March 5, 2004

Brave Warriors Indeed Collided

By Fiona Manning

Jesus “El Matador” Chavez might have lost his WBC 130 pound championship on Saturday night, but the plucky, Mexican-born fighter fought like a one-armed tiger in a gripping, 12 round fight considered a “throw-back” to the old days of fighting.

He also won a legion of new fans in the “Brave Warriors Collide” card at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. It was an epic war in which he and three-division world champion Erik “El Terrible” Morales showed the big guys what it takes to deliver world championship boxing.

Chavez, 40-3, 28KOS, defending his championship for the first time, ripped his right shoulder rotator cuff at the end of the second round. Unable to throw that right, he nonetheless went the distance, staying on Morales’ (46-1, 34KOS) chest for the duration of the fight.

Erik Morales rides the shoulders of his trainer after a tough victory of Jesus Chavez. Photo by German Villesenor

Morales came away with the victory but will be Chavez who will always and forever be remembered for his bravery and incredible tenacity in sustaining a fearsome injury yet refusing to quit for one second.

Though Morales claimed ignorance of his opponent’s devastating injury, the crowd certainly knew; at one point, the disabled Chavez threw the right and the 5, 084 people present roared their approval.

A torn rotator cuff is about the most painful injury for a fighter in the middle of a fight. Vitaly Klitschko ripped his in the round of a fight he was easily winning against Chris Byrd in a heavyweight title defense and promptly quit on his stool.

Robbie Peden tore his in a grueling war with John Brown and completed his fight on a close decision. Former IBF light heavyweight champion “Sweet” Reggie Johnson tore his in a very dirty fight against Ole Klemetsen. Johnson not only went the distance but won.

So Chavez is in rare company. The lopsided scoring of 118-108,117-109,115-112 infuriated most onlookers who knew this was a much, much closer fight.

When questioned after the fight, Morales started saying idiotic things like his corner never indicating Chavez was hurt (really?) and even claimed hand injuries of his own.

He didn’t appear injured at the post-fight presser; he was not the fighter rushed to the emergency room immediately after the fight however, so respect should have been shown.

Morales, perhaps stung by the fact that the media and fans raved about Chavez instead of him, even said, “I dropped him twice when he was a whole fighter.”

Yes, but he didn’t even come close to doing that when Chavez was half a fighter.

Though Chavez wants a rematch once he’s cleared for combat, Morales is eyeing a unification bout with IBF champ Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez.

Promoter Bob Arum will probably push a unification, but just about everybody in the boxing world would prefer the rematch first.

Morales was forced to fight every minute of each round to earn his new world title, and the bout was clearly no walk in the park for him.

From the opening bell, Chavez immediately started to press the action going forward attempting to close the distance between himself and the much taller Morales.

Chavez had success in the round using his jab to get close to Morales where he could unload his thunderous body shots.

A left hook that not only briefly wobbled “El Terrible” but also almost took him out of the fight.

Chavez’s early success would not last long. Thirty seconds into the round Morales landed a vicious right uppercut to the chin dropping “El Matador” in the center of the ring. He got up quickly and after taking a quick flurry to the head and another ripping right uppercut, it appeared as if Chavez had regained his composure and he was once again able to get close to Morales and dig those booming bodyshots.

Morales answered back and landed some solid right hands to the head of Chavez, then both fighters threw looping right hands at the same time and the next thing you knew Chavez was on the floor.

A replay showed that although it was ruled a knockdown, Morales never connected and Chavez simply slipped to the canvas.

Chavez injured his right arm during a right-right exchange. He would continue to press the action in round three, but because of the injury he was forced to rely more on his left hook to the head and body.

The injury to Chavez completely changed the direction of the bout, but to his credit he fought with such determination and skill that his injury went unnoticed to many ringside observers for several more rounds, until it became blatantly obvious that he was no longer throwing his right hand at all.

If the injury to his right arm was not enough to deal with he also received a small nick on his left eye during the round and was now facing the possibility of fighting the remaining nine rounds with one arm and a cut over his eye.

With only one arm, Chavez was able to open a gash over the right eye of Morales in the fourth and attempted to land his left jab over and over again hoping to damage the eye even more as the fight went down the stretch.

 Each round was a constant tug of war. Each fighter had his moments. Each fan got more than their money’s worth and that isn’t something you can say about every Vegas fight.

After the bout, Chavez said, “Morales threw a right and I threw a right to the body and I felt something pull in my shoulder.

