CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. stepped on the scales Friday and finally saw a number he liked.
After several weeks of trying and failing to get his weight down, culminating in several hours in the sauna at the Biltmore Hotel, the notorious boxing scion weighed 172.4 pounds.
That's 10 pounds more than he originally hoped to weigh for his comeback fight against Bryan Vera. That's nearly 5 pounds more than the super middleweight contract limit eventually agreed upon for this bout, only to be abandoned earlier this week when Chavez knew he couldn't make it.
"He put the work in for this fight," said Billy Keane, Chavez's manager. "His body just wouldn't respond."
But in the opulent hotel ballroom in downtown Los Angeles, Chavez managed to weigh in under the new 173-pound catch weight finally chosen for Chavez's first fight since his thrilling decision loss to Sergio Martinez a year ago.
Under these circumstances, the drawn, sunken fighter had something to celebrate — and a chance to rehydrate.
"I am coming off a loss, and I want to show everyone what I am capable of doing," Chavez said. "I worked really hard and I'm looking forward to getting in the ring to show everyone that I'm back. Of course I want to regain the position where I was before the loss."
Chavez (46-1-1, 32 KOs) hasn't fought since he staggered and nearly stopped Martinez in the 12th round of his first career loss last September. The fighter with the famous name and a resume full of unimpressive opponents had finally put on a performance worthy of his Mexican fans' appreciation, even if he lost the bout handily.
But then things started going wrong for Chavez.
He tested positive for marijuana use, leading to a nine-month suspension and a hefty fine. He split up with trainer Freddie Roach and strength coach Alex Ariza, hiring his father as his trainer.
Roach, who played a major role in Chavez's surge to world-class competence after several years of living on his name, grew frustrated when Chavez elected to train in the living room of his rented house instead of his gym.
Top Rank's Bob Arum candidly ranks Chavez high among the most frustrating fighters he has ever promoted.
"If a guy has no ability, or mediocre ability, and he (messes up), it's irritating," Arum said. "But you don't feel the same way as a guy who has extraordinary ability who then (messes) up. I thought his performance in the Martinez fight, in preparation for that fight, was just awful, something I hadn't experienced ever in my career. I saw the train wreck ready to happen.
"Unfortunately, the way the fight ended, it wasn't almost like a loss. People said, 'Hey, another few seconds, you could have won.' I was really surprised at this long a delay before he got his act back together and got back in the ring."
After Chavez nearly pulled off the upset against Martinez, the near-miss appeared to be sobering.
"When I realized how close I was, I wanted to die," Chavez said.
But the suspension delayed any positive impact. After serving his suspension for a relatively small amount of marijuana in his system, Chavez chose Vera (23-6, 14 KOs), a lively underdog from Texas, for his comeback fight at the StubHub Center south of Los Angeles.
But then the weight problems began, and they still haven't ended.
Chavez is 6-foot-1, several inches taller than his father, with a rangy build and a substantial ring presence. Every boxer wants to fight at his lowest possible weight, but Chavez is learning what's possible for a big man who doesn't live an ascetic year-round lifestyle.
"He struggles with the weight," Keane said. "He's enormous to get down to the weight he gets to. You see how sunken in and drawn he is. He's clearly not someone who didn't make an attempt. He struggled and lost a lot of weight. Every fighter will tell you there comes a point in their career when their body simply doesn't do what it used to do, and Julio got to that point."