by Jack Unwin
What can we say about boxing judges that hasn’t already been said? Year in, year out they produce baffling scorecards which help poison boxing’s reputation. Egregious examples this decade include C.J Ross’ 114-114 for Floyd Mayweather vs Canelo Alvarez and the split draw between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.
For (hopefully) the first in a series of boxing’s most controversial scorecards, we are going to back to 1993 for a classic contest between the defensive genius Pernell Whitaker and the wily, aggressive Mexican icon Julio Cesar Chavez.
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ: UNBEATABLE?
Julio Cesar Chavez Chavez had built up an astonishing record of 87-0 coming into the fight. He won his first world title at super-featherweight in his 44th fight in 1984 and raced through the weights winning more world titles, all whilst fighting 5-6 times a year.
Chavez was a famed body puncher and a great finisher of opponents once he had them hurt. He was also looking to become the first Mexican fighter to become world champion in four different weight classes, but faced his greatest challenge in the late, great Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker.
SWEET PEA: TOO SWEET FOR CHAVEZ?
I am about to commit once of the great boxing blasphemies, I haven’t seen much of Pernell Whitaker. I’m certainly aware that his defensive abilities are held in awe but aside from some highlights clips I haven’t seen a full fight of his.
Before you reach for your flaming torches I am about to remedy this by sitting down and scoring this fight, which took place at the huge, Chavez friendly Alamodome in Texas on September 10th, 1993.
A classic contest then – Mexico vs America, attack vs defense, Don King Promotions vs Main Events for Whitaker’s WBC Welterweight title.
I should note I will be watching this fight with no volume so as not to be swayed either by the crowd or by the commentary. Let’s take a look at this historic contest known as “The Fight”.
Your standard cagey opening round, but I would give it to Whitaker for being busier but also landing the more quality shots. I also note the presence of Joe Cortez, who I always thought was an awful referee. Whitaker 10 Chavez 9.
Very similar to round one with Whitaker landing more whilst Chavez stalks away, what is surprising to me is how willing Whitaker is to trade on the inside with Chavez. Even in 1993 Joe Cortez is breaking up inside fighting as quickly as he can. Whitaker 10 Chavez 9.
If you want a visual definition of the sweet science please watch Whitaker’s performance in this round. Elusive but aggressive, hitting the target with a laser-like jab and some beautiful right hands, his performance was a masterclass in boxing. He made an all-time great in Chavez look absolutely lost in there. Whitaker 10 Chavez 9.
A better round from Chavez, after a lackadaisical start he came out aggressively and did land some good shots, but Whitaker is just outworking him in every department. Pernell threw a lovely two punch combination whilst Chavez was in a corner, and was teeing off on him at points. Another Whitaker round, Whitaker 10 Chavez 9.
This was definitely Chavez’s best round of the fight. His aggression paid off and he landed some good, clean shots and an argument could be made that he won it, but Whitaker was still able to tag him at will and restrict him to single shots. Whitaker 10 Chavez 9 (but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said Chavez won).
Chavez just about won this round, his pressing was rewarded with some good shots without taking as much damage as previous rounds. Whitaker stepped up the pressure in the last 30 seconds to try and win the round a la Leonard vs Hagler. Whitaker 9 Chavez 10 (Whitaker 59 Chavez 55).
Fascinating round. It started as a bit of a slugfest which you’d guess was playing to Chavez’s hands, but Whitaker was more than comfortable. The second half was all Whitaker, displaying a fantastic variety of shots. Whitaker 10 Chavez 9.
There was an outbreak of phone box fighting in this round which is great to see. The first two minutes is pretty even but then Whitaker pulls away in the last minute with some punishing blows to win it. Chavez doesn’t appear to have a plan B. Whitaker 10 Chavez 9.
A very close round this with both fighters really going for it at some points. Personally, Whitaker landed the cleaner shots but like round 5 I’d have no argument with anybody saying Chavez won this one. Whitaker 10 Chavez 9.
A relatively close round but Whitaker is just too good, Chavez is doing everything he can just to keep up with Sweet Pea but it isn’t enough. Whitaker’s round again but I could see a judge giving it to Chavez. Whitaker 10 Chavez 9.
That was a very tight round indeed. Due to the fact it was more in the Chavez style I will give it to Julio by the barest of margins. Both the two rounds he’s won on my scorecard are very narrow indeed. Whitaker 9 Chavez 10.
Chavez doesn’t go all out for the knockout in this one, but does just about enough to win the round. Whitaker knows the fight is won and is on the back foot through. Whitaker 9 Chavez 10.
Final scorecard – Pernell Whitaker 117 Julio Cesar Chavez 111
Somehow two judges were convinced that it was a 115-115 draw, with Jack Woodruff scoring it 115-113 to Whitaker for a majority draw in a decision that even stunned the pro-Chavez Alamodome.
Whitaker humbled Chavez in every department. He was smarter, had a better gameplan, hit him with better, cleaner shots and even outworked him on the inside and at close range. He was the better man on the night and deserved to be the first man to beat Julio Cesar Chavez.
The boxing press let its feelings be known. Al Bernstein called it the greatest robbery in the last twenty years, Sports Illustrated led with a frontcover of ‘Robbed!’ and Boxing Illustrated put on its front cover ‘Don’t buy this magazine if you think “the fight” was a draw’.
This fight could be seen as the beginning of the end for the great Chavez. Remarkably he fought twice more in 1993 months before finally facing his first defeat against Frankie Randall in January 1994. He still won fights, but his abilities were beginning to wane.
This fight represented the peak of Pernell Whitaker’s powers. He racked up a further eight successful defences of his WBC title before surrendering the crown to Oscar De La Hoya in a close fight. His last three fights ending in two loses and one no contest before retirement.
What did you think about this fight and do you dispute any of the rounds that I scored?
Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to watch more Pernell Whitaker.