For Chavez, shoe's on other foot Now, it's De La Hoya with respect, adulation

September 18, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- Invincible four-time world champion best fighter pound-for-pound. a boxing legend Mexico's favorite fighter.

Guess who?

No, not Oscar De La Hoya, but Julio Cesar Chavez, who had compiled an incredible record of 96-1-2 before his first encounter with De La Hoya in June 1996.

But now all that seems like ancient history, and the roles have been dramatically reversed for their championship rematch here tonight.

De La Hoya, 25, a perfect 28-0 and boasting titles in four different weight classes, has replaced Chavez as the world's best Latin fighter and probably the best fighter in the world.

The product of the East Los Angeles barrio has soundly thrashed his former idol, turning Chavez's face into a crimson blotch before the referee mercifully stopped the super-lightweight championship fight in the fourth round in Las Vegas two years ago.

This time, the welterweight title will be at stake, but the sports books say it will be even easier for De La Hoya, who was established as an early 10-1 pick.

The oddsmakers reason that De La Hoya, a gifted boxer-puncher, has yet to reach his prime, while Chavez has been showing serious signs of wear and tear since suffering his first loss to Frankie Randall in January 1994.

The former champion was the recipient of a gift-wrapped draw with Pernell Whitaker in San Antonio in 1993 and also escaped with a questionable draw against Miguel Gonzalez last June.

He seems only a shell of the once-menacing fighter who intimidated opponents much in the style of the scowling Roberto Duran.

Even worse, he has never accepted defeat graciously, always falling back on some mysterious training injury or illness to explain his ineffectiveness.

After losing to De La Hoya, Chavez said, "I've been hit a lot harder," and said that his left eye had been damaged in training before the fight.

"I think this fight will be historic," he said. "It's logical and normal that people think I will lose again. But this one will be different. I will surprise a lot of people."

For De La Hoya, the fight is personal.

"He was my hero, but I no longer respect him outside the ring," the champion said. "He's arrogant. He showed that the way he acted on our pre-fight tour last month. It's tough for one guy to carry a promotion. He didn't want to cooperate at all.

"If he was a real man, he would have admitted I beat him the first time. Instead, he made all kinds of excuses. All I want to hear from Chavez is, 'He beat me.' That's it.

"But I feel he'll never admit it. That's why this time it's personal. I'm going to beat him down and knock him out. There'll be no remorse. Then, if he doesn't accept I'm the better man, that's his problem. But I'll have my satisfaction."

The fact that promoter Bob Arum has lined up future title defenses for De La Hoya against Ike Quartey and Oba Carr or Frankie Randall indicates that Chavez is no longer regarded as a serious threat.

And Chavez, at 36, must realize this is his last shot at a title and a multimillion-dollar purse.

As one of his loyal followers said: "He wants to go out on his shield."

NOTES: The 16,000-seat Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus has been sold out, with at least half the fans coming from Mexico to witness what could be Chavez's farewell appearance. Ringside tickets were priced at $800.

Fight facts

Who: Oscar De La Hoya (28-0, 23 KOs) vs. Julio Cesar Chavez (101-2-2, 84 KOs), 12 rounds

What: For De La Hoya's World Boxing Council welterweight title

Where: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, capacity 16,000

When: Tonight

Co-feature: Yory Boy Campas (71-2, 61 KOs) vs. Larry Barnes (44-2-17 KOs) for Campas' IBF junior middleweight title.

TV: TVKO, pay per view. Broadcast begins at 9 p.m.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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