Forget the fighting words for this one

Phil Jackman

September 09, 1993|By Phil Jackman

Why does boxing do it, predictably, incessantly and without shame?

While it's true many of today's marquee fights aren't worth the canvas they're fought on and require gobs of hype, every so often a bout comes along that can stand on its own. Such a matchup is tomorrow night's Julio Cesar Chavez-Pernell Whitaker bash.

Clearly, these guys are the best, masters of their craft and champions. But, according to the way the fight game is run, that's not enough. Cue the balloons.

"This has been such a natural right from the start," says Jay Larkin of Showtime, in on negotiations for the pay-per-view presentation right from the start. "The politics of boxing, the egos and the rest of it just didn't apply.

"There were no arguments, no screaming. It was a pleasure putting the thing together. Both sides wanted the fight, as much or even more so than the fans, and they conducted themselves that way."

Chavez has an 87-0 record, 75 of his wins by knockout. Whitaker has been beaten, 32-1, but is so quick of hand, foot and reflexes that in some of his fights it appeared the opponent couldn't have hit him throwing a handful of rice.

Boxing fans know their stuff. You give 'em a couple of guys who match up well, style-wise, and they'll climb aboard.

"The Sugar Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns fight was big. Leonard-Roberto Duran in Canada was a big one. Muhammad Ali's comeback from retirement when he fought Joe Frazier in New York was huge. That electricity is there for this one," says Showtime analyst Ferdie Pacheco, who has been on the beat since the 1950s.

"On the streets here in San Antonio, it's been magic," he continued. "Everyone's talking about it. And the thing is, it's a different site for a change, not the usual Las Vegas, Atlantic City or Madison Square Garden. The atmosphere is a little bit different and exciting."

But why let it go at that, simple unencumbered things such as Whitaker bringing great speed and skills to a match against the almost perfect attack arsenal of Chavez. Because Don King is involved in the promotion, the meeting has the tags, "Fight of a lifetime" and "Biggest Event of the Century." That's to be expected.

In the late going, however, comes the usual, tired refrains from the camps (not the fighters) mistakenly thought to help the promotion and sell on-site tickets and subscriptions to the PPV telecast.

No sooner did they name the referee, Joe Cortez, when a Whitaker spokesman, Dan Duva, crowed, "You know Michael Jordan doesn't foul out of the NBA Finals and Joe Cortez isn't going to disqualify either guy."

The promoter offered this insight to support the camp's claim that Chavez is a dirty fighter. "We know Chavez is going to hit Pete [Whitaker] in the thighs all night. We know it's a major part of his game plan."

Meanwhile, the Chavez camp, in self-defense, indicates Pernell doesn't always adhere to the dictates of the Marquis of Queensberry rules with regard to hitting low and use of the elbows.

When Pacheco heard Cortez was going to be the referee, he said, "perfect. The guy has great experience, over 50 championship fights. He speaks Spanish and English, so he can talk to both fighters. He doesn't have to judge the fight. No one can complain about this guy being named."

Then he thought, uh-oh, Joe's Hispanic, so's Chavez. "Well, maybe the Duvas can hit on that." Bingo!

Actually, chances are the Whitaker camp wouldn't mind if the explorer Hernando Cortez was named to officiate the bout. But complaining about this, that and the other thing is the way in boxing. While providing so-called dynamite stories, they supposedly rattle the opposition.

With another day before the showdown, look for someone to complain about the scale used for the weigh-in, the gloves to be utilized or some obscure rule governing bouts in Texas. It's demeaning, particularly when, as Whitaker puts it, "this is the title every man dreams of, best pound-for-pound fighter."

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