Classic matchup looms: Chavez chases Whitaker BOXING

September 10, 1993|By New York Times News Service

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- He can hide. He can run. He can spin. But at some point tonight, while most of the crowd of 60,000 will be booing his every move, Pernell Whitaker will have to fight.

And that is what his opponent, the almost-mythic Julio Cesar Chavez, does best.

Thus, a classic boxing confrontation awaits one of history's largest indoor fight crowds and a pay-per-view audience that could find one million homes tuned in.

The elusive, sneaky, infuriating Whitaker, possessor of a 32-1 record and the World Boxing Council's welterweight title, will defend that crown against Chavez. Whitaker weighed in last night at 145 pounds, three more than Chavez.

For Chavez, the Mexican with the 87-0 record who is moving up in weight from his super lightweight title, the anger at Whitaker's boasts is palpable.

Repeatedly, Chavez has said in Spanish -- but not in so many words -- that he possesses more courage than Whitaker.

This bout has especially intrigued the experts. Emanuel Steward, the trainer of Evander Holyfield, was so moved in discussing the fight over dinner that he leaped out of his chair.

"See, if Whitaker can do this" -- and Steward started to pummel the air with quick, short punches -- "pow-pow-pow pow, then get out, he's got a chance."

But then, more soberly, Steward sat down and suggested: "But he can't make a mistake. Chavez can make a mistake and still nail him, because we know Chavez can take a punch, but we don't know if Pernell can hurt him."

This is why Chavez will earn $5 million on a championship tripleheader that will take in about $30 million, including a live gate of about $6 million. Terry Norris defends his WBC super welterweight crown against Joe Gatti of Jersey City, N.J., and Azumah Nelson, the super featherweight champion, fights Jesse James Leija.

Chavez has knocked out 75 opponents, usually after boring in with that side-to-side head bob, the left finding a way to cause damage.

Whitaker, who will take home between $2.5 million and $3 million, has knocked out less than half of his opponents, 15. But he is a left-hander.

Chavez says he has fought five left-handers and went the distance with four. The other was a technical knockout.

That, interestingly, came against Jose Luis Ramirez in 1988, seven months after Ramirez won a disputed decision over Whitaker, his only loss. Ramirez suffered a head butt in the 11th round against Chavez and could not continue, and Chavez was awarded the victory on points.

If there is a disputed decision here, one that could anger the crowd, the Alamodome has rehearsed for problems. This will be its first fight.

"We won't do metal detectors, but we will search bags," said Carol Darby, general manager of the covered stadium with the flat roof.

Chavez is still angry after having threatened to pull out Wednesday when he learned that the Texas sanctioning commission would not remove the one judge from the United States or add a Mexican judge. The official in charge of boxing for the state, Rick Valdes, reiterated yesterday that the decision would stand.

All the talk may not matter if Chavez does what he does best: cut down escape lanes with his wearing-down style. His opponents gradually find that they have nowhere left to run.

Whitaker, meanwhile, will attempt a clockwise dance, with bursts of surprise moves, some of them intended to embarrass Chavez.

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