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Showtime Fight Reports

Chavez loses, Lopez wins, Martin returns

For one Mexican boxing legend, October 2, 1999 was a night in which another victory brought another world title. For another Mexican icon, it may have been the swan song to a glorious career that has been on the slide for several years. Ricardo Lopez and Julio Cesar Chavez each stepped into a Las Vegas ring that night, and the results couldnít have been more opposite.

Although he didnít fight in the main event, the story of the night was Julio Cesar Chavezís fourth professional loss. Paired with Willy Wise, a lightly regarded journeyman on a three fight losing streak and a +700 underdog, Chavez was merely supposed to get some rounds in while preparing for one final title shot vs. Kostya Tszyu late this year. What happened was the unthinkable: Wise giving Julio the type of beating that he normally dishes out.

Prior to the opening bell, Chavez looked to be in good condition. In the past several years, Chavez has consistently turned up bloated and overweight for his tune-up bouts. Tonight he wore 146 1/2 pounds well, giving credence to his pre-fight boasts that he had rediscovered his motivation in training camp.

Once the opening bell sounded, however, it was clear that Chavez is shot. Not "on the slide", not "displaying diminished skills", but flat out shot. Right in front of him the openings were there, and Julio couldnít pull the trigger. He barely fired any punches in the first, and as a result gave the cautious Wise the confidence he needed to execute his gameplan.

That gameplan was simple: keep moving so Chavez cannot get set, and pick off the aging warrior when he throws. It not only worked, but it looked easy. Chavez, ever the bull, came right at Wise. But with little ammunition covering his advance, he was wide open for Wiseís quicker hands....and Wise couldnít miss.

With only 7 knockouts in a 33 fight career, Wiseís power has always been merely a rumor. Still, he kept firing at Chavezís head and was landing at an extraordinary rate. While Julio clearly retained his own power, he simply was unable to get off first on Wise, unable to counter Wise, and only rarely able to fire in combination. Meanwhile, Wise peppered Chavez at will.

For a few rounds, it looked as though Wiseís punches were too light to keep Chavez off of him, and that eventually Chavez might land the haymaker that ends it. But by late in the third round, Wiseís punches began snapping Chavezís head. As Wise fired, Chavez caught everything flush, especially a left hook that Wise simply could not miss no matter how many times he threw it. This went on all night.

In every round, Wiseís punches caught Chavez walking in and pushed his head back so often that he looked like a walking speed bag. Although DelaHoya hit Chavez harder in their two fights, he still didnít bounce Chavezís skull around like Wise did. And although Wiseís power remains highly suspect, the cumulative effect weakened Chavez. In some rounds Chavez was backing up the entire round as Wiseís success allowed him to decrease his movement and increase his output.

Incredibly, Chavez was almost knocked out (!) at the end of the eighth round, as Wise turned Chavezís head every which way more than a dozen unanswered times. Referee Mitch Halpern was within moments of stopping the bout before the bell rang, and if he hadnít stepped in within a few seconds Chavez would have been sent to the canvas for only the second time as a pro.

While itís clear that Chavezís career has been in steep decline for several years, it was still a shock to see him sustain so many punches without any payback whatsoever. In fact, Chavez only landed a half dozen crunching blows all night, and five of them came after the bell in 5 of the first 6 rounds. The sixth was a beautiful one-two at center ring that stopped Wise in his tracks, and momentarily had him seeing stars. But there was absolutely zero followup from the exhausted, discouraged, and shot Chavez.

By the end, had Wise sweeping all 10 rounds over Chavez. The official judges were only slightly kinder to Julio, giving him between 1 and 3 rounds on each of the three cards. Now at 103-3-2/86, and unable to beat a man who doesnít even crack the welterweight top-15, the end of the road for Chavez is imminent. Now that heís locked out of the title picture (unless this loss doesnít strip him of his 140 lb. #1 ranking) and several low paying wins away from another money fight, it would seem as though Chavez would finally retire. Nonetheless, he refused to make such a decision after the fight, and like Roberto Duran will likely continue racking up losses for a few more paychecks.

And while Chavezís decline was the main factor in this loss, some credit must be given to Willy Wise, who never let up, who stuck to his gameplan, and who overcame his considerable power disadvantage to earn the biggest win of his long and gloryless career. Wiseís son suffers from an undiagnosable medical condition that has run up some astronomical bills. Tonightís victory will hopefully lead to another high profile fight (possibly against friend Pernell Whitaker) and a payday that brings stability to Wiseís situation.

On the other end of the spectrum from Chavez sits his countryman, Ricardo Lopez. Lopez returned to the ring after a career long 11 month layoff following his stirring victory over Rosendo Alvarez. Moving up to the 108 lb. division, Lopez repeated his gutsy performance to capture his fourth world title.

His opponent, and the defending champion, Will Grigsby was a game but limited fighter. With only 16 fights in his pro career, Grigsbyís awkward style led to an awkward fight in which very few clean punches landed for most of the early rounds.

As both men began the fight with overflowing nervous energy, both fired long shots from a distance. As each man wildly swung and missed, the two found themselves in an increasing number of clinches that threatened to prevent either fighter from finding a rhythm. Nonetheless, Lopez was able to establish a pace of his own, cracking Grigsby with his left hand each time the two came together.

How good is Ricardo Lopez? For most of the later rounds, Lopez relied almost exclusively on his left hand for offense, and he still gave Grigsby more angles than he could handle. El Finito threw left uppercuts to the head and body, he threw left hooks that blazed horizontally and diagonally across Grigsbyís face and left jabs that came in varying speeds and numbers. Sure, there were some right hands thrown in to keep it interesting, but Lopez was winning one handed and Grigsby could not adjust.

