The Alamo it wasn't, which was surprising, because the last time Julio Cèsar Chàvez and Roger Mayweather fought, there was enough firepower in the first two rounds to knock down walls. But that was four years ago, when they battled for Chàvez's WBC super featherweight title. In that one, Mayweather went out on his shield, like a warrior, in the second round. They should have left it at that.
Instead, there they were last Saturday night, in the Los Angeles Forum, with Chàvez now chasing Mayweather's WBC super lightweight title. Mayweather started cautiously and proceeded to grab Chàvez whenever he came within range. Then the champion quit on his stool before the 11th round, without ever having been knocked down. "He didn't want to fight," Chàvez said later. "He kept clinching and turning his back on me. What kind of way is that to defend a title?"
Not much, especially for a guy whom promoter Don King had labeled the Mexican Assassin. "He kills Mexicans in the ring," said King before the fight. After his first loss to Chàvez, who is from Culiacàn, Mexico, Mayweather defeated eight straight Mexican opponents en route to his super lightweight title. Still, he disdained the handle King had given him. "I'm the Black Mamba," Mayweather said. "One of the deadliest snakes in the world. I don't call myself an assassin. King does, and the press does. But if you pay me enough money, you can call me anything you want."
On Saturday night you could have called him timid, but Chàvez was having problems of his own. Wildness, for one. The undefeated Chàvez came into the ring with 52 knockouts in 62 bouts, but this was his first fight at 140 pounds, and he was trying hard to show he could knock down a bigger man. "I wasn't at my best," he said later. Against Mayweather, he didn't need to be.
May 21, 1989
Mayweather was penalized a point for a low blow in the third round and lost another for holding in the fourth. In the eighth Chàvez cut his opponent under his left eyebrow. Mayweather lasted six more minutes, but with little effect. His trainer, Jesse Reid, showed considerably more fire when he joined the fray at the end of the seventh round. At the bell both fighters continued to throw punches. Referee Hank Elespuru jumped between them, but when Chàvez kept punching, Reid leaped into the ring, grabbed Chàvez and drove him halfway across the canvas. Elespuru ordered Reid, who was showered with ice cubes, coins and beer, to the locker room.
Worn down by the dogged, if unspectacular Chàvez, Mayweather fought the ninth round dismally. The 10th was worse. At the end of that round, Mayweather returned to his corner on rubbery legs. He slumped on his stool and dropped his chin against his chest. He told his corner he was done. "If you can, I want you to finish on your feet," his manager, Billy Baxter, urged.
Mayweather shook his head. "I can't do it," he said.
"Fine," snapped Baxter. "We'll have to stop it." Elespuru signaled a ceasefire. Later, Mayweather, who was well behind on all three judges' cards, said his strength had been sapped by a cramp in the area of his liver. "It had started around the sixth or seventh round," he explained. "It just kept getting worse. It took away my legs."
For Chàvez, it is his third championship. He won the WBC super featherweight title in 1984; his two pieces of the lightweight championship came in 1987 (WBA) and 1988 (WBC). Still, he was not pleased by the way the WBC super lightweight title had come into his possession. "I didn't think he would quit in his corner," he said, shaking his head. "I thought he had more guts."