- A Boxing Memory: Julio Cesar Chavez
By Lea Worrall
Early Life & Career
Born on 12th July 1962, Chavez was one of ten children. He claimed that “I started fighting before I was one minute old.” On 5th February 1980, aged 17 he made his professional debut against Andres Felix winning by a sixth round knockout.
There are sources that suggest Chavez actually lost an early fight due to a disqualification, but this hasn’t been confirmed. As records stand he was 43-0 when he challenged fellow Mexican Mario Martinez for the vacant WBC super-featherweight crown on 13th September 1984. Explosive short hooks and body punches helped him on the way to an eighth round victory.
Over a period of three years Chavez made nine successful defences including such names as Roger Mayweather, Francisco Tomas Da Cruz and Juan LaPorte. He also had a few non title fights against some obscure opponents like Roberto Collins Lindo who had a record of 1-15-0.
On the 21st November 1987 Chavez moved up to the lightweight division and challenged the WBA champion from Puerto Rican Edwin Rosario. In what was probably Chavez’s peak performance he took the crown in the 11th round to become a two weight champion.
After a non title fight in March ’88 he defended the WBA belt on 16th April 1988 against unbeaten challenger Rodolfo Aquilar, winning by TKO in the sixth round.
After two more non title fights he stepped in with fellow Mexican and WBC title holder Jose Luis Ramirez, who had a record of 101-6-0, on the 19th October 1988. Chavez unified 2/3 of the division in unsatisfactory circumstances as the fight was stopped after an accidental head-butt in the eleventh round. Chavez was ahead on the scorecards and awarded the bout.
On the 13th May 1989 the Mexican stepped up to the light-welterweight division and took on reigning WBC champion Roger Mayweather. The American retired after ten rounds, making Chavez a three weight world champion, and still undefeated in sixty-three bouts.
Vs Meldrick Taylor
Three non title fights and two championship defences later he stepped in the ring on 17th March 1990 to take on Meldrick Taylor, the IBF champion. Chavez had slowed down somewhat as the new decade started and this was evident in the first six rounds as the quick Taylor raced into a huge points lead.
Taylor turned professional after winning featherweight gold at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, capping off a fine amateur career of 99 victories from 103 contests. He faced Luke Lecce in his pro debut at Madison Square Garden and won by TKO in the first round. He won twelve on the bounce before drawing with Howard Davis Jr over six rounds.
Taylor was blindingly fast and used his speed to dazzle good pro’s like Dwight Pratchett, Harold Brazier and John Meakin to defeat. Buddy McGirt, the IBF light-welterweight couldn’t handle Taylor either and with a career best performance stopped the champion with one minute remaining of the twelfth round.
Both Chavez and Taylor had a combined record of 92 victories between them, nineteen of them involving various versions of world title fights.
The first six rounds went to Taylor, the IBF champion as he used his speed to make Chavez look slow and ponderous. He punched the faster, was more competent in defence and out punched the Mexican in the toe-to-toe exchanges. Chavez’s style in his previous sixty-eight contests was to walk through his opponents attacks and wear them down to submission. Taylor had the definite edge scoring well with his left jab.
It wasn’t all one way traffic though as Chavez was getting through with his left hooks, but Taylor was making him look ordinary. His success made him a bit over confident in the seventh as he elected to brawl with the Mexican and finally allowed Chavez to make a real impression.
Taylor reverted to his boxing in the next round and hurt the WBC champion early in the ninth with two jarring left hooks. Chavez, who was being roared on by a large contingent of Mexican supporters in the 9,000 strong crowd fired back with some fierce combinations.
The next round was more of the same with some high quality exchanges, but Chavez was the one looking the stronger and was finally rolling, but running out of time. Chavez kept up the pressure in the eleventh, but without any significant success.
Chavez came out for the final round like a man possessed as he knew he needed a knockout to win and keep his undefeated record intact. Taylor was bone weary, dehydrated and suffering from a cut lip and a ‘blowout fracture of the left eye.’ All he had to do was stay on his feet for three minutes and Chavez’s WBC belt would be added to his IBF strap.
Chavez looked fresh as if the fight had just begun as he winged in hooks and uppercuts, with Taylor trying to hold and survive. A slip mid round gave Taylor some respite, but with twenty-seconds remaining Chavez got through with the shot that mattered. He staggered back from the effects of the right hand into a neutral corner. Taylor tried to punch back bravely, but Chavez just pounded away until his opponent finally hit the canvas.
He got up as referee Richard Steele had counted five. The red warning light, fixed on top of the ring post directly behind Taylor was flashing to warn Steele that there was less than ten-seconds of the round/contest remaining.
With Taylor’s eye closing and mouth bleeding Steele asked him: “Are you all right?” He got no response and waved the fight off with two-seconds of action remaining. The referee’s decision outraged Taylor’s team as manager Lou Duva had to be restrained as he protested Steele stopping the fight.
At the post fight press conference the official received even more criticism, but said the following day: “When a guy doesn’t respond, what are you going to do? I asked him twice. It’s a shame.”
The contest will go down in fistic history as having one of the most controversial endings in a fight of this importance. Chavez was ordered to give Taylor a rematch, but the American will need time to recover from his injuries before taking on the champion again.
After the Taylor fight Chavez went to Madrid and KO’d Akwei Addo from Ghana who had a record of 5-3-0. The following month he went back to Mexico to fight another novice, American Russell Mosley who was 4-3-1. Chavez obviously was too much for this man and stopped him in the third. Mexican Jaime Balboa who was vastly more experienced than the last two opponents but lost via a fourth round TKO.
On 08 December 1990 on the Mike Tyson vs Alex Stewart undercard Chavez finally defended his belts against the Korean Kyung-Duk Ahn, who had an impressive record of 29-1-0 going into the contest. Chavez walked through his challenger, winning by a third round TKO.
