EL GRAN CAMPEON MEXICANO: MEETING JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ SR
By Oliver Iglesias
Tue, 24 Jul 2012
NEW YORK – Going to the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr presser last July 12 at Edison Ballroom along West 47th St near Times Square, I expected an armada of boxing scribes and photographers as this match-up is one of boxing’s biggest events this year.
Like the Pacquiao-Mayweather anticipated battle, this face-off was never expected to happen soon. Martinez has been calling out Chavez Jr since last year. It all came to fruition last June when a courageous and magnificent showing by the Mexican against the tough Andy Lee in Texas encouraged Julio Jr. that this bout was ready to go.
After affording courtesy to the indefatigable lawyer-writer Mike Marley and fellow Philboxing contributor Rich Mazon, I took some pasta and a cold soda as I was “drained” on the way to the venue given the 95 degree heat in the city that day.
Then from the ground floor, I saw some media men converge around a guy on the 2nd level who looks really familiar on TV, who shouts and cheers from ringside every time Chavez Jr. fights. I confirmed with a fellow attendee who he was, he said it was Senior. It was Julio Cesar Chavez Sr indeed.
I remember when I was a university student way back in 1998, I saw a match up on Philippine free TV which featured a young, charismatic boxer against an obviously older opponent. The younger fighter beat his nemesis via 8th round TKO. He was boxing’s “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya. However, the losing boxer had a huge number of Mexican as well as Latino fans in the crowd who cheered wildly for him.
Though beaten badly, the older pugilist was consistently relentless, fierce and was going forward always like what a traditional Mexican boxer does. He was Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., the Mexican boxing hero.
Long before patriotic fervor in boxing was felt like what Manny Pacquiao has for his country The Philippines, Chavez Sr was the epitome of it. He was Mexico’s El Gran Campeon (The Great Mexican Champion). He carried his countrymen’s hopes on his shoulders every time he fought.
When he eventually retired, he toted an official record of 107-6-2 (89 KOs). Yes, it is not a typo error. Truly it was 107 wins.
His six losses were to De La Hoya (twice), Willy Wise (avenged on a return bout), Frankie Randall (avenged on a return bout), Grover Wiley (who would interestingly be beaten by Julio Jr) and legendary Russian-Australian Kostya Tszyu. The two draws were courtesy of Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker and Miguel Angel Gonzalez.
In the early goings of his career, he fought mostly Mexicans and beat the crap out of them and we knew how mostly Mexicans go at it, the crowd-pleasing toe-to-toe approach!
He was a champion in 3 divisions: super featherweight, lightweight and light welterweight. He fought the likes of ex-champions Meldrick Taylor, Hector “Macho” Camacho, Greg Haugen, Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya and also the current trainer and uncle of soon-to-be-released-from-jail top boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr, Roger Mayweather.
Chavez Sr actually beat Roger Mayweather twice. First was on 7 July 1985 for the WBC Super Featherweight belt on a 2nd round KO and on 13 May 1989 for the WBC Light Welterweight when Mayweather’s corner gave up before the start of the 11th Round.
On their 2nd fight, Roger would give up his WBC junior welterweight belt to Chavez after defending it a few times.
For years, Chavez Sr was regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet. His remarkable punching power and strong chin, as well as his body attack, brought him a long and fruitful boxing career. He was inducted as member of Class 2011 of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota NY.
As we were informed that the media event was to start in 10 minutes, I approached the Mexican legend and asked for a photo opportunity with him. He readily obliged although he was being interviewed by a lady Mexican TV reporter who was also bilingual. I asked her politely to translate my question in English and she was nice enough to do it.
I asked “Who was your strongest opponent ever in the ring?” The lady whispered the query to him in Spanish.
I was expecting either De La Hoya or Tszyu as they were the only men ever to hand him TKO defeats.
Pausing for a few seconds, Julio Sr replied “Taylor. Meldrick Taylor.”
