Greatest Hits: Julio Cesar Chavez
SEVEN FIGHTS THAT HELPED FORGE THE LEGACY OF A MEXICAN HERO
Interview by Bernardo Osuna / Translated by Diego Morilla
September 13, 1984, Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles • Title: WBC junior lightweight
“It was the most emotional moment of my career because it was a dream that I always had as a kid, to become champion of the world. I had the goal set in my mind, but it seemed impossible to me because in those times, it was very difficult to become champion of the world. And obviously when that opportunity came, I made the most out of it. I knew that I was facing a fighter who was the favorite, a well-known fighter in L.A. I was an unknown fighter. That night ended up being the most beautiful thing I experienced in life, because I had fulfilled my dream. Also, coming back to Culiacan and being received by everyone after the fight was something incredible and historic.
“It was a tremendous fight. It was a difficult fight, very tough. ‘Azabache’ Martinez was a warrior, truly, very brave. But in those days, no one could beat me. Because I had that dream of becoming world champion, I had trained like never before for that fight. And the truth is that when I traded punches with him, I knew I was going to win the fight. I felt I was landing good punches; I felt I hurt him. He was very courageous, and hurt as he was, he did land some heavy punches, but those punches didn’t hurt me. I knew that victory was near, and that’s why I came out in the eighth round to win the fight in any way possible, because he was already suffering from a lot of damage in his nose and in his eyebrow. I won the fight clearly. It was a great fight, rough and tough, but I had too much hunger to become a champion, and that was my night.”
Result: Chavez TKO 8 (YouTube link)
November 21, 1987, Las Vegas Hilton • Title: WBA lightweight
“For many people it was an easy fight, but for me it was an extremely difficult fight. Out of the 115 fights that I had, with all due respect to all other fighters, Edwin Rosario was the one who hit me the hardest. He would land a jab or a straight right and I felt like he hit me with a baseball bat on the head. Fortunately, in those days, no one could beat me. That night was historic for me. My mentality was spot-on; I had trained like never before. Going up in weight was beneficial for me because I was struggling too much to make 130. I would go two days without eating or drinking water just to make 130. So when I climbed to lightweight … Aside from all the bullshit he said about me, when he insulted me, my family, this (feeling stronger at the heavier weight) gave me more motivation to give him the beating of his life.
“I started using [the red headband in this fight] because Eddie Mafuz (Chavez’s manager at the time) told me, ‘You know, Julio, Rosario’s mother is a witch. She has your photo on a platter surrounded with ice. You need to use a red ribbon on your head to keep away the bad spirits that she is summoning. You’ll see; he will get scared of you.’ I thought to myself, ‘This guy is crazy. How am I going to use that red ribbon? It’s ridiculous!’ He started begging me to do it until I finally got that ribbon. And then it took off and became viral. It became my lucky charm. After that, they started paying me to use it, so it became a habit and I used it for all my fights. I don’t know whether I won because of the ribbon or what. I obviously think I was better than him. But that red ribbon became a habit for me and I couldn’t fight without it. After that, many other fighters in Mexico adopted the red ribbon.”
Result: Chavez TKO 11 (YouTube link)
Jose Luis Ramirez
October 29, 1988, Las Vegas Hilton • Titles: Ring/WBA/WBC lightweight
“It was a complicated night for me, in the sense that I was fighting with a great friend. We used to spar a lot in the gym, and I’ll be honest with you; sometimes I would cry in pain after our sparring sessions because he would beat the crap out of me. He was already a national champion when I was starting out. When they put him against me in the ring, he was quite abusive. He would have no compassion for anyone. Sometimes he would beat me up so bad that I cried as soon as I left the ring, but I kept going in and sparring with him again and again until it reached a point in which the whole gym would stop working out to watch us. Our sparring sessions were wars, and we reached the moment where I started boxing better than him, again and again.
