By Jackie Kallen
Back in the days when I managed James “Lights Out” Toney, I had to wrestle with the problem of his making weight. It was always a team problem. We had many nerve-wracking weigh-ins and a lot of white-knuckle moments when he stepped on the scale. But no one ever adjusted the weight for us. 160 was 160. 168 was 168. But James Toney’s dad was not Julio Cesar Chavez.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
Disputed wins like this have a way of catching up with a fighter. At least Toney was a dedicated boxer. He didn’t party or avoid the gym. He simple ate too much. Then he had to kill himself that last week to make weight.
The proof is in the fight. When a man has to sweat his weight off in a sauna, take laxatives, and run until he is exhausted, it’s bound to show up when he steps through the ropes. There is no better proof of this than when James Toney fought Dave Tiberi on February 8, 1992.
By now the boxing world knows that Toney was nowhere close to 160 leading up to the fight. We had to pull out all the old tricks to insure that the fight would take place. I think I aged 10 years that week. But Toney made weight. I’m not sure if that is the good news or the bad news.
When Lights Out was awarded the decision after a lack-luster fight that was much like the Vera/Chavez jr. fight, the crowd booed. Even Donald Trump, whose hotel we were at, went crazy and protested. But the win stayed on the records. It didn’t matter that Tiberi did not have a mark on him and James had to be taken to the hospital for two bags of IV.
Fight fans still bring up that fight and tell me what a black eye it was. So I could totally relate as I watched Saturday’s fight. Like Tiberi, Vera gave it his best. Many fans thought he won easily. Though Chavez jr. claims to have broken his right hand, the more than 5,000 fans on hand clearly felt he simply stunk up the place.
I can tell you that no matter what he is saying today, Chavez, jr. is not proud of his win and is not savoring the moment. He may act as though he believes he clearly won and perhaps he has even convinced himself of it. But the sounds of the jeers and boos will echo in his head for a long time.
If he uses this fight as a learning experience, he may become a better and more focused boxer. But if he looks it as his father’s legacy protecting him, he will continue to screw up. Everyone knows that a middleweight fight that ends up at a catch weight of 173 is ridiculous. Super middle, light heavy, whatever. It still wasn’t fair to Vera who is a shorter, smaller man.
Admittedly, Brian Vera is not a superstar. But he is a tough, 31-year old Texan who fought a solid fight the other night and was not given the credit he deserved. Once again the fans must question the judges. You can argue that anyone who saw Mayweather jr/Canelo as a draw has serious eye problems. It appears the same with the judges on Saturday, one of whom only gave Vera two rounds.
Does this sort of decision ruin boxing? Or does it make it more interesting and controversial? Fans don’t talk this much about a boring decision. It’s these “black eye” fights that heat up social media.
I feel bad for Brian Vera today. He was dealt a lousy hand. Most fans feel he did a lot better than he was given credit for. But I also know that deep in his heart, Chavez, jr. knows that he didn’t dazzle anyone. He surely knows that he got lucky and if his father was Joe Smith he probably would have lost the decision. Or gotten a draw at best.
Does anyone else want to see a rematch at a much lower weight?