When the Top Rank people came to remind him to go to the dais with his son, I finally shook his hand and greeted him ‘Feliz Cumpleaños, Señor!” Coincidentally, it was his 50th birthday and if the photo op became my advance gift as I celebrated my birthday the following day, I take it wholeheartedly. He also graciously signed a glove for me as a memento. Gracias Señor Chavez!
Returning to my seat, I was not cognizant of how dramatic Chavez Sr won over Taylor so my iPhone was handy to google it out.
A quick Wikipedia check revealed the synopsis.
On 17 March 1990, Chavez faced Meldrick Taylor, the undefeated IBF Light Welterweight Champion in a unification fight. Taylor clearly won the early rounds but Chavez rallied in the later rounds.
In the last few seconds of Round 12, the Mexican knocked Taylor down with a big right punch. The American rose at the count of six and referee Richard Steele noticed that he did not respond to him convincingly and instead went on to hold the ropes. Steele waived his hands and stopped the bout with 2 seconds remaining, handing Chavez the hard-earned victory.
The boxing fans and media were outraged with the referee’s decision. It was widely believed that Taylor had a chance to win by unanimous decision had he actually finished the fight.
Richard Steele would then explain that his action was justified by saying his priority was to protect the fighter, regardless of how much time was left on the clock.
“I stopped it because Meldrick had took (sic) a lot of good shots, a lot of hard shots, and it was time for it to stop. You know, I am not the timekeeper and I do not care about the time. When I see a man has had enough, I am stopping the fight.”
The bout would eventually be named the “Fight of the Year” by The Ring and later the “Fight of the Decade” for the 1990s.
For boxing aficionados and young fans of the sport, below is a link for that exhilarating first fight:
They did not have a rematch until 1994 when Chavez would then have a convincing KO win in the 8th round.
With all his great ring accomplishments, Chavez Sr is truly the pride of all Mexico and the boxing world.
Chavez Sr poses with the author.
During the media event, here are some memorable quotes from the personalities involved:
PABLO SARMIENTO (Martinez’s Trainer, as translated from Spanish by promoter Sampson Lewkowicz)
“We are happy when this fight was finally confirmed. It’s good that big-mouthed Chavez Jr accepted the challenge to defend his title which originally belonged to Martinez. On September 15, we will shut his mouth up and Sergio will again be a champion.”
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ SR. (as translated by promoter Fernando Beltran)
“This is the fight which everybody wanted. I know this is a difficult fight because Martinez is considered one of the best fighters at present. Personally, I don’t like his fighting style, he runs a lot and keeps his hands down, but it works for him. On September 15, let’s see what Pablo Sarmiento is talking about.”
SERGIO MARTINEZ (as translated by Lewkowicz)
“Thank you Top Rank and to Junior for signing the bout contract. Finally, he decided not to run like a chicken. It’s time for him to go out. I will beat him up on September 15 and no one could help him out. I want to dedicate this fight to all proponents of anti-child bullying and against abuse involving women. Thank you.”
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR. (thru Beltran)
“Thank you all for being here. I am excited to prepare for this fight. Everybody has been asking about this match up and I want to prove to everyone that I am the best middleweight in the world. I know Martinez is a good dancer as I have seen him in a dance show but there is no way he can beat me by dancing all night long. He’s a real ballerina alright and I believe he has found his true calling. At least after September 15, he would have something to do to keep him busy. I promise you it will be a great fight and I will beat Martinez.”
(Parting Shot by Martinez)
“Please, please take a lot of Junior’s pictures now since after the fight, no one will recognize his face anymore”…(Laughter from the crowd)
Promoted by Top Rank, Zanfer Promotions and DiBella Entertainment, in association with Wynn Las Vegas, AT &T and Tecate, MARTINEZ VS CHAVEZ JR will take place Saturday, September 15 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, live on HBO Pay Per View (PPV)
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Oliver Iglesias.
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