Julio Cesar Chavez followed the fine tradition of great Mexican fighters and then pushed the boundaries even further. The outstanding box-fighter had almost 100 fights before his first defeat and won five world titles at three different weights. He beat the finest fighters of his generation and was the star attraction at the biggest paid attendance of all time (132,247 people) when he crushed Greg Haugen in a WBC light-welterweight title defence at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City in 1993.
Born into a boxing family in Sonora, Mexico on July 12, 1962, Chavez turned professional in 1980 and won the vacant WBC super-featherweight crown with an eighth round stoppage of compatriot Mario Martinez in Los Angeles in September 1984. He rattled off nine successful defences in three years beating worthy contenders such as Roger Mayweather, Refugio Rojas, Rocky Lockridge, Juan LaPorte and Danilo Carbrera.
A prodigious body-puncher, Chavez fought with a methodical aggression that wore down even the most doughty and gifted of foes and he claimed the WBA lightweight title in November 1987, when he chopped down Puerto Rican banger Edwin Rosario in 11 rounds in Las Vegas. Chavez soon added the WBC lightweight crown to his list of honours with an 11th round technical decision over fellow Mexican, Jose Luis Ramirez in October 1988, also in Vegas.
He won a world title at a third weight when old foe Roger Mayweather retired after 10 rounds in a WBC light-welter clash in Los Angeles in May 1989. But in his third defence, Chavez almost came unstuck when he was outboxed in an epic contest by brilliant American Meldrick Taylor - the IBF title-holder. Yet the awesome Chavez finally caught up with Taylor, winning via controversial stoppage just two seconds from the final bell. There was considerable clamour for a rematch, but when Chavez won the return in eight rounds, four years later, Taylor was already a shot fighter.
Fortune again smiled on Chavez when he was gifted a contentious draw after being outboxed by the classy Pernell Whitaker in a WBC welterweight challenge in San Antonio in September 1993. That was the first blemish on Chavez’s hitherto spotless record though worse was to come when another American Frankie Randall floored and outpointed him for his first ever defeat in Las Vegas in January 1994. His unbeaten record had lasted 91 fights and over 13 years. Chavez regained the title via a controversial eighth round technical decision four months later when appearing to quit after a clash of heads.
But Chavez had been in the trenches too long by the time he fought young superstar Oscar De La Hoya for the WBC welterweight crown in June 1996, and was outclassed before losing on cuts in four rounds. But the old master gave a spirited account of himself in the rematch in September 1998 before retiring on his stool after eight rounds.
Chavez had one last shot at a world crown, but he was outclassed in six rounds by hard-hitting WBC 140lbs champion Kostya Tszyu on July 29, 2000. He remains a living legend.
Julio Cesar Chavez: Fights 109, Wins 103 Losses 5 Draws 2 (Knockouts 86).
By Mark G. Butcher