“His manager and buddy [Ramon] ‘Zurdo’ Felix, who was my manager as well, would pay more attention to him than me. So I chose to leave the gym because Felix didn’t give me the attention I needed. Even though he cried and wanted me back, I didn’t come back. He never thought I would leave; it was a big surprise for him. And when that fight came up against Ramirez … it was a stressful situation. Having to trade threats with him and seeing Felix still harboring bad feelings towards me … it was tough. It was a difficult fight also because he could punch and take a punch as well, but I dominated him. I had a broken rib for that fight; I shouldn’t have fought that day. But even so, I didn’t want to cancel the fight. I fought intelligently, because if I had traded punches with him, hurt as I was, I would have stopped him. But I had to fight an intelligent fight because I didn’t want him to hurt my ribs.
“[The headbutt that caused the fight to be stopped] was an accident. He was a clean fighter, and so was I. Simply put, the opposing guards (orthodox vs. southpaw) cause more head butts, people stepping on each other, and that accident just happened. But regardless of that, I thought I would have won.”
Result: Chavez TD 11 (YouTube link)
May 13, 1989, Great Western Forum, Inglewood, California • Title: WBC junior welterweight
“To tell you the truth, I took that fight because of vanity, that’s all. No other Mexican fighter had been a three-division champion in history, and I thought that if I had already stopped him once (TKO 2 in July 1985) I could do it again at junior welterweight. Remember, I had just been crowned lightweight champion. I was a natural lightweight, but I went up to 140 because I felt that I could win that fight. What I didn’t know is that at junior welterweight, Mayweather was a different fighter. When the fight started, I said, ‘Oh, shit, I think they changed the fighter!’ Roger Mayweather had a demolishing right hand. It didn’t just hurt … it injured you. He hit me hard in the first fight and also in the second one. Fortunately, he never noticed that, and that’s why I defeated him, because I think he got tired of hitting me and not doing any damage. I frustrated him by forcing him to engage more and more. And it was a tough fight for me, because he connected a straight right, I don’t remember the round … I felt he had sent me back to Culiacan, but I was still in Los Angeles! He was coming off a strong knockout streak; he had stopped a lot of Mexicans. They called him ‘The Mexican Assassin.’
“[When Mayweather entered the ring wearing a sombrero], my first reaction was to laugh. I believe he wanted to earn the love of all Mexican fans, but it backfired on him because people started booing him. But the truth is that Roger taught me a lot of things, too. He was an awesome fighter. Even though he couldn’t handle my power, he was a terrific fighter who could hit you with both hands, especially the right.
“I talked to him a few times later in life, and I asked him to train me! (laughs) He was truly a great trainer! Roger was the one who made Floyd Jr. and made him a great fighter. But the truth is that he was great both as a trainer and as a fighter.”
Result: Chavez TKO 10 (YouTube link)
March 17, 1990, Las Vegas Hilton • Titles: IBF/WBC junior welterweight
“I would not like to go back to that moment, because it has been the toughest and most difficult fight of my career. It is the only fight in which I felt I was close to death. It was a fight in which I made a superhuman effort. Why? Because I fought a faster and stronger fighter. He was an unbeaten world champion, an Olympic medalist. The only way I could defeat him was the way in which I fought: going forward all the time. He would attack me again and again; he would land 10 or 20 punches and I would land four … but mine were power punches.
“In the 10th round, he landed a combination, and I lost my senses. It was the only fight in which it happened to me. After that barrage of punches, I didn’t care anymore about getting hit; all I wanted was to punish him. You’ll see that in the 10th round was where I won the fight. After that barrage, that’s where I started hitting him much harder. Because I felt hurt, I lost all sensibility; all I cared about was punching him. In the 11th round I was groggy too; I don’t know how I ended that round. And then I get to the 12th round, where my trainer pours ice-cold water on me and says, ‘C’mon, Julio! Wake up! Do it for your family! Do it for Mexico!’ Those were magic words, because in that 12th round I went out to knock him out, and that’s where I connected that right hand that staggered him, and I didn’t let him go.
