Although their respective primes were nearly a decade apart, Kostya Tszyu and Julio Cesar Chavez today find themselves being elected into the boxing Hall of Fame. Back in 2000, they shared the same ring when Tszyu, by then an experienced fighter and new champion, faced off against a diminished Chavez for the WBC junior welterweight title.
Even years beyond his heyday, Chavez’s name could still bring a crowd. Against Tszyu he was the overwhelming crowd favorite here in Phoenix, Arizona. Any grazing Chavez punch caused the Mexican faithful to burst out chants and cheers. Early on, Chavez’s strategy was to have Tszyu follow him and catch the Russia-born titlist with counter-punches. When Tszyu got too close, Chavez would clinch and try to disrupt his opponent’s concentration with fouls (face lacing, low blows, etc.).
Those tactics had no effect on Tszyu. By the third, it became readily apparent that the 38-year-old Chavez did not have the physical strength nor the punching power to compete. Tszyu worked left jabs and right hands on Chavez, who was now visibly laboring from the punishment. Where years past it was Chavez who controlled the inside, Tszyu abused him with short left hooks and uppercuts. The fifth round was Tszyu’s most dominant, and the question now became how long could Chavez last.
Sensing the end, Chavez went low at the beginning of the sixth and received a point deduction. Tszyu was not fazed and quickly dropped Chavez with a perfect straight right. Chavez careened forward on his knees for only the second knockdown of his career.
After beating the count at eight, Chavez looked to his corner as if ready for a quit. Showing his warrior’s heart, Chavez erased the idea from his mind and charged Tszyu with a flurry of hooks. The outburst momentarily surprised the champion, who looked incredulously at the ref before firing back with counter left hooks. Chavez’s stand was ended with another straight right which froze him against the ropes.. Tszyu would land two more big shots, a left hook and straight right, before Chavez’s corner threw in the towel.
The crowd threw bottles at the ring in anger and dismay at the dismantling of their hero. Tszyu would reign for five more years and solidify his credentials as a Hall of Famer before losing the title to Ricky Hatton at 35-years-old. Chavez would fight sporadically over the next five years before retiring with a record of 107-6-2 (86 KOs).