Chávez vs. Taylor: Looking back

Tuesday is the 25th anniversary of the first Julio César Chávez vs. Meldrick Taylor fight. It was selected as the fight of the decade by Ring magazine over the Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas bout, which happened one month earlier.

ESPN’s Stats & Information looks back at the fight.

The buildup

Chávez was 66-0 with 56 knockouts going into the fight. Regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter at the time, Chávez had won four championship belts by 1990.

Chávez was 16-0 with 11 knockouts in title fights. His WBC junior welterweight title was on the line in the unification bout against Taylor.

Chávez’s opponent was a 1984 Olympic gold medalist at 126 pounds for the United States. Taylor (24-0-1) was mounting his third defense of the IBF junior welterweight title, which he won in 1988.

Even though the fighters were physically similar in height (both 5-foot-7), weight (a quarter-pound difference) and reach (66 inches), the bout was billed as “Thunder and Lightning” due to the clash of styles. Chávez was known for his punching power, whereas Taylor was regarded as having the fastest hands in boxing.

The fight

In the first round, Taylor landed more punches (33) than Chávez threw (27). The Mexican fighter landed nine of his attempts, according to CompuBox.

This trend continued through the early and middle rounds, and in the eyes of most, Taylor was well ahead. According to CompuBox, Taylor out-landed Chávez 269-137 through eight rounds. Still, Chávez landed heavy shots that wore on Taylor as the fight continued.

The tide began to turn slowly in the ninth round. Taylor’s eyes began to swell, and he was bleeding from his mouth, but he was still out-landing and outboxing Chávez.

Before the bell in the 11th round, Chávez hit Taylor with a shot that staggered him, and Taylor almost walked to the wrong corner. In the final round, Taylor was worn, and he slipped trying to hit Chávez.

In the last 10 seconds, Chávez cornered Taylor and landed a right cross that sent him to the canvas. Taylor was up at the count of five but did not respond to referee Richard Steele about whether he could continue. The fight was stopped with two seconds left.

Taylor nearly doubled Chávez’s output during the fight, according to CompuBox. He landed 457 punches, ranking second in a championship fight at the time and 15th all time. Chávez landed 258 punches.

Taylor was ahead on two of the judge’s scorecards through the 11th round and would have won by split decision if he could have continued.

The aftermath

The result has been one of the most debated in boxing history. Steele said he called the fight because he thought Taylor could not fight any longer and did not respond in time. A counterargument was that Steele should have known how much time was left, and that all Taylor had to do was stand for two seconds and he would have won the fight.

The doctor who examined Taylor diagnosed a facial fracture (which caused dizziness during the fight), dehydration and blood in his urine. Taylor was in the hospital for four days afterward.

The fighters’ careers went in opposite directions after the fight. Taylor never recovered the same form and lost the rematch four years later by eighth-round TKO. Chávez had another controversial fight, in 1993 against Pernell Whitaker, which ended in a draw. Chávez ran his unbeaten streak to 90 fights (89 wins and one draw) until he lost in 1994 to Frankie Randall.