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Refocused Chavez ready for Fonfara

Those who question the seriousness with which former middleweight titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. takes his boxing career have ample evidence to suggest that he doesn't.

One could point to his 2009 positive drug test and suspension for a diuretic after a fight with Troy Rowland in Las Vegas, a win that was changed to a no decision because of the flunked test.

One could also point to Chavez's 2012 DUI arrest in Los Angeles, which came just two weeks before a title defense against Marco Antonio Rubio.

There was also a comical training camp for his world title fight defeat against then-lineal champion Sergio Martinez later in 2012. Chavez barely trained for the fight. Then-trainer Freddie Roach said Chavez spent almost no time in the gym and on the rare occasion he did train, he had Roach come to the Las Vegas home he rented, where they moved couches out of the way to have an area large enough to simulate a ring. After the one-sided loss to Martinez, Chavez tested positive for marijuana and was suspended for nine months.

Things did not get better upon his return in September 2013. He outpointed Bryan Vera via highly controversial-decision in a fight for which Chavez had to pay Vera an extra six-figure fee to get him to agree to amend the contract weight, because Chavez was more than four pounds heavier than the initial 168-pound limit.

To say Chavez might not have been taking his career too seriously is an understatement. But he returns to the ring claiming a new attitude and dedication when he faces former world title challenger Andrzej Fonfara in a 12-round light heavyweight bout (maximum weight of 172 pounds) on Saturday night (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminary bout on Showtime Extreme beginning at 8 p.m. ET/PT) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

"I am very focused going into this fight. I have changed a lot mentally this past year," said Chavez, who will be fighting for the first time in the 13 months since convincingly outpointing Vera in a rematch.

In the 10-round junior welterweight co-feature, up-and-comer Amir Imam (16-0, 14 KOs), 24, of Albany, New York, will take on 26-year-old Nicaraguan Walter Castillo (25-2, 18 KOs).

Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., the Hall of Famer and Mexican legend, said he believes his son when he says he is more dedicated to boxing now.

"I think there has been a 180-degree turn in his career," Chavez Sr. said. "I see this as a positive because he can really develop his ability and looks very well prepared."

To that end, Chavez Jr. (48-1-1, 32 KOs), 29, enlisted the well-respected Joe Goossen as his new trainer, going away with him to Lake Tahoe for what they say was a serious training camp that did not involve shoving couches around a living room.

"Joe is a great trainer. He is a great motivator to his fighters and makes them better," Chavez Jr. said. "I have worked very hard with him for the 35 days we spent together in Lake Tahoe. When I was training with Freddie Roach, it was very different. I think Freddie is a great trainer, but Joe also has a lot of experience and we have made a connection together."

Chavez Sr. was a regular in camp and said he liked what he saw from his son and Goossen.

"I think Joe is doing a great job. We are on the same page," Chavez Sr. said. "We are all focused on [Chavez Jr.] getting to the fight well prepared. This fight requires great preparation because he is going into the fight at a weight that's higher than his normal weight and he is facing a very tough opponent."

Goossen first met Chavez when he was a kid and has always liked his fighting style. Chavez was a fighter Goossen said he wanted to train, and then when he was asked he quickly accepted the gig. Of course, Goossen heard about Chavez's issues but said he took training seriously.

"I matured over my years, once I had a kid and a family, and I think the same has happened with Julio," Goossen said of Chavez, who has a baby daughter now. "Life becomes clearer when you put away the immaturity. You realize that you have a future and if you really want to access what's available to you, then you are going to have to work hard and dedicate yourself to it.

"Going to Lake Tahoe and really working hard is a sign of maturity, and I think that's what Julio is going through right now. He really showed it by leaving his home and spending an extended period of time up there. To me, that is a great indicator that he is mature, dedicated and taking this fight very seriously."

When it came to selecting the opponent for Chavez's return, not everybody was on the same page. Chavez Sr. was against picking Fonfara, a physical fighter who surprised most by giving world champion Adonis Stevenson hell in a decision loss last May.

Stevenson dominated the first seven rounds, including scoring a pair of knockdowns. But Fonfara fought back hard, dropped Stevenson in the ninth round, bloodied his nose and had him in all kinds of trouble. Fonfara (26-3, 15 KOs), 27, a native of Poland living in Chicago, rebounded for a 10-round unanimous decision win against Doudou Ngumbu in November.

"I would've liked to have seen him take a tuneup fight instead [of Fonfara] because of his long layoff. I particularly didn't want this fight," Chavez Sr. said. "Julio wants credibility in this sport and that's why he made the decision to take this fight, even though it's a dangerous decision. He must be very prepared for this fight."

By the time Goossen joined Chavez's team the fight with Fonfara was already made.

"The fight was made before I even came on board, but that's the challenge that I am presented with," Goossen said. "You must figure out a good game plan and figure out what you're up against.

"Just because Julio has been out a year doesn't mean that it's going to be a cakewalk for Fonfara. We went up to Lake Tahoe with one thing in mind, and that's winning this fight and that's exactly what we're going to do."

Chavez said he wanted the challenge of an opponent such as Fonfara, who figures to mix it up with Chavez in a crowd-pleasing bout.

"I am fighting Fonfara now because I like big opponents," said Chavez, who, with a victory, could get a summer title shot against Stevenson. "I like the challenge of fighting good, hungry fighters. Just because Fonfara doesn't have the name recognition of other fighters, it doesn't make him an easy fighter. He's tough."

As for his past weight issues, he said he is comfortable making weight for the fight -- and if he doesn't, he'll have to pay $100,000 per pound he is over.

"I feel comfortable at light heavyweight," he said. "Any time that you can add a couple pounds, you feel better. Although I will be fighting at [172], I feel most comfortable at 168 as a boxer. Since I have had one year off, it was a better choice to fight at this weight so that I could see how my body feels. Since I have added a few pounds, I have become a more physical and stronger boxer. The light heavyweight division has very big and physical contenders.

"I promise a great fight. This is a very exciting fight. Fonfara isn't an easy opponent, but he has never seen an opponent like me."