De La Hoya tops Chavez on TKO Champ's bleeding eye halts bout in 4th round

June 08, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- The 100th fight of Julio Cesar Chavez's illustrious boxing career was meant to be a festive occasion for the super lightweight champion and his frenzied legion of flag-waving Mexican supporters.

Instead, the atmosphere at Caesars Palace was almost funereal last night as youthful, gifted Oscar De La Hoya cut Chavez over both eyes and broke his nose, forcing ring physician Flip Homansky to stop the hotly anticipated championship fight at 2: 37 of the fourth round.

Chavez, a month short of 34, now might contemplate retirement. The proud warrior, who has been fighting professionally for 16 years, looked much like a wounded bull when the battle ended.

Said a disconsolate Chavez: "I felt the punch that opened the cut over my eye in the first round. My corner tried to fix it, but it was too delicate."

Chavez, who found excuses for his only previous loss to Frankie Randall (sore knees) and his controversial draw with Pernell Whitaker (hand), apparently had an alibi for this latest setback.

He suggested that he suffered a slight cut over his right eye five days before the fight.

"I did not want to cancel it because the promotion was too far along the way," Chavez said. "If it wasn't for the injury, Oscar could not win so easily. I can't quit this way. I will try two more fights and see what happens. I want my revenge."

He did not appear for a post-fight news conference, and instead was taken to Valley Hospital to get cuts around both eyes stitched.

Advised of Chavez's negative remarks, De La Hoya said, "If he feels that way, why am I now wearing the championship belt? I think I deserve some credit. No one ever stopped Chavez before. For him to demean my performance hurts my feelings. He is still my idol. He is still the great warrior."

De La Hoya, a handsome 23-year-old product of a Los Angeles barrio, fought like a master in boosting his record to 22-0 with 20 knockouts.

Despite great pressure and the hostile crowd, he maintained his control throughout, using his superior boxing technique to slice up Chavez's face before finishing the job with a devastating barrage in the fourth round.

"I had to keep my composure. I had to keep cool," said boxing's newest golden boy. "I still need a lot of work the next two years to become a great fighter."

But only the most cynical of ring analysts could find fault with his bravado performance in the makeshift arena outside the gambling palace.

"I knew he was injured after I cut both his eyes," said De La Hoya. "The bleeding became a big problem for him. Then, in the fourth round, I caught him with two left hooks. I could feel his nose break. I knew it was over."

De La Hoya intends to remain in the 140-pound class for several more fights. His next opponent likely will be top-ranked Miguel Angel Gonzalez of Mexico before tackling the welterweight division.

Early on, there was no doubting who was the favorite of the sellout crowd of 15,283. De La Hoya's ring entrance was greeted by jeers and catcalls while Chavez received a thunderous ovation from his countrymen.

The fight began in searing 90-degree heat, with the ring lights making it at least 10 degrees hotter for the two fighters who appeared in peak condition, both weighing 139.

Chavez, as is his custom, marched forward at the opening bell. De La Hoya, four inches taller, seemed content to use his five-inch reach advantage with a snapping left jab.

The fight was less than 30 seconds old when an ugly gash opened over the champion's left eye. Referee Joe Cortez momentarily stopped the action to have the ring doctor examine the cut.

By the end of the round, Chavez's face was a bloody mask and he had a look of frustration as he returned to his corner.

His cut man did a quick repair job to close the wound during the minute respite, but De La Hoya's pinpoint jab quickly reopened it. The challenger bided his time, looking to land a hard right. Chavez turned tentative and mistakenly walked to a neutral corner at the end of the second round.

Chavez turned angry in the third round after De La Hoya gave him a hard shove after a clinch. He scored with several light hooks in a round in which De La Hoya failed to score a meaningful punch.

Chavez appeared determined to make a fight of it at the start of the fourth round, catching De La Hoya with a three-punch flurry.

After catching two solid left hooks, De La Hoya countered with a vengeance. He forced Chavez to retreat to the ropes under a heavy barrage of blows. Chavez began bleeding profusely from both eyes.

Again, the fight was stopped. This time, Homansky informed Cortez that Chavez was not fit to continue.

On the undercard, unbeaten World Boxing Association super bantamweight champion Johnny Tapia (36-0-2) of Albuquerque retained his title with a technical knockout of Ivan Alvarez (12-3) of Colombia at 1: 31 of the eighth round. Tapia floored Alvarez with a flurry of punches. Alvarez beat the count, but his corner waved a towel in surrender.

Pub Date: 6/08/96

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