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Tszyu Opens Chavez' Eyes to Reality

Chris Bushnell (

Ever since the fight between Julio Cesar Chavez and Kostya Tszyu was announced, the finger pointing has been incessant.  While hundreds of words
have been written blaming the Arizona State Boxing Commission for sanctioning this bout, the WBC for installing Chavez as mandatory challenger, Showtime for airing it, and blood thirsty fans for tuning in...the real blame must be pointed at none other than Chavez himself.  Like so many fighters before him, Chavez ignored the painful evidence of his decline and insisted on "just one more fight."  And, as expected, this last ditch effort to reclaim past glory (or pay off outstanding debt) ended with an aging champion absorbing a merciless beating.  Sometimes the most unpredictable of sports can be downright predictable.

Despite looking trim on the scales, Chavez' 38 year old body was not up to the task.  Chavez, in only his second appearance at 140 lbs. since losing to Oscar DelaHoya four years ago, had zero power and no endurance.  After two rounds of fighting at a moderate pace, Chavez was sucking wind and on weak legs.  Forget that he was facing one of the hardest hitting and devastating champions in the sport; Chavez would have probably lost to just about anyone this night.

Despite dropping the rolls of fat that he has worn into the ring on smaller evenings in his late career, Chavez didn't look like himself once the bell started the bout.  The Mexican bull was moving backwards immediately.  As a patient Kostya Tszyu carefully stalked him, Chavez fired wild haymakers and winging hooks.  None of his hooks landed, but two long right hands landed on Tszyu.  Each punch brought a volcanic eruption from the pro-Chavez crowd of 13,000.  The response from the crowd was so overwhelming that WBC cronies Marty Denkin and Chuck Hassett almost certainly gifted the first round to the aging WBC godson, Chavez.  If they did, it wasn't warranted.  Tszyu unspectacularly clubbed Chavez for most of the round.  His punches weren't landing clean (yet), but they were ramming Chavez on the sides, arms and occasionally his chin.

In the second round, it was more of the same, with Tszyu calmly following Chavez with a wide stance, and landing his wrecking ball punches when he could.  Chavez continued his wild swings, again lifting the crowd to it's feet when a lucky left hook and a legitimately head-snapping jab landed.  Beyond those two punches, all Chavez could offer was roughhousing in the clinches.  Tszyu merely smirked at Julio's early frustration.

Chavez looked finished in the third round, although not from anything that Tszyu was doing.  JCC's mouth hanging open as he sucked wind and his legs seemed rubbery and weak.  When he would retreat to the ropes, he would literally rest on his heels, and twice he lost his footing.  Tszyu was not about to take any chances, and so he persisted in firing ferociously strong punches at Chavez.  Tszyu's hard jab found a surrogate home in Chavez' face and his fists regularly pounded Chavez' hard head.  When Chavez put Tszyu in a headlock during a clinch, the Russian effortlessly stood up, lifting Chavez off his feet.  Tszyu was out muscling Chavez without even really trying.

With Chavez exhausted, the fight seemed all but over.  Chavez was off his feet in both the fourth and fifth rounds from weak legs.  Julio appeared too tired to hold himself up, and frequently rested all of his weight on the middle ropes.  So tired was Chavez that he hit Tszyu low in both rounds.  This was not a case of Julio striking low on purpose; his dangling dead arms didn't have the strength to lift up to the legal hitting area. 

Tszyu now went to work.  Putting his punches together with more authority, Tszyu pounded Chavez with double left hooks, lead rights, a plowing jab and a few times with a surprise left uppercut.  Chavez simply stood in front of him, usually squared up, and absorbed the blows.  Chavez stormed out to begin the fifth and landed two good shots, but then did nothing but eat leather for the remaining 2:30.  Boxing Chronicle scored the fifth round 10-8 for Tszyu without a knockdown.  Chavez was being punished.

But the fifth round was just an hors d'oevure for the sixth round entree.  Tszyu battered Chavez from pillar to post in the sixth.  On the ropes, trapped in a corner, and even during retreats across center ring, Chavez was getting hit by nearly everything thrown.  The once boisterous crowd had grown silent as their hero allowed Tszyu to showcase his many skills.  Halfway through the round, Chavez again threw low blows, and referee Bobby Ferrara deducted a point from Chavez' tally. 

