|El Gran Campeon: Julio Cesar Chavez|
By Randy De La O
Today is Julio Cesar Chavez' 50th birthday. I hope he had a great day. Legendary fighters deserve to rest on their laurels. Chavez is one guy that really deserves to be called a legend.
Man, when Chavez was fighting and winning during the mid to late 80's and early 90's, he was really something. My entire family were fans of Chavez. It didn't matter who he was fighting, when Chavez was on, the food was plenty and the beer was flowing and the house was packed. Those were great days.
My favorite Chavez fight and the fight that really made a believer out of me was Chavez vs Edwin Rosario. Rosario was somewhat of a monster himself but the constant round by round pressure was just to much for him. Chavez had a granite chin and that had to take the heart away from an opponent, any opponent. The fight was stopped in the 11th round.
You can argue from now to “Kingdom Come” on whether referee Richard Steel did the right thing, in Chavez vs Meldrick Taylor 1, when he stopped the fight with seconds to go, that will always be one of those (legitimate) arguments that will never satisfy everyone. (for the record, I'm satisfied) but the one thing that is not up for debate is Chavez' greatness while in his prime. Despite Taylor's hand speed, and falling behind on the scorecards, Chavez, fighting back frustration, and unwilling to concede defeat, stuck to his game plan. No stone was left unturned in his arsenal. Chavez was losing on points but if you were paying attention it was plain to see he was winning the fight. In the last round, Taylor had nothing left and Chavez knocked him down and ….... well you know the rest.
When it was announced that Chavez was going to fight Pernell Whittaker, I really thought it was going to be an easy fight for Chavez. It wasn't. Whitaker came prepared and Chavez didn't look quite as prepared. Whitaker gave Chavez fits that night. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was only recently that I was able to admit that (choking) Chavez lost the fight. Officially it was a draw but truth be told, it was Whitaker's fight.
Chavez would lose to an up and coming Oscar De La Hoya in 1996 and again a few years later. In 2000 he was stopped by Kostya Tszyu but by that time Chavez was a shell of himself.
Chavez, like a lot of great fighters are never quite convinced that they are no longer the fighters they once were. We've seen it before with guys like Roberto Duran and Muhammad Ali, and we're seeing it now with Evander Holyfield. It's hard for them, and us, to accept them growing old.
When I judge a fighter's true greatness, I look the peak years, the real fighting years. At his peak, Chavez was as good as it gets. He deserves to be ranked with the all time greats.
Happy Birthday Champ!