Taylor vs. Chavez I; the beautiful tragedy!
By Robert Brown, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 17, 2013) Doghouse Boxing
Just shy of 23 years ago at the las Vegas Hilton Nevada boxing had one of its finest fights in history which also became one of the most argued and debated fights in the history of the sport because of what happened in regards to the controversial ending.
In this fight you get a match up that occurs in extremely rare cases, 2 fighters same weight class, both close to the peak of their careers, aching for recognition for different reasons, Chavez who had a 10 year reign as champion, a man who had successfully moved up weight classes and won 4 belts and successfully defended them 13 times, despite carrying a record of either 66/0 or 68/0 depending on what sources you believe, he remained predominantly unrecognised in America, he took the chance of fighting Meldrick Taylor to propel himself towards superstar status by gaining a victory over Meldrick Taylor.
Meldrick Taylor took this fight because even though he had gained superstar status because of his gold medal in the 1984 Olympics he wanted to prove himself as more than a flashy entertainer with a belt by taking on the toughest fighter in the sport which at that time was without doubt Chavez.
This fight was one of the most anticipated fights ever in the history of boxing cause you had the contrasting styles of the silky smooth boxer with blinding hand speed in Meldrick Taylor vs the ruthless and relentless pressure fighter with a granite chin in Chavez, just the ingredients to light a match and create and explosion of epic proportions, however no one would anticipate the drama we would see later that evening.
To add to the mixture referee Richard Steele was assigned to the fight by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, he was considered one of the best referees in the sport, Taylor’s people objected to the appointment because of Steele’s rumoured relationship with Chavez’s promoter Don King, however the objection was rejected and the appointment would stand, no one had any idea what a decisive role Richard Steele would later play in the outcome of the fight.
Finally after all the anticipation and hype the fight begins, the biggest shock to everybody was that Taylor with his hand speed movement and boxing skills was not only beating but dominating one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport and appeared to be doing it easily, even dominating Chavez in body shots by sometimes 4 or 5 to 1 in the early rounds. Taylor by my estimation then began to get a little bit too confident and he willingly traded inside with Chavez instead of staying outside where he could use his speed and combinations to his best advantage.
By the 7th and 8th rounds even though Taylor was winning the exchanges purely by volume punching, Chavez began to land vicious punches to the head and body and before you knew it both of Taylors eyes were closing and blood was streaming out of his nose and mouth, Chavez still wasn’t clearly winning rounds but it was clear he was beginning to cause some serious damage.
The 12th round began and the thought in almost every bodies minds was can Taylor get to the finish line on his feet, if he does he wins, although Taylor looked weary, it appeared as we entered the last minute Taylor would finish the fight, claiming Chavez’s title and end his historic unbeaten reign as champion, however with 17 seconds left Chavez landed a right hand which put Taylor on the canvas, Taylor got up at the count of 5, Steele continued the rest of the count then asked him twice “are you ok, are you ok” Taylor made no significant response except to look to his right at his corner, Steele then stopped the fight with 3 seconds remaining and the decision has become one of the most debated in boxing history.
I like everybody else was initially outraged at the stoppage but it wasn’t Steele’s fault, as cold and as unfair as it may sound a referee’s duty is to a fighters health and to establish whether a fighter is healthy enough to continue, not to the time or the circumstances of a fight, if it’s anyone’s fault its Lou Duva’s for 1. Instructing Taylor to win the final round, 2. Jumping up on the ring apron causing Taylor to look to his right just as Steels was asking him if he was ok and 3. Taylor for not shouting “I’m ok” and putting his gloves up to indicate he was ready to continue.
Did Taylor deserve his victory? Probably yes, is it Steele’s fault he didn’t get it? No, before you roundly criticise me for this conclusion ask yourself, if you had a fighter with a blank expression on his face making no obvious gestures that he was ok and looking over at his corner instead of looking at the referee, what would you do?
The question that always plagues me is this, if Meldrick Taylor had got his victory knowing that his prime had been beaten out of him, would he have been able to retire knowing he had beaten the best in the world and been able to end his career much healthier than he currently is, that is a question that will most likely remain unanswered, I suspect Meldrick Taylor would have not spent years chasing a ghost of his former self that fight left behind but I guess we will never know.
E-mail questions and comments to Robert at: email@example.com
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