“I’ll be honest with you; when I knocked him down, I didn’t care about winning or losing … All I wanted was for the fight to be over. I was close to dying! I wanted to throw up, and I wanted to pass out in the ring. That scared me a lot, because if I had vomited right then … I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now. I would have died from a stroke, because that’s what happens to those who vomit. I had a terrible headache. When he went down, I didn’t care anymore about the result; all I wanted was to end the ordeal. Even when the referee stopped the fight, my brother Rodolfo climbs into the ring and says, ‘We won! We won!’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure … but just get me out of the ring. I want to throw up. I want to pass out.’ Fortunately I didn’t, but if you see the fight, you’ll see the moment in which I almost vomit in the ring.
“With all due respect to all other fighters, Taylor was the best fighter I faced in all of my career.”
Result: Chavez TKO 12 (YouTube link)
September 12, 1992, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas • Title: WBC junior welterweight
“Believe it or not, ‘Macho’ Camacho was a great friend of mine. He was a great friend outside the ring, but he knew how to bring on the heat in the promotion. I fought many other fighters who offended me, insulted me, hurt me, who even told me how I was going to die. Camacho would be a loudmouth and make jokes, but he never insulted my mother or my kids or my wife. He knew how to promote a fight. All tickets were sold in half an hour. Remember, the fight was on pay-per-view in Mexico, but the system failed and the president had to make the fight available for all Mexicans. It was tremendous, getting to Culiacan and then having the president call me up to Mexico City. I arrive at the airport, and from there to the president’s residence, the streets were full of people greeting me as if I was the Pope. (laughs) It was truly unbelievable.
“For many observers, it was an easy fight, but no; it was a difficult fight for me, because I would fight at a pace where I would be chasing him all the time, punch after punch, and forcing the fight. It was the only way I could win. Many people saw it as an easy fight, but it was exhausting. I had to be on him all the time, punching as hard as possible, and he never fell. It was rough. And after that night, I told him, ‘I won’t call you “Macho minus” anymore. From now on, you’re “Macho man.” (laughs) Because you were very brave.’ In the 10th round, where he stood to trade punches with me, I got tired like you wouldn’t imagine, because he would hit me with everything. And I said, ‘Shit, I am going to lose this fight!’ But thank God, the condition that I was in was incredible.
“He was a terrific fighter. He was extremely fast, intelligent, complicated, difficult, and above all he had a great chin. Throughout his career, he was never stopped!”
Result: Chavez UD 12 (Highlights on YouTube)
February 20, 1993, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City • Title: WBC junior welterweight
“What can I say? I got scared. When they said I was going to fight at Estadio Azteca, I thought, ‘They’re crazy.’ How am I going to fight there? How am I going to put more than 100,000 people there? And I swear, it was a magical, historical night. I thought I could bring in 30 or 40 thousand people, but there were people left outside! I felt panic. When I arrived at the stadium to see it full of people, then to walk for 12 minutes to get to the ring … regardless of how full the stadium is, you never walk more than three or four minutes. I took 12 minutes! There were like 20,000 at ringside, and the people wanted to put their hands on us. You couldn’t go through. It was a little frustrating. When I got to the ring, all the tension I had on me had worn off. But getting there and seeing all those people was incredible.
“Look, to me, the punishment has to fit the sin. When I put him down, I swear to God I could have finished him. But I said, ‘No, I won’t knock him out.’ People had come to see me, and you should have seen the stadium, full to capacity … and then you knock the guy out in the first round? Instead of hating him, they’re going to hate me! That’s what I thought. But after that, because of the altitude in Mexico City and the pressure of the people, I got tired in the fourth round. I said, ‘Hey, Julio, take it easy!’ and I did. I thought that I had to knock him out in [the fifth] round. I came out more calm, relaxed, and I stopped him. But I did punish him, yes. I didn’t knock him out in the first round, because of the people.
“I arrived back in Culiacan and the people carried me for five or six hours. Streets were lined with people waiting for me, cheering. It was crazy but awesome.”
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