Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and his team were hoping for a six-month suspension for his failed drug test last September in Las Vegas, but the Nevada State Athletic Commission came down harder, putting Chavez Jr on a nine-month suspension and fining the Mexican star $900,000 for testing positive for marijuana following his first career loss, to Sergio Martinez.
This was the outcome most expected for Chavez, 27, and it was said in late January that a nine-month suspension was likely. The WBC, which has favored Chavez his entire career and will continue to do so, has said they will allow him to fight in Mexico if he wishes to do so. But that won't happen, promoter Bob Arum says. Chavez's suspension will end on June 15, and he's already setting up a June 16 return in Texas or Mexico City, with the approval of the Nevada commission to promote the fight during the suspension.
What is surprising here, without question, is the amount of money on the fine. Chavez was hoping to be fined $10,000, which was clearly a hope for extreme leniency given this is his second failed drug test in Nevada, but the $900,000 is astonishing. Arum said the length of the suspension was just, but the money is "extortion":
"The nine months is fine, but a 30 percent fine on a purse of $3 million, that's extortion. That means Julio has to make a decision -- is he going to contest the fine in court or he can elect not to fight ever again in Nevada. There's no question the nine months is the nine months, but it's ridiculous money, particularly since you already take out 30 percent for taxes.
"I was hoping for nine months, that worked out. The fine is an absolute stunner. You don't do that to an athlete. Which athlete in any sport has been fined as much as $900,000?"
It's by far the largest fine Nevada has ever passed down for a drug test failure, and is the second-largest fine of any fighter in the state's history, trailing Mike Tyson's $3 million fine in 1997 for the infamous ear biting incident. Chavez could not pay the fine and just never fight in Nevada again, but the commission would go after any purse he made in any other state if he chooses to do that, so it's probably just going to wind up being paid in the end.
Chavez did finally flat-out admit to smoking marijuana before the fight, but also says he's now more committed than ever to boxing; while it's a familiar story from a Chavez camp, it's hard not to hope that's true.
Did Chavez get hit too hard here, even when you take into account it's a second failed test and that, like it or not, marijuana is as forbidden as anabolic steroids or anything else? Has Nevada made a bold statement, or are they just puffing their chests?