Grigsby certainly had his moments in the fight, opening up a small cut over Lopezís left eye and widening it each round until it was as large as a third eyebrow. But Grigsby only fought in spurts while Lopez fought every second of every round. Despite a second cut that was added later in the fight, a bloody nose, and the usual assortment of bruises and abrasions painting his face, Lopez was relentless, and never gave Grigsby a chance to breath.

Although Lopez took many of the early rounds, he really came alive in the final four rounds, closing Grigsbyís right eye completely and punishing him with accuracy that only got better with each passing combination. Finishing stronger than he began, Lopez deserved the wide decision he received: 118-110, 116-112 and 117-111 ( scored it 118-111). The only moment of confusion was Jimmy Lennonís announcement of the winner by announcing "The winner, and STILL....undefeated, Ricardo Lopez." For a moment everyone, including Lopez, thought Lennon was about to say "STILL champion", which would have been a the robbery of the year, and thatís saying a lot. Lopez improves to 48-0/35.

Also on the card was Christy Martin returning to action with a brutal KO victory in the fifth round over Daniella Somers. Itís hard to decide whether to admire or criticize Martin. On one hand, she represents only a handful of female boxers with real skill, eclipsing such hype-creations as Mia St. John. Yet on the other hand, Christy Martin has plenty of flaws.

Despite signing a contract for 140 pounds, Martin could do no better than 143 1/2, and looked every pound of it. She effectively used the extra weight to bully in on her slimmer opponent and land bombs, but was it really fair? In an pre-fight segment that was absolutely baffling Christy Martin announced that following her recent loss she had a new outlook on the sport: After claiming that she should have used retaliatory headbutts and more elbows in her defeat, she also said that she would no longer be a Ms. Nice Guy. "In 40 fights Iíve been a nice fighter. I donít hit people low, I donít hit people after the bell, I donít headbutt people intentionally. But now, thatís all out the window."

And consider this: despite losing earlier this year, Christy Martin not only retains the WBC title she used to have, but also is now the WBA womenís champion. She defended both titles tonight, despite being overweight, and again called out Lucia Rijker after the fight. But this fight has been on the table for over two years, and has stalled every time by Martinís purse demands. Whatís to think that this fight is any closer to being made now?

.....Chris Bushnell

October 2, 1999

Lopez and Martin Returns;
Chavez Loses Again!
By Francis Walker

On Saturday, October 2, from the Las Vegas Hilton, three of Don King's famed fighters were on hand with something to prove. While boxing's longest reigning champion today, Ricardo Lopez became a two-division, world champion, Christy Martin once again displayed the magical intensity that made her a star. However, to the expectations of many, the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez proved to us all that fighters do get older. Older to a degree whereas, it's inevitably clear beyond the imagination of realization that one day ... all fighters must surrender their throne.

In the event CO-feature, one of three fights promoted by Don King Productions, and televised on SHOWTIME, Chavez (103-4-2, 86KOs) lost an unanimous 10-round decision to welterweight contender, "Slick" Willy Wise (24-6-4, 7KOs).

At age 37, Chavez has been on the decline for years. It took high-profile performances against nameless foes and a pair of one-sided beatings at the hands of Oscar De La Hoya (TKO by 4, TKO by 8) to prove that. Chavez has never competed at the top of his game since his first loss to Frankie Randall (L 12) over five years ago.

Chavez, who has competed in over 100 professional contest for 100 professional wins, has declined to the point whereas, he is vulnerable to any and all opponents and can be defeated at any given point.

At the start of the encounter, Chavez, although he is slow starter, showed nothing. Chavez, famous for his relentless body-attack, sharp counter-punching, and two-handed power, was overwhelmed by Wise's speed. Round-after-round, Chavez, took three, four shots just to counter with a simple one-two that did very little damage.

One again, the nature of the sport made an example of another once great fighter. Chavez just could not keep up with Wise, whose purse goes directly toward his son hospitalized with life-threatening seizure's. Wise put forth a gallant effort, as his speed alone was too much for Chavez.

Wise was even able to out-mustle and bully Chavez onto the ropes repeatedly. The Chavez in his prime would have never allowed that to happen.

In the closing stages of the bout, Wise, unlike De La Hoya in his bout against Trinidad two weeks ago, closed the show strongly. Wise's flurries in the closing rounds, in particularly the eighth, snapped Chavez' head backwards and buckled his knees. Chavez, whose reflexes had completely disowned him, could not comeback with anything strong. It was all Wise from the start of the bell to the finish.

At the end of ten, all three judges scored the bout 97-93, 98-92, and 99-91 for Wise.

In Other Action: Boxing's longest reigning champ, Ricardo Lopez, in the main event, remained undefeated and became a two-division tiltist in the process. Lopez (48-0-1, 35KOs), in another career defining fight, out-pointed Will Grigsby (14-1-1, 6KOs) to capture the IBF junior flyweight title.

Moving-up in weight for the first time in his professional career, Lopez, who was the WBC strawweight champion, ceasing the WBA 105-pound crown in the process, reigned supreme since October 1990. Lopez, coming off of two incredible wars with former undefeated, WBA 105-pound king, Rosendo Alvarez (Tech. Draw 8, W 12), fought a blood bath with Grigsby.

With a record of 23-0-1 in world title fights alone, Lopez although he is unrecognized by the main stream media, is lock for the all of fame.

Lastly, Daniella Somers (9-3, 4KOs) suffered a stunning fifth-round kayo loss to Christy Martin (38-2-2, 30KOs). From the start of the bell, Martin, famous for her aggression and superior strength, wasted no time in letting Somers know who was boss.

Martin, looking for the knockout behind her left-jabs, caught Somers with a wide, sweeping right-hook to her temple. Somers was so dazed, had it not been for the ropes holding her up, she would have fell into the first row at ringside.

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