“I hope that Erik Morales stays at 130- pounds and as soon as my arm heals I want an immediate rematch, it will be a different song. People saw what I did with one hand with two hands I can knock out Erik Morales.”

Few who watched this fight could disagree.

In the co-feature TV bout, Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto continued his undefeated streak, stopping former lightweight contender Victoriano Sosa in the third round of a 12 round scheduled bout.

Cotto won the vacant WBC International Super Lightweight Championship.

Cotto and Sosa began to mix it up after a cautious first half of the first round. Cotto used his talent and strong, physical attributes to his advantage.

Landing strong shots to the head which resulted in a bloody mouth for Sosa, he kept up a blistering assault, even landing a shot that would have knocked out most other fighters.

In the fateful third round, Cotto knocked down Sosa with a left uppercut to the face with over a minute left in the round. Sosa came back to trade with Cotto, but Cotto knocked down Sosa again with a left hand.

Amazingly, Sosa got up, but was swarmed by Cotto. Eventually, Sosa went down for the third and final time, with referee Kenny Bayless stopping the bout at 2:51 of the third round.

Any doubts fight fans have had about Cotto’s credentials as a super-hot prospect were laid to rest with this fight.

“Sosa is a good, tough fighter. He is the best fighter I have fought against in my career,” Cotto said after the fight. “I will fight against anyone that my manager and my promoter tells me to fight. I will take on anyone.”

Cotto improves to 19-0, 16 KOs. Sosa falls to 36-4-2, 28 KOs.

In how the mighty have fallen category, mercurial super lightweight Emanuel Augustus (previously Burton) took on Alvaro Aguilar for eight sluggish rounds and ground out an unpopular majority decision draw.

Augustus, who can fight like a dream and who can also fight like a pub drunk, fought like the latter in a lackluster showing that was in danger of sending the fans to bed early.

Although Augustus used effective shots to the head, it was in fits and starts. In the last two rounds, Augustus continually beat Aguilar to the punch, actually providing a strong finish. The 77-75 score on one judge’s scorecard was overruled by the 76-76 scores by the two other judges’ scorecards.

Augustus goes to 27-23-6, 13 KOs. Aguilar, from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, goes to 16-0-1, 14 KOs.

In a cracking undercard bout which took place after the main event when most of the fans had left the arena, over-coddled, highly-touted super welterweight Anthony “The Messenger” Thompson (15-1,12KOS) was brutally knocked out in the third round of what was supposed to be an easy fight against Grady Brewer (16-8, 11KOS).

Thompson started the bout showcasing a quick jab and controlled the round by outworking Brewer with jab-right hand combinations.

Round two was much of the same with Brewer throwing and having some success, but once again being outworked by Thompson’s jab-right combinations.

In round three, the tide changed when a right uppercut from Brewer staggered Thompson knocking him back into the ropes. A follow up right hand sent Thompson sliding down the ropes and Brewer launched another booming right uppercut that nailed Thompson right on the button sending him crumpling to the canvas.

Referee Tony Weeks started to count but it was obvious that Thompson was out and would not be making it to his feet. Thompson was ahead on all three judges scorecards at the time of the stoppage. Official time 2:10 seconds of round number three.

Also on the card (televised in Mexico but not the US) was 18-year old Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (5-0, 1KO) the son of the Mexican icon, who remained undefeated by taking a four round unanimous decision over a very tough, very game Oisin Fagan (4-2, 3KOS) by scores of 39-37,39-36,39-36.

Chavez entered the bout accompanied by his father and entered the arena to chants of “Chavez, Chavez”.

Julio Cesar Chavez in the corner with his son Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.

While Chavez junior looks extremely young, he showed some of his old man’s skills in dominating Fagan over four rounds. Initially tight and nervous, he opened up in the fourth, making his old man proud.

Local lightweight Wes Ferguson, (4-0, 2KOS) the new prodigy of “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather needed only three rounds to dismantle power punching Felix Malespin (3-2, 3KOS).

Ferguson got off to just about as good of a start as possible by dropping Malespin, not once, but twice in the opening round of the bout. The first knockdown came from a wicked left hook seconds into the round. Malespin was able to reach his feet but was once again back on the canvas after a straight right hand found its mark.

Somehow he made it out of the round and put up a solid effort in round two, but it was clear that Ferguson was too quick and skilled for him and in round three the inevitable happened when a crushing right hand followed by a left hook sent Malespin down for the third time in the bout. Referee Robert Byrd decided to call a halt to the mismatch. Official time 1:57 round three.

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