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The Eyes Have It, and Chavez Shows He No Longer Does

It wasn’t a fight, it was an execution. As one-sided as an electric chair. If you liked that, you should get a collection of Stalin’s home movies.

It was an Oscar night. It wasn’t Cesar’s Palace this night. De La Hoya rendered to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s--but didn’t used to be. A bloody eye, lumps in the ribs, ringing in the ears. Julio Cesar Chavez used to pass out those things, not get them.

It was one of the pugilistic anti-climaxes of all time. It was over before it was a little more than a minute old. Oscar De La Hoya slammed in a straight left over Chavez’s left eye, which burst open like a melon dropped from a truck. Cascades of blood streamed down Julio’s face. A few seconds later, the right eye added to the stream of blood.

To the advantages of height, reach, speed and power that De La Hoya held was now added eyes.

It looked like a mismatch even before that. Chavez couldn’t fight Oscar with a ladder. It looked in some light like a lion fighting a sheep. De La Hoya has had tougher fights in the gym.

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Chavez trained as fervently as though he were getting ready to fight the German Army. Turned out all he needed was an eye doctor.

You wonder how Chavez thought he could fight this guy. Most of the night, he couldn’t even find him.

For Chavez’s information, Oscar De La Hoya is a 5-foot-11, dark-haired, 23-year-old man. He’s got brown eyes and a nice smile and all his teeth and ears and was wearing white trunks when last seen.

Chavez must have wondered who was causing all the bleeding, because there were times he must have thought De La Hoya didn’t show up. He kept missing him, not by inches or feet but by time zones. Chavez kept aiming punches where De La Hoya had been earlier in the evening.

Julio Cesar Chavez brought a new technique to the ring with him. He backed up from the start. It was a good idea. A better idea would have been if he backed out of the ring altogether.

There is a well-worn boxing adage that a good big man will always beat a good little man. This is what happened at Caesar’s Palace on Friday night. Julio Cesar Chavez made his fight as best he could, but first he had to find his opponent. And then he had to climb him. The only thing the fight really proved was that Julio is Type O.

But he was fighting through a mask of blood, and he was calling on skills that were there only months ago but deserted him now. Happens to all of us. One day you’re running up the stairs, chinning yourself on the hall bar and opening cans with your teeth. The next thing you know you have to stop three times to climb the stairs, you can’t jump over a half-dollar and all your teeth are good for is to eat Jello.

When you spot your opponent age, height, reach and eyes, the issue is pretty much wrapped up.

So, does this make Oscar De La Hoya the second coming of Sugar Ray? Well, his advantages meant he could fight this battle at longer range than a battleship. He could reduce the target to rubble without suffering much real damage himself. Oscar didn’t get his hair mussed. Chavez most of the night looked like a guy fumbling for a keyhole in the dark. He did briefly go on the attack in Round Four. It was not only too little too late, it was foolhardy. He shortly thereafter looked as if he had been hit with a falling safe.

It was not a test for De La Hoya in the real sense of the word. He won’t be tested till he fights someone who can look him in the eye--and not bleed from that eye. Face it, the only thing Chavez could do better than De La Hoya was bleed. Chavez ended up the night at the hospital, where the medics will probably need a picture to stitch him properly. Two more rounds and his face would have looked like a baseball the rest of his life.

You wouldn’t have thought Chavez would back up from an oncoming express train. But he must have sensed that De La Hoya was a railroad gun.

Chavez had no resources. George Plimpton once said when you get in the situation he was in where you call up reserves that are no longer there, it’s like an admiral calling down instructions from the bridge of the ship but the crew is drunk and they don’t do what he tells them. Chavez’s troops betrayed him Friday night. De La Hoya’s muscles do exactly what he tells them to. It was the difference.


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