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Chavez-Randall III: A Decade Late, A Few Million Dollars Short
(March 21, 2004) 
Old habits die hard. Habits like climbing into a roped off square and getting punched in the head by hundreds of brain rattling shots a night is a hard thing to break away from, and for some it’s a more difficult task than for others. It has been reported that on either May 29 or June 6, in Mexico City, Julio Cesar Chavez, 41, will renew his rivalry with Frankie “The Surgeon” Randall, 42, in what will be the third, and hopefully, final bout of the series. The previous two fights each took place in 1994, ten years ago if you are counting. Forget about trying to find any meaning in this meeting between Chavez and Randall. There is none. What you will find, however, is one fighter who was once very good and another who was once great. That is certainly no longer the case, and has not been for quite some time, probably not since 1996 for either man. This match is about nothing more than the worn out tale of fighters who fight beyond their time, either for money, or because they know no other way, or both. It doesn’t mean that they totally lack any semblance of skill, it just means that they are not close to having the ability that they once possessed. That’s the problem with this is coming ten years too late, the combatants to be paid a fraction of what they made back then.

Not that anyone really needs reminding, but in case they do, here goes: Chavez was still undefeated on January 29, 1994 when he stepped into the ring with Randall for the first time, but to everyone except Chavez, Don King and the WBC, the lone draw on the record should have been moved one place to the left in his record after Pernell Whitaker schooled him in September 1993. Still, since he was “officially” undefeated, his goal of reaching 100 wins without a loss remained intact, with a tally to that point of 89 wins. Though Randall held a knockout win over a faded Edwin Rosario and had only two losses on his own record, he was not viewed as a serious threat to Chavez’ WBC Junior Welterweight Title. Randall would prove everyone wrong as he beat Chavez to the punch and became the first man to ever knock the Mexican down. He would also be the first man to officially defeat Chavez when he was awarded the split decision win.

Just over three months passed before they were back in the ring together, and again Randall seemed to be controlling the action, badly wobbling Chavez in the second round. Chavez would be the “beneficiary” of a cut caused by an accidental headbutt, as well a bogus eight round technical decision win after the fight went to the cards. Chavez took a lot of criticism following the bout from media and fans who felt he hadn’t won the fight fairly, and that he took the easy way out. It would be the last meeting between the two, that is, unless the third fight comes off late this spring. Chavez would hold onto the title he regained against Randall until losing it to Oscar De La Hoya in 1996, while Randall would rebound by winning the WBA version of the belt later in 1994, retaining it until losing it in 1996, then regaining and losing it again.

Fast forward to 2004. Both fighters are way past their primes, and will now be fighting a rematch which, although of little significance to the boxing world, is of great significance to Chavez and Randall. For Chavez, it is a chance to redeem himself for his showing in the rematch, and for Randall it is an opportunity to avenge a loss that he feels should not have been charged to him. In the final analysis, perhaps this is the safest type of fight for them. Their skills are greatly diminished, but still, when one fights into one’s forties, can any fight really be considered safe, especially for two lighter weight fighters, who do not have the shelf life of a heavier and thus more powerful boxer?

Chavez has fought only twice in the past three and a half years, winning both including a cut-induced TKO over journeyman Willy Wise, which avenged Chavez’ 1999 loss. Before that, he was 7-4-1 in his previous 12 fights. Randall’s case is even more severe, having gone 6-11 in his last 17 fights, being knocked out in seven of those and losing seven straight at one point. This is no longer what can even remotely be described as a superfight.

The shame of it all is that this could have been a really intriguing title unification bout one decade ago. Chavez and Randall could have been in a line for another payday worth millions and would have been just this side of their respective peaks. It would most likely have been a competitive fight and given us a clear picture of who was the superior fighter. Now it is reduced to a sideshow. Neither has much to lose at this point, their legacies secured long ago. It is always sad, however, to see an aging fighter, especially one who used to be very good or great, climbing into the ring that one last time, and then another last time, and another. That is what Chavez and Randall will be doing when they come to fight in May or June, although for their future health it is exactly the thing they should not be doing. But old habits die hard.
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