Julio Cesar Chavez
One of boxing’s greatest names, Julio Cesar Chavez Gonzalez was born in Ciudad Obregon in Mexico on July 2nd 1962. Being one of nine children he had a poor upbringing. His father worked on the railroad and Chavez lived with the rest of his family in an abandoned railroad car.
He began boxing at an early age and at only 16,having experienced the thrill of 14 wins, decided to enter his first amateur tournament in Mexico City. This was where he got his first and only taste of losing as an amateur. He turned professional in 1980.
Controversy surrounded Chavez’s first title when, in March 1981, he came up against Miguel Ruiz in Culiacan. As the bell sounded for the end of the first round, Chavez swung at Ruiz, knocking him out. The blow was disqualified and Ruiz announced as the winner.
However, the following day, the decision was overturned by the Mexican Boxing Commission (of which Chavez’s trainer, Ramon Felix, was part) and Chavez claimed the title.
Three years later at the Grand Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles, Chavez proved the bookmakers wrong by defeating fellow countryman and favourite, Mario “Azabache” Martinez, to win the WBC super featherweight title. This was a title which Chavez went on to defend successfully no fewer than ten times.
Move to Lightweight
Chavez moved up a class to lightweight in 1987, winning the WBA championship in that division after a vicious match against Puerto Rican, Edwin Rosario. Rosario’s less than complimentary remarks about Chavez’s fellow countrymen provided the impetus for Chavez to launch a brutal attack on his competitor and he won the match in the 11th round with a technical knockout (TKO).
In a unification bout for WBA and WBC belts in Oct 1988, Chavez found himself up against friend and gym mate, Jose Luis Ramirez, at the Las Vegas Hilton. A clash of heads opened a cut on Ramirez’s forehead and the fight was stopped on doctor’s orders.
Before the fight, the 9-1 favourite Chavez had said that he didn’t want to take the fight, so close was the friendship between the men. He ended up, however, winning on points although the points difference was only two, on two of the three judges’ scorecards
Chavez was well known for his “Mexican” style of boxing, withstanding whatever his opponent dished out, and stalking and closing in on the other man, ready to take his revenge, until his rival was either too exhausted or too much in pain to defend himself.
Meldrick Taylor (IBF Junior Welterweight Champion) on the other hand was swift on his feet, quick with his hands and had reflexes which were almost impossible to beat. The fight between the two in 1990 was going to be an interesting one, nicknamed “Thunder meets Lightening”, but few could have predicted that so much controversy would be stirred up in a decision which to this day is still debated.
The early rounds went to Taylor although Chavez rallied in the later rounds. With 16 seconds left in the final round, Taylor was knocked down. Whilst he managed to get to his feet on the referee’s count of six, he was deemed by Steele not to be responding coherently to his questions and the fight was stopped with only two seconds to go.
Many were outraged by Steele’s decision but he defended his position by saying that his number one responsibility was for the physical well-being of the competitors. Fans hoped for a quick re-match but four years elapsed before the men met again and this time Chavez won easily.
After unifying the titles, another controversial match followed in 1993 against Greg Haugen. Again Chavez was incensed by remarks made by his opponent prior to the match – words to the effect that Chavez’s 82-fight unbeaten run was down to the fact that many of his opponents were Tijuana taxi drivers that his mother could have beaten and that there weren’t 130,000 Mexicans who could afford the price of a ticket to see the match. Haugen came to eat his words with a record crowd of 136,274 attending and Chavez taking the fight after a TKO in the fifth round.
Trouble for Chavez
The first sign of trouble for Chavez came in 1993 when he moved up a division and took on Pernel Whitaker in an attempt at the WBC Welterweight title. Despite the early rounds seeming quite even, Chavez started to struggle and despite the thousands of fans cheering him on in San Antonio, it was clear he was in trouble. The TV commentators were agreed that Whitaker, having outboxed his opponent, was the winner but the judges had other ideas. Only one scored in Whitaker’s favour, whilst the other two scored 115-115 and a draw was announced. Most impartial spectators were outraged at what was seen as a biased decision and the first doubts were raised about Chavez’s future.
Further doubts were voiced four months later when Chavez took on Frankie Randall – a fight which Chavez should have won easily. Instead Chavez lost, a defeat which he blamed on referee Steele who had deducted two points for low blows.
Fortunately for Chavez, a rematch was ordered and four months later, in May 1994, he won on a split decision. Fortuitously a clash of heads led to a large cut opening up on Chavez’s forehead and a doctor was called. Chavez decided that he did not want to continue, one point was deducted from Randall and Chavez was declared the winner. Randall would wait ten years for a rematch which he lost on decision.
Another large gash above Chavez’s eye was to play a pivotal point in his career in 1996 when he faced Oscar de la Hoya. Within the first minute of the fight the blood was flowing and the match stopped on the orders of the referee. It turned out that the cut had been sustained in pre-match training and for years to come Chavez asserted that he had been defeated by the cut rather than by de la Hoya.
In 1997 Chavez fought Miguel Angel Gonzalez for the WBC super lightweight title but could only manage a draw. In 2000 he took on title holder, Kostya Tszyu, as mandatory contender but was knocked out.
In 2001 Chavez retired after beating Terry Thomas in Ciudad Juarez. Two years later he was tempted out of retirement in his desire to avenge his defeat at the hands of Willy Wise. He succeeded in knocking him out in two rounds, in front of a home crowd at Tijuana. Five months later was set to be his final retirement, in a fight billposted as "Adios Mexico, Gracias" (Good-bye Mexico, Thank you) where he beat Frankie Randall.
After a further come-back victory in May 2005, Chavez took to the ring for the final time in Sept 2005 when he was defeated by an unknown Grover Wiley after a hand injury.
Life after Boxing
Chavez continues to be involved in boxing, with his son, Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr, following in his father’s footsteps. He has made a boxing video game for Super Nintendo and a film of his life was made last year.
- Chavez has 108 wins, 6 losses and 2 draws to his name with 87 KOs.
- Most successful defences of World titles (27) and title fights (37)
- Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year 1990
- WBC Super Featherweight Champion 13 Sept 1984 to 21 Aug 1987
- WBA Lightweight Champion 21 Nov 1987 to 20 Oct 1988
- WBC Lightweight Champion 29 Oct 1988 to 13 May 1989
- WBC Light welterweight Champion 13 May 1989 to 8 Dec 1990
- IBF Light welterweight Champion 8 Dec 1990 to 29 Jan 1994
- WBC Light Welterweight Champion 7 May 1994 to 7 June 1996
- ESPN 24th Greatest Boxer ever