capped a tumultuous stretch for Chavez, who hadn’t fought since Sept. 15, 2012, when he suffered his first career defeat in a thrilling decision against middleweight king Sergio Martinez.
After serving a nine-month drug suspension, Chavez missed the original 168-pound contract limit for his comeback bout with Vera. The notorious boxing scion struggled just to get to the new 173-pound limit for Friday’s weigh-in.
Vera (23-7) and his camp were furious with the verdict, feeling he outpointed Chavez with superior activity and aggression in the 10-round bout. Vera landed 176 of his 734 punches – throwing more than twice as many as Chavez, who landed 125 of 328 – while also landing more power shots than Chavez, whose face was swollen and cut by the final bell.
“This is the best performance of my career,” Vera said. “The weight was never an issue. The game plan was exactly what we did. I was never hurt during the fight.”
Chavez complained repeatedly about head butts and low blows by Vera, who finished the final round aggressively and thrust his arms skyward at the final bell.
No matter the decision, Chavez showed some rust and conditioning issues in his first bout since losing to Martinez.