Before a roaring 130,000 in Azteca Stadium, Julio Cesar Chavez gave his countrymen what they came for Saturday night--a ferocious, five-round victory over Greg Haugen.
Also, Ghana's Azumah Nelson staved off a challenge by Sylmar's Gabe Ruelas to retain his World Boxing Council junior-lightweight championship. Of the four title fights on the card, Nelson-Ruelas was easily the most competitive.
Terry Norris of Alpine, Calif., retained his WBC junior-middleweight crown by stopping Maurice Blocker 29 seconds into the second round. And Michael Nunn was similarly unchallenged by Danny Morgan of Minneapolis, stopping him during the first round.
An hour before the first bout on the 88-round card, the parking lot looked like the world's largest swap meet.
Every Chavez item imaginable--seat cushions, caps, T-shirts, headbands, flag, sombreros--was for sale.
Everywhere, mounted and helmeted policemen patroled the parking lot, while some patroled on foot with dobermans wearing muzzles.
Long before the first fight, with the mammoth stadium about half full, chants of "Cha-vez! Cha-vez!" were already under way.
Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. was warming up beforehand, checking out the sound system. And when he rehearsed his introduction of Chavez ("El Gran Campeon . . . Julio . . . Cesar . . . Chavez! "), it brought about the first big ovation of the night.
And Chavez hadn't even arrived in his helicopter yet.
Even when Lennon warmed up, Mexico's all-time attendance record for a prize fight had been broken. In 1954, a crowd of 55,000 saw Raul Macias defeat Nate Brooks at a Mexico City bullring. The U.S. record is 135,132, for the Tony Zale-Billy Pryor bout in Milwaukee on Aug. 16, 1941.
Between bouts, the restless crowd maintained its volume with chants, especially "Meh-hee-co! . . . Meh-hee-co!"
Into the center of this maelstrom was led Greg Haugen, who didn't help his cause by entering the ring to the strains of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA." And his handlers carried an American flag.
The crowd, which had booed the playing of the U.S. anthem hours earlier, was no less vocal toward Haugen.
Haugen came out flicking quick but ineffective left jabs. Chavez hurt Haugen seconds into the opening round with a straight right hand, then dumped him in a neutral corner with another straight right.
Haugen took a standing-eight on one knee, arose, and the Chavez onslaught continued.
By the end of the round, the challenger's nose bled freely and his face was swollen.
By midway through the second, it was apparent Haugen had nothing but a mediocre jab. Even when he moved inside on the Mexican, which is Haugen's strength, Chavez dominated him with short punches inside.
Late in the second, Chavez rocked Haugen with five unanswered punches--and then backed off. Then came a long, booming right hand. Again, no followup. It seemed clear to many that Chavez, getting his 24th consecutive victory in a championship fight, was prolonging matters.
He said as much afterward.
"Greg Haugen deserved to be punished like this, he said some bad things," Chavez said. He referred to Haugen calling many of Chavez's opponents in his early years "taxi drivers."
The defiant Haugen was a kinder, gentler fighter afterward.
"He's a hard, hard puncher," he said of Chavez. "But I thought I was making a comeback. I tried hard, but I couldn't come back."
The fight ended during the fifth round, with Haugen helpless. Referee Joe Cortez of Las Vegas stopped it at 2:02 of the round.
Ruelas and Nelson fought to a puncher's standoff, with neither ever really stunning the other with their best shots. Nelson charged out for the 11th and fought more aggressively than he had to that point, probably bent on showing the judges a fast finish.
Ruelas, 22, 13 years younger than Nelson, landed big blows throughout but often missed badly, too. But he made the Ghanan miss, too--slipping punches along the ropes as well as at center ring.
During a 20-second stretch of the fourth, Nelson threw some of his biggest punches--but Ruelas slipped every one.
The strength and power Nelson (36-3-1) has shown--he is 16 for 17 in world title fights--wasn't much in play against Ruelas (33-2).
Ruelas' best moment came during the eighth, when he sent Nelson into the ropes with a flurry. He threw every punch in his arsenal, including a jolting right uppercut, but Nelson emerged seemingly unhurt.
In the interview room, Ruelas was furious about the decision.
"Are you kidding me?" he said.
"I won most of those rounds. It was the easiest fight of my career. His best shots were his head butts."
Nelson said the same.
"I was too strong for the boy," he said.
"I was much stronger the last two rounds and that's why I'm the professor and he's the student."
One judge, Jose Medina of Mexico, scored it a draw. But Tom Kaczmarek of New Jersey and David Chung of South Korea had Nelson by 115-114 and 115-113. The Times card had Nelson, 116-112.
Norris, seeking a $10-million payday against Chavez this summer, improved to 34-3 and earned $1.3 million while retaining his WBC junior-middleweight championship for the seventh time. He weighed 151 pounds Saturday, and has agreed to fight Chavez at 147 if such a fight is arranged.
Norris drove Blocker all over the ring with his sharp, powerful punches. Blocker was down twice during the first, the second time barely arising before the bell.
When Norris sent him stumbling into the ropes, referee Richard Steele stopped the fightafter 29 seconds of the second round.
"Richard should have stopped it in the first," Norris said later. "I'm the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, not Chavez."
Nunn's fight, as expected, was a mismatch. The WBA super-middleweight champion's challenger, Morgan, had a spectacular record, 41-2, but most of his victories came in places such as Sioux Falls, Lincoln and Joplin.
Nunn had Morgan down twice, and referee Enzo Moran stopped the fight with one second left in the first round. Afterward, Nunn said he wanted a rematch with James Toney, the IBF super-middleweight title holder and who knocked out Nunn in a 1991 upset.
Packing Them In Boxing's 10 largest crowds:
NO. BOUT SITE DATE 1. Tony Zale vs. Billy Pryor Milwaukee Aug. 16, 1941 2. Four-fight card Mexico City Feb. 20, 1993 3. Gene Tunney vs. Jack Dempsey Philadelphia Sept. 23, 1926 4. Gene Tunney vs. Jack Dempsey Chicago Sept. 22, 1927 5. Joe Louis vs. Max Baer New York Sept. 24, 1935 6. Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo New York Sept. 14,1923 7. Jack Dempsey vs. Georges Carpentier Jersey City, N.J. July 2, 1921 8. Luis Firpo vs. Jess Willard Jersey City, N.J. July 12, 1923 9. Max Schmeling vs. Jack Sharkey New York June 12, 1930 10. Jack Dempsey vs. Jack Sharkey New York July 21, 1927
NO. ATTEND. 1. 135,132 2. 130,000 3. 120,757 4. 104,943 5. 88,150 6. 82,000 7. 80,183 8. 80,000 9. 79,222 10. 75,000
*Zale-Pryor was a promotion of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles and no admission was charged. Source: The Ring Record Book.