SAN ANTONIO -- Former middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was walking through the fight hotel late Thursday morning holding his 3-month-old daughter, Julia, who was dressed in pink and asleep in her father's arms.
A couple of hours later, Chavez appeared at the final news conference for Saturday's rematch with Bryan Vera at the Alamodome (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET/PT). When it was Chavez's turn to speak, he first went into the audience to scoop up the little girl from the arms of her mother, Chavez's fiancee, Frida Munoz, before returning to the stage to deliver his remarks while holding the baby.
Chavez, who showed off the baby -- including to a playful George Foreman, who was seated next to him -- sure looked like he was enjoying fatherhood and said that the new angel of his eye has him more focused on his career than ever before.
"She motivates me to work hard, be more responsible and train hard," Chavez said through a translator. "I'm thinking of her and what I need to do. [Fatherhood] has changed my life. It is very special."
If the baby has helped Chavez to be more mature, work harder and to be better focused it can only be a benefit to him, especially when you consider all of the issues that have threatened to derail his career -- problems making weight, lackadaisical training, a DUI arrest and two positive drug tests that resulted in suspensions and fines.
"I think now that he has become a father we will see a new, more dedicated Julio and it all starts Saturday night in his performance against Bryan Vera," said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Chavez's promoter. "I think that happens to a lot of guys when they become a father. They say, 'Hey, I'm not just fighting and living for myself. I have a family, I have responsibilities.' Sometimes it turns out to be a very good thing. I believe, I hope."
An out-of-shape Chavez was obviously ill-prepared when he and Vera met for the first time in Carson, Calif., on Sept. 28 and slugged it out for 10 exciting rounds. To most observers, Vera appeared to be the clear winner, but Chavez, the son of Mexican icon Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., was given a heavily disputed unanimous decision, one roundly booed by his own fans.
Vera had turned in the finest performance of his up-and-down career, yet got little credit, coming out on the losing end of scorecards that read 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94. The two wide scores, from judges Gwen Adair and Marty Denkin, respectively, were widely criticized by fans and media. One poll of 60 media scores had 54 awarding the fight to Vera with four draws. According to CompuBox statistics, Vera outlanded Chavez 176-125.
In addition to the scoring controversy, Chavez, who was fighting for the first time in a year since losing his belt to lineal champion Sergio Martinez and then getting suspended for a positive marijuana test, lost a lot of credibility by failing to make weight.
Chavez notoriously balloons between fights and began training camp at 205 pounds. He told his handlers the week of the bout that he would not make the contract weight of 168 pounds. That led to a deal between the camps to raise the limit to 173 pounds and Chavez forfeited six figures of his $2.5 million purse to Vera.