Middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s first defense against Ronald Hearns, scheduled for Sept. 17, was called off Thursday night because a laceration on Chavez's hand has not fully healed, manager Billy Keane told ESPN.com.
Chavez, the son of Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., was supposed to meet Hearns, the son of all-time great Thomas Hearns, in Chavez's hometown of Culiacan, Mexico on Mexican Independence Day weekend.
Keane said Chavez suffered a freak injury about two weeks ago when he was in the gym training and stretched out his arms and caught his right hand on a ceiling fan. The fan cut Chavez's hand, which needed two stitches, Keane said.
Despite the injury, the fight was still formally announced at a news conference on Aug. 15, a week after it happened.
"He still wants to fight, but he really can't," Keane said. "I advised him to pull out when this first happened. He wanted to push on and fight. He says he is doing this for his father. But he's only sparred one day and he had a really hard time."
Keane said when Chavez's hand hit the fan, "it split him open and there was a lot of blood. His girlfriend took him to the hospital and he needed two stitches. He said he was fine, but I went down to see him in Tijuana and it was all puffy. The hand is bad. He can't make a tight fist. I advised him again to pull out of the fight. I told him to see the doctor again and he will (on Friday)."
Lou DiBella, Hearns' promoter, said his right-hand man, Ron Rizzo, got the news Thursday night from Sean Gibbons of Zanfer Promotions, Chavez's co-promoter. DiBella said he simply does not believe the story.
"They say he hurt himself two weeks ago and then I heard he was sparring two days ago with (Antonio) Margarito," DiBella said. "People said he was way overweight, maybe 180 pounds. There's a lot of red flags here so, no, I don't believe it. I certainly believe he was in no condition to fight. His gut was injured. This was totally predictable, which is sad."
The promotion was riddled with problems from the outset.
It was announced last week -- a short window for training and promotion. Top Rank's Bob Arum, Chavez's co-promoter, had disavowed the fight. He did not want Chavez to take it -- and said so forcefully and publicly -- because he had an HBO date lined up for Chavez to face Peter Manfredo Jr. on Nov. 19, and did not want anything to derail that.
There were also issues with Chavez's training camp. He was without trainer Freddie Roach, who took on other commitments after Arum told him repeatedly that Chavez would not be fighting in September. There was also widespread discussion of Chavez's weight, which typically balloons between fights. Keane had said about a month ago that Chavez weighed about 190 pounds when he would have to make 160 for the fight.
Speculation that Chavez was indeed having weight problems surfaced again last week when the WBC conducted its mandated weight-check 30 days before the fight, a procedure designed to make sure the boxers are within a certain range of safely making weight.
Hearns' was within the range when his weight was announced at 174.51 pounds while Chavez's was listed as unavailable. Two days later, Chavez's weight was announced at 173.
"I totally saw this coming when the 30-day weights--- was going on," DiBella said. "They released Hearns' weight and wouldn't release Chavez's weight until a couple of days later. Come on. Ronald is going to be crushed because he was working his ass off. He loved this fight. He thought a big right hand might land. I think it would have been a competitive fight. An out of shape Chavez loses to an in-shape Hearns and I think that's why the fight isn't happening.
"Do I believe the injury happened weeks ago? No. Then the 30-day weigh-in stuff happened. There are just too many coincidences. Why do a press conference after this supposed injury? Come on. There is nothing you can do but shrug your shoulders and say f---."
Keane disputed DiBella's claim. He said Chavez's weight was 171 when he saw him on Wednesday and that the only reason his 30-day weight was two days late was because the WBC officials handling it could not locate Chavez to check his weight.
Keane insisted that Chavez still wanted to fight.
"He's got no respect for Ronald Hearns," Keane said. "He thinks he annihilates him. He thinks he's too strong and he will break him down and it won't be a difficult fight -- even with one hand and a short camp."
The 25-year-old Chavez (43-0-1, 30 KOs) claimed a 160-pound belt by via majority decision against Sebastian Zbik in Los Angeles on June 4.
Hearns (26-2, 20 KOs), 32, was offered the bout based largely on his famous last name, not because of any particular ring accomplishments. That is the same reason he got a shot at middleweight titleholder Felix Sturm in his last fight in February. Sturm knocked him out in the seventh round.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.