Born on this day: Julio Cesar Chavez
A supreme boxer, a devastating puncher, a multiple champion and a hero to his people. One of the all-time great Mexican fighters turns 61 today.
Julio César Chávez González was born on July 12, 1962 in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico. His father Rodolfo worked for the railroad, and his mother worked as a house maid. Chavez and his nine siblings grew up in abject poverty, and by the time he was 16 he was already on his way to becoming a professional fighter.
He made his pro debut at 17, and the fight had a controversial ending when Chavez sent his foe to the canvas with a punch after the bell to end the first round. Initially called a DQ win for his opponent Miguel Ruiz, the result was later overturned in favor of Chavez, but the controversy remained a subject of discussion for the all-time great during his entire career.
After that initial misstep, he began a legendary career that spanned 25 years, including a legendary 89-0-1 unbeaten run that ended in 1994 with a defeat at the hands of Frankie Randall, a loss that Chavez avenged twice.
Before that, the list of his victims is a who’s-who of the three or four divisions in which he spent his career, from 130 to 147 pounds and all stops in between. Names like Hector Camacho, Edwin Rosario, Mario Martinez (against whom he earned his first world title in 1984), Roger Mayweather, Rocky Lockridge, Juan LaPorte, Rafael Limón, José Luis Ramirez, Sammy Fuentes, and most notably, former Olympic gold medalist Meldrick Taylor, in what is still considered one of the most dramatic and controversial fights of all time.
In 1993, at the pinnacle of his powers, Chavez had his grand homecoming when he faced trash-talking Greg Haugen at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. Before a record-breaking crowd of 136,274 of his compatriots, Chavez put to bed Haugen’s infamous notion that Chavez’s record was comprised mostly of “Tijuana cab drivers” when he stopped Haugen in five rounds after a brutal beating.
A few fights later, Chavez jumped up to the welterweight division for a showdown with Pernell Whitaker with the pound-for-pound bragging rights on the line. In another controversial fight, the bout was scored as a draw in a fight that many saw Whitaker win, and which was later considered the first step towards the end of Chavez’s career.
Three months and two fights later, Chavez lost to Randall, and after avenging that loss and soundly defeating a faded Taylor in a rematch, Chavez had his next mega-bout against then-rising star Oscar de la Hoya, losing by stoppage on cuts in four rounds. A rematch two years later in 1998 ended in a similar result.
One year after that, a loss against an unheralded Willy Wise announced the beginning of his final stretch. He lost against power puncher Kostya Tszyu in 2000 when he was already 38-years old in what was only his third stoppage loss, and after avenging his loss to Wise and settling his score with Randall in a rubber match he lost to Grover Wiley in 2005 to put an end to a legendary career.
Chavez with a record of 107 wins, 6 losses and 2 draws, with 86 knockouts, universally acclaimed as Mexico’s all-time great and one of the best fighters of all time, holding the record for most successful consecutive defenses of world titles (27, shared with Omar Narvaez) and countless other accolades.
Chavez is now a boxing commentator for several TV outlets, and has also guided the career of his sons Omar and Julio Cesar Jr.
Julio Cesar Chavez was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010.
Ring Magazine’s 2021 special edition celebrating the life and career of Chavez is still on sale at the Ring Shop.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.