A year and a day after beating Meldrick Taylor, Chavez was in the ring again on the Tyson vs Ruddock show. His opponent had another impressive record of 36-1-0. This didn’t deter him from beating John Duplessis via a fourth round TKO.
As his promotor, Don King had fallen out with International Boxing Federation President Bob Lee, for not stripping ‘Buster’ Douglas of the heavyweight title; he made all his IBF champions relinquish that version of the belt, meaning that Chavez only held the WBC bauble.
From the Duplessis contest in ’91 to May 1993 Chavez was a busy champion fighting thirteen times in title and non title contests. In September 1992 he inflicted only the second defeat of Hector ‘Macho’ Camacho’s career with an unanimous points decision. He also halted the tough American Greg Haugen in the fifth round.
On the 10th September 1993 Chavez stepped up a weight class and challenged WBC welterweight champion Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker. Whitaker was America’s top amateur and won gold at the Los Angeles Olympics. He turned pro with Main Events and was robbed in a WBC lightweight challenge to Chavez victim Jose Luis Ramirez. He got his career back on track by taking the IBF strap from Greg Haugen, the WBC belt in a rematch with Ramirez and took just a round to win the WBA title against Juan Nazario, making him the undisputed lightweight champion, the first since Roberto Duran a decade before.
With weight problems and a lack of opposition he became a double weight champion by taking Rafael Pineda’s IBF light-welterweight crown in 1992. Without defending the championship Whitaker then became a three-weight champion by decisioning WBC welterweight champion Buddy McGirt.
In his maiden defence of the belt, Whitaker took on Chavez in a battle of modern day greats. Chavez, looking to become a four weight champion started aggressively as the slick Whitaker darted in and out of range. Many experts believed that Whitaker had won, but the judges saw a different verdict and scored it as a majority draw. Judge Jack Woodruff had it 115-113 for Whitaker, but British judge Mickey Vann and Franz Marti had it 115 a piece, meaning Whitaker kept his crown and Chavez still undefeated.
After another non title contest Chavez beat the unbeaten Liverpudlian Andy Holligan on a fifth round retirement. The start of 1994 saw the Mexican take on Frankie Randall, known as the surgeon as he dissects his opponents. Randall wasn’t seen much as a threat to Chavez, but he boxed superbly and capped off his performance by knocking the champion to the canvas in the eleventh round en-route to a split decision victory, as he claimed the WBC light-welterweight crown and inflicted the first defeat of Chavez’s career.
On 07 May 1994 both men went at it again. The contest finished in unsatisfactory circumstances as a clash of heads, which looked like the Mexican initiated, terminated the bout in the eighth round due to a bad cut for Chavez. The fight went to the scorecards with Chavez regaining his title via a technical decision.
September 1994 saw him beat Meldrick Taylor in the much anticipated rematch. Even though Taylor did become a world champion again by beating Aaron Davis for the WBA welterweight title, back-to-back losses to WBC light-middleweight champion Terry Norris and welterweight challenger Crisanto Espana saw him as damaged goods. Taylor did have three victories going into this light-welterweight challenge, but he was facing a hopeless task as he lost by eight round TKO.
Chavez held on to the title until 7th June 1996 when he had a bloody battle with undefeated two-weight champion Oscar De La Hoya. The champion’s face was a bloody mess as ‘The Golden Boy’ inflicted only the second defeat in his ninety-eight fight career.
For all he earned in the ring, the former champ was beset with financial and personal problems. His wife divorced him in October 1996 and in the same month he handed over his entire $1,000,000 purse for his win over Joey Gamache to the tax officials. “Why has this happened? Because I’m a boxer, not an accountant,” he said.
He fought on and nearly eight years after he defeated Meldrick Taylor for the first time, he fought Miguel Angel Gonzalez for the vacant WBC light-welterweight crown. The judges scored the contest 115-114 (Chavez), 116-114 (Gonzalez) and 115 each, making the fight a draw.
He then moved up a division and beat Ken Sigurani in the third, before challenging De La Hoya again, this time for the ‘Golden Boy’s’ WBC welterweight title. The champion caught the Mexican with his best shots, but he stood there and took it. This time there was no cut until the seventh round and the eighth saw De La Hoya open up a cut inside Chavez’s mouth. The great warrior refused to come out for the ninth and retired on his stool, the end of his career, at thirty-six years old looking like coming to a close.
Still he campaigned as a welterweight, but in October 1999 lost a ten round unanimous decision to American Willy Wise. A third round TKO victory over Buck Smith at the end of the year set him up for an odious WBC light-welterweight challenge to Kostya Tszyu in Arizona, his 37th world title contest.
The bout took place on the 29th July 2000. Chavez was floored in the fifth and again in the sixth as he was taking a huge beating from the younger champion, who kept his belt after 1:28 of the round with Chavez, contesting his thirty-seventh world title fight, stopped on his feet.
Julio Cesar Chavez was inactive for fourteen months before coming back on 24th November 2001 beating Terry Thomas after 50 seconds of the second round. Nearly twenty-four months later he avenged his October ’99 points defeat to Willy Wise with a second round TKO.
In May 2004 he had a rubber match with Randall, outpointing him over ten rounds. May 1995 he decisioned the once useful Ivan Robinson, hardly losing any of the ten rounds.
Finally on 17th September 1995 Chavez was involved in his final professional contest which saw him retire after five rounds to Grover Wiley in a light-middleweight bout. His final record is 107-6-2 (86 KO’s).
Even though Chavez did pad out his career with some obscure and inexperienced boxers when he was world champion, you can’t argue the fact that he did beat some great fighters of his time. Julio Cesar Chavez’s place in history as one of the greatest fighters to ever grace the ring is difficult to deny.