As the fighters resumed the bout, Tszyu immediately landed a double left hook.  He followed with a jab that missed and a gigantic right to the side of Chavez' head.  The punch rocked Chavez and sent him down face first, where he caught himself on all fours.  It was only the second time Chavez had been off his feet in 110 fights.  Looking at the canvas, Chavez shook his head to wake up as drool and snot poured from his face.  Using the ropes to pull himself up, Chavez made it to his feet by eight and barely convinced the ref that he should continue.  Now in full retreat, Chavez managed to last another full minute.  During those 60 seconds, Tszyu battered him from one side of the ring to the other.  Eventually Chavez was trapped in a corner.  Tszyu now squared up to finish the job.  Landing flush with every punch he threw, including an uppercut that rocked Chavez and a hook that almost had him down again, Tszyu forced Ferrara to step in an halt the carnage.  Tszyu KO6.

After the fight, Chavez was near tears.  As his own son buried his face in his chest and wept, Chavez was apologizing to his fans and his promoter, and actually claiming that he would now retire.  As the end of his illustrious career unfolded before our eyes, a hint of sympathy was beginning to swell.  But before we could get sentimental, Chavez once again showed his true colors by insulting Tszyu.  Never a man to show respect in defeat, Chavez claimed that Tszyu was strong, but nothing more.  "No es un gran peleador."  In English, "He is not a great fighter."  It wasn't the most disrespectful Chavez has been after a loss, but it was close.  That shard of denial may even grow in Chavez over the ensuing months, and he may yet be persuaded to fight "just one more" battle.  Talk has already surfaced that Chavez (now 103-5-2/86) could fight again, this time in Mexico City, where he has in the past drawn over 100,000 paid admirers.

Kostya Tszyu (25-1-1/21) had little to gain in this fight, but showed up because WBC godfather Jose Sulaiman threatened him with a title stripping if he didn't face Chavez.  Keeping his composure in front of a hostile crowd (which unceremoniously pelted the ring with coins and bottles after the stoppage), Tszyu did the only thing he could do: go out and batter his opponent.  It wasn't the type of fight that tells us anything about Tszyu, except to confirm that he is one of the most vicious and heavy punchers in any division.  Hopefully Tszyu will land a fight with fellow 140 lb. titlist Zab Judah in the near future.

Julio Cesar Chavez wasn't the only almost-40 year-old to get a wake up call this weekend.  Tony Ayala, Jr., six fights into his unlikely comeback after 16 years in a maximum security prison, was battered by nearly-shot Yory Boy Campas for eight rounds before quitting on his stool.  Although Ayala claimed he had broken his left hand, both his eyes had been swollen shut by the constant barrage of Campas hooks and crosses.  Ayala held his own with Campas for 9 minutes before his flabby physique betrayed him.  Like Chavez, Ayala was out of gas after three rounds, and began eating nearly every shot thrown his way.  It's unclear where Ayala goes from here.  Another series of tune-ups against no-hopers will be offered to him, but then what?  A fight with Trinidad or Vargas would be even more unconscionable that Tszyu-Chavez.  The best Ayala can hope for are another couple of minor paydays on ESPN2. 

On the Chavez undercard, fans were subjected to another heinous bout.  Hector Camacho, Jr. threw one shot at a time towards shot ex-champion Philip Holiday.  The man who once threw 1200 punches vs. Ivan Robinson barely threw double digits in any of the six rounds he fought against Camacho Jr.  Lunging in headfirst, Holiday offered no resistance to the quick hands of Camacho.  Chavez' minions booed Camacho from the beginning, and the long lapses without action only encouraged them.  Holiday was down in the fourth from a good straight left, and also lost a point in the fifth for low blows.  Referee
Tony Weeks deducted that point despite no previous warnings for shots down south.  This sleep-inducing non-fight ended in the sixth after Camacho threw
what looked to be an intentionally sneaky elbow at a clinching Holiday.  The elbow opened a small cut over Holiday's right eye.  The doctor was called to look at the cut.  The cut wasn't long or deep (despite the doctor taking two fingers and pulling it open), wasn't bleeding once the doc dabbed it with gauze, and didn't seem to be a major cut in the least.  Still, after 20 seconds of indecision, the doctor advised the ref to stop the bout.  Had even a moment of this fight been interesting, there would have been an outcry.  But the doctor's incompetence only relieved fans from another six ugly rounds.  Oddly, when they went to the cards (the elbow was ruled an accidental foul), one judge had Holiday trailing 57-55.  With points lost for a low blow and a knockdown, that means that Holiday had to have been given a 10 in at least three rounds.  Given that he never landed a significant punch, let alone threw one, this is an inexcusable scorecard. 

Boxing has suffered far greater indignities than the ones served up this particular weekend... or maybe we've just grown so used to this sort of thing that we hardly notice.

....Chris Bushnell

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