Pernell Whitaker vs. Julio Cesar Chavez

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1993-09-10 : Pernell Whitaker 145 lbs drew with Julio Cesar Chavez 142 lbs by MD in round 12 of 12

  • Unofficial Associated Press scorecard: 116-112 Whitaker
  • Unofficial Newsday scorecard: 116-112 Whitaker
  • Unofficial Ring Magazine scorecard: 117-111 Whitaker
  • Unofficial Sports Illustrated scorecard: 117-111 Whitaker
  • Unofficial Washington Post scorecard: 115-113 Whitaker
  • World Boxing Council Welterweight Title (Whitaker's 1st defense)


Prelude

In the early 1990s, a match between Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker was one of the most in-demand fights in boxing. At the time of their meeting in September 1993, Chavez and Whitaker had been rated as the world's two best fighters, pound-for-pound, by The Ring for 3½ years. Chavez, the great pressure fighter, was ranked #1, and Whitaker, the slick southpaw, was ranked #2.

On March 6, 1993, Whitaker, the IBF junior welterweight champion, moved up in weight and defeated James (Buddy) McGirt to win the WBC welterweight title. Unbeknownst to Whitaker, a fight between he and Chavez, the WBC super lightweight champion, had already been made for September. His promoter and manager, fearing it might effect his focus, didn't want Whitaker to know about the fight until after he faced McGirt.

If Whitaker had lost to McGirt, he and Chavez would have fought at 140 pounds to unify the IBF and WBC titles.

Whitaker relinquished the IBF junior welterweight title after defeating McGirt and defended the WBC welterweight title against Chavez. At the insistence of Chavez, there was a catchweight of 145 pounds, two under the welterweight limit.

Chavez was attempting to become just the fourth fighter in boxing history to win world titles in four weight divisions.

The Fight

Chavez came out pressing the attack, and in the first two rounds Whitaker backpedaled to his right and popped the occasional right jab, keeping Chavez out of tempo. Roars went up whenever Chavez landed a punch, and throughout the vast dome the crowds waved the red, white and green flag of Mexico. Chavez was already having difficulty solving Whitaker's elusive movement.

Whitaker came out for the third with a crisper, sharper jab, nailing a pursuing Chavez with three stingers in a row. At once he settled into what he called his "sleeping style," a kind of slippery, loosey-goosey way of carrying himself that made it harder for Chavez to get to him. By the fourth round Whitaker was in control of the fight as Chavez grew increasingly frustrated with his opponent's style.

In the fifth Chavez's corner began yelling at him to renew the attack, and he charged back to score one of his best rounds of the bout. In one flurry he landed two sharp right-hand leads, another left to the body and a third right that had Whitaker, for the only time in the fight, looking chastened and doubtful in the middle of the ring.

Yet Whitaker clearly won the sixth through the eighth, as the crowd fell ominously silent and the flags stopped fluttering. Whitaker had done what he had promised to do: "I like to go on the road and take the hometown fans out of it," he had said earlier in the week.

In the sixth Whitaker accidentally caught Chavez with a low left to the groin. Referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight to give Chavez a minute to kick away the pain, but Chavez needed more than that to shake off the larger effect Whitaker was having on him. Whitaker had taken away most of Chavez's arsenal of punches, save for the occasional right-hand lead, and Chavez had nothing close to Whitaker's jab. Chavez never mounted a sustained attack to the body, and he began to appear not only feckless and confused but also desperate and despondent as the rounds rolled by. He was losing the fight, and he couldn't come up with anything to turn it around. Chavez did win the ninth, scoring several times with left hooks and right hands.

Chavez came out fast in the tenth, but Whitaker blunted his attack with sharp lefts, and by the round's closing moments Chavez seemed to be underwater. Whitaker won it. He took the eleventh even more easily, and for most of the final round he moved and backpedaled out of harm's way while a tired Chavez chased after him. At the bell, looking perplexed, Chavez raised his arms in a wishful gesture.

Controversy

Before the scorecards were announced, Showtime television commentators Steve Albert, Bobby Czyz and Ferdie Pacheco were in unanimous agreement that Whitaker had clearly won the bout. When the fight was declared a draw, there was a smattering of boos from the pro-Mexican crowd of about 65,000.

The vast majority of the media had Whitaker winning decisively and wondered what fight the judges were watching. Many also wondered how Dan Duva, Whitaker's promoter, could have yielded so thoroughly to Don King, Chavez's promoter, and the WBC in the selection of the judges, especially knowing, as he must have, that his man was not likely to win by a knockout. In fact, said Duva, after much heated negotiation Texas officials assembled a pool of five judges who had worked fights for the WBC, and he and King were allowed to strike one each. A reasonable compromise? Hardly, said Duva. "It was clear to me that the five were not among the best in the world," he said. "Early on I had suggested getting Jerry Roth of Nevada, the guy who is recognized as the best." But the Chavez camp did not want Roth. "My opinion," Duva said, "is that he was turned down because he had Meldrick Taylor ahead when Taylor fought Chavez." In that 1990 fight Chavez TKO'd Taylor when referee Richard Steele stopped the fight with two seconds remaining in the final round.

After the fight, Duva said a number of WBC officials approached him with strange expressions of condolence. "They said to me, 'What are you complaining about? This is the perfect result. Everyone wins,'" Duva said. "That's just sickening. On the day of the fight everyone who knows me knows that I had one fear: that Pernell would get robbed. That these people, for their own political interest, would deny him his victory."


Sources:
Reading Eagle - March 7, 1993
Sports Illustrated - September 20, 1993