There are a lot of people in boxing that are tired of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Take Top Rank. Bob Arum's promotional outfit has gone to great lengths to groom the son of a legend, putting him on money-flushing pay-per-views early in his career, hand-picking hittable opponents for him later, positioning him for world titles he did little to earn. And for what? For Chavez to eat his way out of 160 -- and then 168 -- pounds, get suspended for nine months for marijuana use and show the discipline of a teenager?
How about HBO? Ken Hershman probably winces a little whenever he signs on for a Chavez fight. The network thought they were going to get a Chavez fight last June. Then it was July. He finally fought in September, but only because Brian Vera cared more about money than the 13 extra pounds Chavez couldn't shave off his waist. Every Chavez fight HBO books comes with the caveat that it could wind up replaced by a re-airing of Hitch.
So why don't Top Rank and HBO send Chavez packing?
Because they can't. Because Chavez means money.
Chavez (47-1) remains one of the most bankable stars in boxing. Viewers can't get enough of him. In 2012, Chavez drew 1.9 million viewers to HBO for his middleweight title defense against Marco Antonio Rubio. Four months later, Chavez attracted 1.6 million viewers for his fight against Andy Lee. Three months after that, Chavez's pay-per-view fight against Sergio Martinez generated 475,000 pay-per-view buys and a whopping $25 million in revenue.
Even last year, after the suspension, the weight problems and the seeming indifference to training, Chavez-Vera drew 1.4 million viewers.
It seems that even when Chavez doesn't care, the television viewers still do.
Which brings us to this weekend, when Chavez will be back in the ring against Vera (23-7) at the Alamodome in San Antonio (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET). The upshot of a bloated, disinterested Chavez showing up against Vera last September was that the fight was entertaining, the ending controversial. Most ringside observers thought Vera won; the judges gave Chavez a unanimous decision. A rematch was put together quickly, and HBO snapped it up.
Chavez has said all the right things this week. He has promised to be more professional, to be more focused, to "get back on the road for another world championship run." He has said the birth of his daughter, Julia, has provided newfound motivation. And indications are that Chavez--who will fork over $250,000 of his purse if he misses weight--isn't having trouble making the 168-pound super middleweight limit.
"I will make the 168 pound limit with no problem and I will be able to do the things I could not do in first fight," Chavez said. "I will have better movement, I will be more consistent and I will fight 12 hard rounds if that is what it takes to win this second fight. Vera is a tough guy with a good chin, but I will do my best to send him home early."
Maybe Chavez gets it. Maybe he realizes the stakes on Saturday couldn't be higher. A win would springboard him into a big fight with any of the super middleweight champions that are lining up to face him. Carl Froch has been yapping about getting Chavez in the ring. Andre Ward has too. A fight against Gennady Golovkin has already been discussed. There are millions -- perhaps tens of millions -- for Chavez to make if he can put Vera away.
And if he doesn't? There are early signs that Chavez's popularity, on some levels, is waning. The first fight with Vera sold just 4,137 tickets for a live gate of $334,831. Despite the rematch being in Texas -- closer to the Mexican-born Chavez's home country -- ticket sales are sluggish. If Chavez submits another clunker, his already-damaged brand could take another crippling blow.
It would seem to be ample motivation. But for Chavez, that hasn't always been enough.