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Articles of 2005

When J.C. Chavez Fought Macho Camacho

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More than one J. Chavez fought in Los Angeles Saturday night, but there was little doubt which of three—Julio, Junior or Jesus—the nostalgic Mexican fans had come to see. A scattered few among the 17, 692 sellout crowd came to bury Cesar, not to praise him, but they were the very silent minority, which is why there were no fatalities at Staples Center. Julio Cesar Chavez is a bit long in the tooth now, a 42-year-old folk hero of near-Emiliano Zapata stature, and while life for the Lion of Culiacan has been good, it has been hard; even someone as extraordinarily gifted as the former world champion absorbs a lot of punishment over a career of 108 professional fights. And no one has ever suggested that outside of the ring he was a practicing monk. He fought hard; he played hard, although he claims recent reformation. The once-handsome face has been reassembled, the odd lumps, the jagged lines of old wounds, the nose flat where it should be round and curved where it should be straight; only the eyes, murderous iced marbles, hard and cruel, remain untouched by time.

He had fought only four times in this century and had not won a title fight since September of 1995, but none of that mattered to the adoring disciples that jammed the arena. He was Julio Cesar Chavez, the grandest of an extended queue of superb Mexican boxers, and they would have paid to see him one last time—the fight card was billed as part of an Adios tour—even if his camp had to wheel him into the ring. (Veteran cynic Burt Randolph Sugar, he of the fedora, the cigar, and the short arms and deep pockets, suggested that the fans had paid $25 to listen to Julio’s arteries harden.) It mattered not that his last significant fight was more than five years ago. It mattered not that his opponent, former contender 34-year-old Ivan Robinson, had won only three of his last 11 fights and was reduced to fighting six- and eight-round preliminary matches. With advanced age comes wisdom: Chavez still walks on water; he just does not walk on any now patrolled by sharks.

They fought for most of four rounds, until a trademark Chavez right hand crisply reminded the shopworn Robinson that he was, well, shopworn. When he regained his footing, albeit wobbly, the former child prodigy from Philadelphia noticed they were in a 20-foot ring and from that point until the final bell he made good use of all of it. Nostalgia is good. At the odd moment I could squint my eyes—twice I removed my eye glasses—and there on the TV screen was the Chavez of another time, the figure a bit fuzzy but no less the angry artist that stormed past 90 straight opponents (90-0-1) as he hung up championships in three separate divisions. (OK, so his 12th victory was smudged a smidgen. That is the one they said he originally lost by disqualification to one Miguel Ruiz, a boxer of no rank, the night of March 4, 1981, an alarming result that was quickly reversed the following day by the local Culiacan commission, which ruled that Chavez had actually won by a first-round knockout, tan ayúdenos Dios. Only a churl would suggest that the reversal was a hometown mugging seeing as how Chavez’s manager, Ramon Felix, was a sitting member of the commission.)

As fierce as he is as an opponent, Chavez has always been as equally gracious as a winner. When it was over, with a nod and a smile aimed at Robinson, he said, “They told me it was going to be an easy fight. It wasn’t. I give Robinson a lot of credit.” If Hector Camacho was listening, he must have smiled at those words. Chavez said pretty much the same about him after he had hammered the gutsy Puerto Rican ceaselessly in their WBC title fight 13 years ago. In that one, both fighters were at the peaks of their power. This is how that one went….

LAS VEGAS, September 1992 – During the 60-second ceasefire following the ninth round of last Saturday night’s 12-round title fight, someone in Hector Camacho's corner suggested he toss in the towel. “No mas — no more” was the dispirited proposal. Camacho's left eye was closed; on the far side of his bloody nose, over his right eye, there was a nasty cut. His right side was alive with pain from the hammering of Julio Cesar Chavez's savage body attack. Angrily, the proud but badly beaten fighter refused.

That was what this match had come down to: no longer a contest, but a study of one fighter's inexhaustible courage. As early as the seventh round, it had become evident that Chavez would keep his WBC super lightweight championship and run his magnificent record to 82-0. Camacho did not possess the firepower to stop the champion. Worse, he had lost the quickness in the legs that he had counted on to keep him out of harm's way.

The Mexican bull had gored the Puerto Rican matador. Now the bull wanted the bullfighter's ears. Urged on by the countrymen who had filled the Thomas & Mack Arena, in the final six minutes, Chavez went for the kill. “My fans do not want me just to beat him,” Chavez said last week. “They are begging me to give him a bad beating. They do not like Camacho.”

The two fighters, both 30 years old, first met in January 1985, when they fought on the same card in Mexico City. That night Chavez stopped Manuel Hernandez in three. Camacho had knocked out Leoncio Ortiz in six. They had become uneasy friends; two gunfighters trading small talk while wondering privately what would happen if they ever were to trade bullets.

As the years passed, the anticipation of a Chavez-Camacho fight took on a life of its own. Chavez went on to win the WBC super featherweight, WBA lightweight, WBC super lightweight and IBF junior welterweight championships. While winning 40 of 41 fights, Camacho had laid claim to the WBC and WBO lightweight titles. It sounded like a classic matchup, but it was not made until June, when promoter Don King opened his treasury and offered each fighter $3 million. Only then did they strap on their gun belts.

“He's a little crazy, and I think he's kind of effeminate, but I like him,” Chavez said of his opponent before the fight. “It is only when he runs off at the mouth that I don't like him so much. But we have talked to each other. In the ring he is very quick, very intelligent. He moves a lot, and it is difficult to hit him. But I am up for this fight more than for any I have ever had, except possibly Edwin Rosario and Meldrick Taylor.

“Rosario,” Chavez said again, spitting out the name. “That was the fight I was the most angry for, because of the things he said he was going to do to me. My opponents are very foolish to make me angry. I think this is why Hector is being so nice.” In 1987, after beating Rosario to a bloody mass, Chavez knocked him out in the 11th round.

“Julio is a great human being,” said Camacho, laughing. “He is not a hard person to relate to. He is not complicated. Outside of the ring, we get along. But as a fighter, I don't think he is as much as [the media] have painted him. I don't think he can handle my hand and foot speed. It has been a long time since I was properly motivated for a fight. When you train lazy, when you live lazy, you fight lazy. But not for this one. I feel definitely involved. I have everything to beat this guy and all I have to do is execute.”

A notoriously slow starter, Chavez permitted Camacho to execute, for three minutes. The Mexican champion's plan was simple: chase down his quicker opponent and kill his body. It had always worked for him before. Camacho knew what he faced. “He can't handle speed,” said the Puerto Rican challenger. “I will give him a lot of lateral movement and a lot of feints. And you have to give Julio something to think about. With me, that will be a power jab. The way I punch, I don't think it will go the distance.”

For Camacho, the first was a perfect round. His movements were brilliant; his jab tore holes in Chavez's pressing attack. As it turned out, the cold-eyed champion was only test-firing his heavy weapons; a much different Chavez came out for the second round. His attack was quicker. He began to catch the southpaw Camacho with right-hand leads. Quickly, left hooks joined the barrage, digging deeply into Camacho's right side, draining speed from the artful legs.

Without the firepower necessary to keep Chavez off him, Camacho began to grab, often in desperation. By round four, unwilling to flee, he tried to stand and fight. It was like watching a jackhammer rip up a sidewalk. By the seventh round, Camacho's left eye began to close. In the ninth, a hook slashed open a cut on the outside corner of his right eye. Savage hooks slammed into his body. Maddened by the savage assault, the partisan Mexican fans stood and screamed for Chavez to finish it.

No one has ever lost with more courage than did Camacho. Chavez pressed hard for the knockout, but Camacho took everything the champion threw at him, and at the end he was still firing back, snarling through the blood.

The decision was a formality: Judge Harry Gibbs scored it 120-107, giving the champion every round. Carol Castellano gave Camacho one round, called one round even and scored it 119-110. Dalby Shirley gave Camacho three rounds; his score 117-111.

“He was a better fighter than I expected,” Chavez said later. “He really took a lot of punches. I tried to knock him out, but my right hand would not respond.”

Chavez had injured the hand when he knocked out Frank Mitchell in the fourth round last month. He said he felt the pain return in the third or fourth round. No matter. Pain or not, he did not stop bouncing the throbbing right hand off Camacho's head until the final bell.

After the fight, Camacho was clearly awed by his conqueror. “I couldn't keep him off me,” he said. “The pressure was amazing. I never fought anyone with courage like he has. I fought a courageous fight, but there is no doubt that he won.”

Later, in the post fight interview room, King opened a valise and tossed $200,000 in $100 bills on the table. It was the pot from a side bet between the two fighters. Then the promoter announced that he would give Chavez a red Lamborghini as a bonus. When Chavez tried to say thanks, his microphone didn't work. He reached for King’s. “Get your own,” said the promoter, turning away. To King, giving away a $150,000 car is one thing. Handing over his microphone is a much more serious matter.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More

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A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

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Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06

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Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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